Every NBA team is facing some big questions as they prepare to get the 2013-2014 season underway. Here at Empire Writes Back, we are helping you get up to speed by counting down the five most important questions facing the New York Knicks this upcoming season.
#5 Can Iman Shumpert take the next step?
If the Knicks are going to surpass their successful 2013 season, which saw the team win 54 games, their first Atlantic division title since 1994, and advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years then talented third year guard Iman Shumpert is going to have to be a big part of that success.
Last season, coming back off of a torn ACL, Shumpert was slow to return to form, averaging 7 points and 3 rebounds per game over 45 regular season games. The bright spot for Shumpert was that he was able to show just how much he had improved his questionable jumper by shooting 40% from beyond the arc. Despite the slow start, which was clearly due to his recovery from the torn ACL, Shumpert turned it on late, and went on to average 10 points and 6 rebounds per game during the playoffs, while hitting 42% of his shots from downtown.
So what can we expect from Shumpert this year? Will he follow a similar progression and put up numbers resembling his playoff output? Or will the young guard take a big leap forward and become a crucial part of this teams success?
Shumpert’s importance simply cannot be understated. Shumpert is by far the youngest member of the Knicks core (23) so his continued growth on both ends of the floor needs to be the number one priority for this organization.
As much as most measure performance by offensive numbers, Shumpert’s defense is actually of much greater importance to this team.
Defense is hard to judge sometimes, which is why a lot of fans fall into traps when evaluating a players defensive ability. Most of the time we believe a player is a superior defender simply because we are told they are, similar to offensive lineman in the NFL, it is often just too difficult to evaluate with the naked eye.
The point I am trying to make is that as much as Knicks fans may not want to believe it, Shumpert actually took a big step back on the defensive end last season. Of course when Shumpert returned from his ACL it was obvious that he was not all the way back in terms of his athleticism, which is something that should certainly be taken into account when evaluating last years performance.
Keeping the injury in mind, lets look at Shumpert’s numbers from his rookie season to last year
As you can see the numbers slid a bit, but a big part of that has to do with Iman’s minutes falling from 29 per game in his rookie season to 22 per game during his comeback. This difference in playing time can explain the drop off in production in virtually every category for Shumpert. The one are which stands out to me is his three point shooting percentage, which took a giant leap up from 30% during his rookie season to 40% last year. If Shumpert can shoot at a 40% clip this year from beyond the arc expect his scoring numbers to balloon, as Iman will certainly see over 30 minutes per game this year.
Another interesting area to evaluate is Shumperts playoff performance from last season, seeing as by the postseason Shumpert was finally back to his pre-injury form
Across the board Shumpert’s playoff numbers from last year are nearly identical to what we saw from his rookie season, with the exception of a big increase in his shooting percentages, which is a very positive sign.
So seeing as Iman was seemingly back to form by the end of last season is it realistic to think that we can expect a big jump in production from Iman?
I thinkthe answer is yes.
With a minutes increase we should see Shumpert move towards averages somewhere in the 12 points, 6 rebound, 3 assist range, but that’s merely a baseline for Shumpert if he is to have a successful season in year three. If Shumpert can eclipse those numbers and approach 15 ppg, we could be in for a special season from what is one of the more interesting Knicks roster in quite some time.