By Max Marcilla
After an exit out of the playoffs that was far too early for any Knick fans expectations, everyone has one thing to look forward to: Iman Shumpert.
Despite not playing a full season due to a league-wide lockout and an ACL tear, Shumpert has developed his game and IS ready to take the next step. Iman proved that in the playoffs, as he was the only Knick to play consistently well for both the Boston series and the Indiana series.
Iman Shumpert came into the league with one big positive and one big negative. The positive was that he was a lock-down defender, and he hasn’t disappointed on that side of the court. In his junior year (his last) as a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Shumpert averaged nearly 3 steals a game and locked down his opponent. However, the one weakness was his erratic shooting.
Even in his junior year when Shumpert scored 17 points per game, he struggled shooting the ball. He had a career low 29% shooting year from beyond the arc, which was a big concern, considering the Knicks are a three-point shooting team.
But Iman proved the critics wrong by showing this year that he could be a star both offensively and defensively. Here’s why:
1. Lock-Down Defense: Shumpert came back into the Knicks rotation in an odd spot. The player that had played point guard his entire life was 4th on the depth chart as a point guard, causing him to move to an unnatural position, the small forward. At first it was a struggle for Iman, but by the playoffs, when his knee was 100%, he was in his zone. He was the best defender on the court, even if it was guarding a bigger and stronger forward. Shumpert was most often seen guarding Paul George, and even though George averaged 19 points per game in the series, he struggled to do so. He shot 39% from the field (27% on 3-pointers).
2. Scoring: Like I mentioned earlier, Shumpert’s weakness was his scoring, but in the playoffs he looked comfortable shooting and scoring. His breakout game was Game 6 against the Pacers, when he made 4 straight three’s in the third quarter to cut the Indiana lead from 10 to 1. While Iman didn’t shoot the ball unbelievably in the series, he showed everyone that he CAN shoot and he WON’T be afraid to take the shot, thus making him just another scoring threat on a team that averaged 100 points per game in the regular season.
3. Rebounding and Dishing: A player that just a year ago had a few weaknesses in his all-around game, has worked hard to refine himself. Being moved to the small forward meant that Shumpert would need to act (at times) as another big man for a small Knicks team. He met those expectations by recording over 5 rebounds a game against Indiana, and while he only averaged 1.3 assists per game, he always helped the ball move when he was on the court. Another flaw in his game he patched up was his turnovers. This could be due to the fact that as a forward, you handle the ball much less, but Shumpert went from a 2 turnover per game player in 2011 to a less than 1 turnover per game player in 2012.
Iman Shumpert has proven a lot in his young career, and it looks like the next thing to prove is that he is a star, not just a role player. There is no doubt in my mind that within a year or two, he can do that.
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