I’m not going to pretend to be a basketball writer. I love the game, NBA and college, and follow both religiously. I don’t know the crazy advanced stats, like I do for other sports, but I understand the game.
I am a huge New York Knicks fan, I was at the game last night, and one thing jumped out at me. Iman Shumpert is a freak athlete who has the ability to be a star in the NBA for the next ten to fifteen years, and the Knicks should make him untouchable immediately.
Watching the Knicks on TV, you notice Shumpert is more athletic than everyone else on the floor, but in person, he has that wow factor that you only get when something truly special is happening. Shumpert plays at a different speed than everyone else, jumps a little higher and hangs in the air a little longer than everyone else, gets up and down the court faster than everyone else.
Last night Shumpert played 32 minutes and had 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to just one turnover. He hit four threes, had some beautiful drives to the rim, and played elite defense. The Knicks were +36 points with him on the court in a 108-86 win over the Orlando Magic.
I was skeptical of Shumpert at first, sure he is talented, but is he just another elite athlete who succeeds under Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offensive system who struggles when taken out of that run and gun style of play? The answer to those questions is a resounding no. D’Antoni resigned as Knicks head coach on March 14th, and Shumpert has continued to impress under interim head coach Mike Woodson.
Shumpert is a gifted player who would be successful playing in any system. He can lock down multiple positions defensively. He runs like a deer in the open court and has a knack for jumping into passing lanes and stealing the ball (currently 8th in the NBA in steals per game). He is a solid ball handler and can play the point in spurts if you need him to, although you feel more comfortable with him on the wing.
The scary part? He’s a 21 year old rookie. The offensive game is not there yet, the jumper is not there yet, but the potential for it to grow is apparent. Until then he can still be a major asset on the floor, because of his elite skills as a defender and freakish natural athletic ability. Once he develops his jumpshot and overall offensive game, he could be a star, I think its just a matter of time.
I worry as a Knicks fan, that the organization will screw this up, as they have done with everything…well, ever. I worry that some aging veteran guard with two bad knees and a bad back will become available this summer, and the Knicks will panic trade Shumpert for him. I worry that the Knicks will hire a certain high priced big name coach, who will bench Shumpert, because he doesn’t fit his system. The Knicks then ship an unhappy Shumpert to a rebuilding team for a tenth man and a protected draft pick. Either way I sit back, dejected, watching Shumpert blossom for another team and fire out I told you so’s at anyone within earshot.
James Dolan, I know I’ve often been critical in the past, as has much of the fan base. I implore you, listen to me on this one. Make Shumpert untouchable and make his development a priority. I know we’ve been through Linsanity, I get it, this is different. Shumpert has that certain wow factor that is indescribable, and if his offensive game develops, you’ll have a home grown star on your hands that you can take credit for finding. Wouldn’t it be nice to find then develop a star and watch him flourish in New York City, like a certain local team in pinstripes did with their shortstop? The talent is there, the tools are there, you won’t be disappointed if you just give it time.