When the New York Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech the 6'5", 222 pound athlete was thought to be a shooting guard. However, Mike D'Antoni started Shumpert at the point guard position. While Shumpert wasn't the worst point guard New York had ever seen it was clear he wasn't ready to run an NBA offense full time. He was then moved to shooting guard where he thrived. This past season Shumpert even saw time at the small forward position. However, going into next season the Knicks are looking to make Shumpert more of a focal point in their offense and intend on doing so by once again giving him time at the point guard position.
Iman Shumpert is widely thought of as the future of the New York Knicks. With that in mind, if Shumpert is going to fulfill his potential his offensive game will have to catch up to his defensive skills. He's going to have to become for of a focal point in the Knicks offense and gain the respect of his teammates and opponents alike. In an attempt to do just that the Knicks are having Shumpert play point guard in the Summer League where he can have the offense run through him.
Jim Baumbach of Newsday reports Shumpert will use his time in the Summer League to work on his game.
Coach Mike Woodson wants Shumpert to become "more of a focal point offensively," which makes sense. Shumpert's growth as a scorer could be vital next season because some rival teams have improved their rosters this offseason while the Knicks have only tweaked theirs.
That's why Woodson said the Knicks plan to run their offense through Shumpert while he's here, even having him handle point guard duties at times.
"There's going to be times when he's got to handle the basketball during the course of a ballgame," Woodson said. "He's got to be able to make basketball decisions with the ball."
Shumpert ran the offense in college and looks forward to the opportunity to play point guard during the Summer League in order to show how his skills have developed and work on his decision making abilities.
Shumpert showed flashes in the playoffs that his offensive game was finally coming into it's own. However, his performances were inconsistent. What was worse, playing him at small forward took away his biggest strength defensively — defending guards. That being said, the successes he enjoyed gave him confidence and you could see that his teammates began to trust and rely on him more.
Going into next season Shumpert and the Knicks will look to build on his potential. That's why they're playing him in the otherwise relatively meaningless Summer League exhibition games. Although there's a chance Shumpert gets hurt he and the team believes the risk is well worth the reward.
Quite frankly, Shumpert needs the work. He missed lots of time. Shumpert didn't get to play in the Summer League and only had a shortened training camp because of the NBA lockout. Then, after tearing his ACL in the playoffs, Shumpert was forced to miss his second Summer League and training camp while he was rehabbing his knee.
He was only able to play 45 games last season and he didn't start to regain his previous explosiveness until the end of the season. Shumpert will use the Summer League to prove his knee is back to health and that he can handle running the offense when the Knicks call upon him.
"I'm just happy to be healthy, happy to be working on my game this summer," he said.
"Iman's here to play basketball," he said. "I could get hurt working out by myself in the gym. I'm not thinking about me getting hurt. I feel like the worst has already happened. I tore my ACL in a freak accident. I don't think God has it out for me. I'll be all right."
Quite frankly, fans should worry about Shumpert when he drives into the paint. Most remember Danilo Gallinari was hurt by Robert Traylor. The fact is, players are trying to show teams what they can do and often play a bit overzealous. However, Shumpert isn't planning on getting hurt and we've seen how guys can get hurt in the Summer League just as easily as training camp, the regular season or the playoffs. You just never know.
What we do know is that most fans have expected the Knicks to sign a third point guard to play behind Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. While the Knicks have looked it seems they've spent more time looking at shooting guards despite having Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. on their roster. Recently they've looked seriously at signing Raja Bell.
If you think about it, with Felton and Prigioni running the offense the majority of the time a third point guard wouldn't be needed that often. In fact, we've seen Anthony and Smith take the ball-handling responsibilities quite often. When you combine all of those guys controlling the ball it's not nearly as crazy to think Shumpert is ready to take the point guard responsibilities in the regular season when needed.
At this point, maybe signing another point guard isn't necessary. Instead, maybe turning their attention to trying to re-sign Kenyon Martin is simply more important. If Glen Grunwald can do that and sign one or both of the recently amnestied Tyrus Thomas and Metta World Peace the roster will be just about ready for the regular season.