Two years removed from his ACL injury, that happened mere hours after Derrick Rose’s, Iman Shumpert is heading into his contract year with questions still surrounding him on who the real Iman Shumpert is.
With trade rumors swirling and head coach Mike Woodson inexplicably throwing him under the bus at times, Iman Shumpert’s season was not off to a good start in 2013. Then the Texas Triangle came where Shumpert emerged as one of the Knicks’ best player for that stretch, and he started to settle down.
Looking back at last year, Shumpert’s regression in shooting is probably the biggest question heading into this season. After becoming an absolute sniper from beyond the arc in 2012-13, to the point that he brought the Knicks back into the game that would eventually eliminate them in the Easter Conference Finals, Iman saw his shooting percentages fall off hard last year.
His two point percentage did go up slightly from 39.2% to 41.8%, but that was the only improvement. His true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage both dropped by over three percent, and his previously heralded accuracy from three became a liability. Shumpert shot a mere 33.3% from beyond the arc, down from 40.2% the season before.
What hurt Shump the most was his corner shooting. Two seasons ago he shot 43.8% from the left corner and 41.2% from the right. While his right corner shooting stayed fairly stable at 40.7%, Shumpert’s shooting from the left turned into a serious cold zone. He hit just 35.4% of his threes from the left corner and hit only 24.2% from the left wing, down from a lowly 33.3% the year before.
While his offense was sub-par last season, Shumpert’s defense improved immensely. In 2012-2013, the Knicks were better by one point per 100 possessions when Shumpert sat, which more than likely was skewed a little by his earlier than expected return from ACL surgery. This season however, Shumpert helped the Knicks’ team D a lot.
According to 82games.com, the Knicks as a team were a whopping 8.5 points worse per 100 possessions defensively when Shumpert rode the pine (114.6-106.1). While this is likely somewhat impacted by the fact that Tim Hardaway Jr. (a horrendous defender) was the one replacing Shumpert, it is a gap that can not be ignored. If the Knicks want to be even competitive defensively this season, then they will need a similar impact from Shumpert on that side of the ball.
Another area Shumpert will need to improve on is his catch and shoot ability. From three last season, Iman shot 36.1% on catch and shoots. The good news is that this is up from his 33.3% clip last season overall, but still not good enough.
There is not player tracking data on two seasons ago, but Shumpert’s hot zones were in frequent spot up areas. It makes sense that when his wing and corner shooting dipped, his catch and shoot percentage dipped as well. A fresh season with no more Woodson and the motivation of a new contract should help fix that.
In his career, Shumpert has never been a particularly good mid-range shooter or ball handler, so instead of being in the triangle this year, the Knicks will likely run him over to the right corner and get him some open looks there when he is on the court.
Shump also shot a mediocre at best 53.8% at the rim last season, meaning the Knicks will likely try and either get him back door cuts for open layups, or keep him off the basket. His average distance on shots rose last year from 15.7 feet to 17.1. Don’t be surprised if Shumpert is back in the mid to upper teens this season.
What Iman has going for him is that on a team of horrible defenders, he isn’t one of them. In an effort to not allow career highs from all over by opponents every night, Shumpert may see his playing time tied more to his defense than offense more than ever before. This kind of consistent playing time should help Shump get comfortable and not worry about his issues or role with the team.
Overall, Iman Shumpert won’t set the world on fire in 2014-15, but even if his shooting numbers find a nice middle ground between the last two years and his defense continues to improve, Shumpert could prove to be one of the more valuable Knicks on the team.