On one of the better teams in the league and in one of the biggest markets in the country, Iman Shumpert continues to be one of the New York Knicks' most popular players.
The way he plays, the type of effort he stands for, and his overall swagger and persona have made him a fan-favorite over the last two seasons. Although he received a handful of "All-NBA Defensive Team" votes following his rookie season in 2011-12, a torn ACL held Shumpert back from truly building on what was a promising freshman campaign.
Having missed just less than half the season this year, it (understandably) took a while for the guard to get things rolling and find his rhythm again. Perhaps it was because Mike Woodson's offense isn't as much "run & gun" as Mike D'Antoni's was the season prior, but one thing Shumpert did seem to lack was explosiveness, or rather, that extra pep in his step. He wasn't as bouncy.The positive tradeoff, however, was that his three-point shooting improved a bit as Woodson began to plant him beyond the arc more often.
Shumpert's rookie season had some growing pains, and his sophomore campaign included some actual physical pain. So what will year number three bring for the Georgia Tech product?
Despite all the rumors and rumblings, one would have to believe Shumpert will be sticking around next season. With that in mind, what can and/or will he have to do to show improvement and have a successful season?
Given what the fans and media alike have seen from Shumpert over the last two seasons, the answer to that question appears rather simple. He needs to take all of the positive things he did in each year, and put them together. In year one, he lacked long-range shooting. In year two, Shumpert lacked explosiveness and that necessary physicality until the end of the season. If he can finally put that all together, the young gun would really be something.
Though Coach Woodson played Shumpert at the three last season in smaller lineups, he's probably ideally a point or shooting guard instead. He proved that with just a little more practice and consistency, he'll be able to effectively serve as a constant threat from beyond the arc.
But if the Knicks want to outrun their opponents and continue to catch them off guard, Shumpert will have to run a bit more, too. He needs to be able to charge full speed ahead at the basket, with the hope of exploding at the hoop or finding the open man at the last second.
Shumpert handled the ball some more in D'Antoni's offense throughout his rookie year as well. One has to wonder if he'll soon begin doing that more often in Woodson's offense too. Still, it'd be in Shumpert's best interests to put together a more versatile game. His lockdown defensive tendencies would undoubtedly pester opposing floor generals. It's just a matter of whether he can hold his own running the team a bit.
Positive things are, without a doubt, ahead for Shumpert. But if he truly wants to make strides from last season to the forthcoming one, he'll have to put all of the different things he's done over the past two years together. Only then will he take the next step to being a more complete player.