Iman Shumpert entered this season with high expectations. This was the year the New York Knicks were going to see him take the next step. He was going to solidify himself as a starter, as the Knicks top perimeter defender and as a consistent scorer. Up until last night, that player wasn't the one fans saw. Instead, they were seeing a passionless player struggling to make an impact on either side of the ball. However, a career-high 27 point performance in the win over the San Antonio Spurs has fans wondering if Shumpert has finally gotten his mind and body to the point where he can become a player teams have to game plan for.
We all know how rocky the start of this season was for Iman Shumpert. Between off-season knee surgery, the summer league fiasco, falling out of favor with James Dolan and Mike Woodson to his struggles on the court. This has been a season to forget for Shumpert so far.
All of that went out the window last night. Whatever Shumpert did for his New Year's celebration he should do that every night because he was focused. The Spurs saw a different Shumpert than any other team did in his NBA career.
Shumpert was focused, he was aggressive, he was athletic. Quite frankly, he played mad. However, he combined that anger with intelligence. He attacked the defense from different angles. He shot the bell well. He defended physically and moved his feet well. This was the Iman Shumpert everyone was hoping he would be.
He scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting. He also recorded six rebounds, three steals and one assist. He also showed explosiveness that many questioned with an offensive rebound tip-in with 23.4 seconds remaining that pretty much sealed the victory for New York.
Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork believes the Knicks need Shumpert to become a legit second-option in order to become a true title contender.
Iman Shumpert has to become that legitimate second star, much sooner rather than later.
And until Mills proves he is capable of making a franchise-altering deal, the Knicks are left with Shumpert, a 23-year-old bundle of energy and athleticism still learning how to play on offense.
You say it's a long shot that Shumpert develops into the kind of big-time player who can help Anthony ultimately win the ring he appears almost certain not to win this spring?
I say it's the only shot the Knicks have.
Honestly, it's hard to argue with Mr. O'Connor. Amare Stoudemire is suppose to be that second-option. While he's proven that he still has gas left in the tank he's just far too injury prone to rely on as your number two. He can be a third or fourth option but you can't have a second option that might not be able to play in back-to-back games and could end up on the injury list at any time.
Andrea Bargnani's health history has actually been worse than Stoudemire's over the past three seasons so there's no reason to think he's any more reliable. The most logical option for that second option would be J.R. Smith. However, Smith is simply not consistent enough to be relied upon as a teams second scorer.
The cap restrictions make it unlikely for New York to bring in a second option player so they'll likely need a home-grown player to develop into one. That would mean one of Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Toure Murry or Jeremy Tyler would have to become that player.
The others are just too young and inexperienced to think they can become a second option anytime soon. That responsibility has to fall on Shumpert's shoulders.
Can Shumpert do it? There's reasons to believe he can and some to fuel thoughts he can't. Clearly he needs to make a consistent impact on the defensive end of the floor. That's his bread and butter. His development from the three point line has also helped elevate his game.
However, he can't just rely on the long ball. That would be a mistake. Shumpert entered the NBA as a defensive stopper who was a slasher on offense. He needs to remember that and keep driving towards the hoop. That allows him to use his natural athleticism and get to the free throw line where he can pad his box score with easy points.
A consistent offensive game is all that has held Shumpert back from becoming a star. The problem is, the difference between a defensive stopper who is a good scorer and a good defender who can't score is a huge margin in the NBA. It's the difference between a middle to end of the rotation player and a star or superstar in this league.
Hopefully Shumpert can take that next step and put performances like he did against the Spurs up on a nightly basis. He needs to if he's ever going to become the player the Knicks thought he would be. The Knicks need him to if they expect to contend for an NBA championship during the Carmelo Anthony era. Otherwise he may very well suffer the same fate as Patrick Ewing of being a great New York Knicks player without a ring.
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