To many Knicks fans’ displeasure, Coach Mike Woodson sometimes tends to prefer isolation offense more than anything else. Of course, there are times where Woodson is simply otherwise forced to depend on such offense, feeding the ball to the likes of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, milking them both for all they’ve got.
As the Knicks know quite well, such a strategy still leaves the offense relatively stagnant. Thus, when the shots aren’t falling for either player, it becomes difficult for others to get involved, which leaves New York pretty vulnerable and helpless, to say the least.
Nevertheless, when the Knicks were in need during round one of the playoffs, it was Raymond Felton who stepped up in the clutch against the Celtics. The point guard cookie-cut his way into the lane again and again throughout the series, finding easy ways to score when the likes of Melo and Smith could not. In addition to averaging 17.1 points (on 47% shooting from the field) and 5.3 assists, Felton was also looked upon to play steady defense on a formidable player like Paul Pierce. Luckily for New York, their floor general did just that, as evidenced by his 1.7 steals per contest average.
But with Sunday afternoon comes a clean slate, another fresh start, and a brand new opponent. The Knicks are still likely to depend on Anthony and Smith, but when they’re in need of that extra boost, who will be the one to step up against the Pacers in round two as the X-Factor?
In the latter games of round one, Iman Shumpert’s steady efforts began to suggest that he very well may be ready to assume such a role, especially at this very crucial time. The Knicks’ resident swag-man returned from a torn ACL injury earlier than most expected, taking the court in January and going on to start and appear in 45 contests after that.
Though Shumpert displayed some perseverance with regard to making his way back, also on display throughout the season was some obvious rust and an apparent lack of confidence.
But the Georgia Tech product seemed to bask in the pressure of the playoffs, stepping up big time against the Celtics. His numbers may not have been all too imposing, scoring 9 points, grabbing 6.8 boards and 1.8 steals, but his impact was felt.
Shumpert not only filled up the stat-sheet, but also scored in double-figures in the final four contests of the Knicks’ first round playoff series. Of course, a large part of his most recent success has been the fact that his confidence is once again surging, and that necessary explosiveness to his game has returned.
While both of those weren’t present, however, Shumpert had to ensure he was able to help the Knicks in other ways during the regular season. Though many other facets of his game suffered, his long range shooting quietly improved, as evidenced by his 53% shooting mark from downtown against Boston.
Now in the month of May, Shumpert appears poised to let all of that come together.
On offense, he can once again not only handle the ball well and attack the basket, but can also keep the Pacers’ defense honest by helping the Knicks spread the floor. His long range shooting is a constant threat.
Defensively, Shumpert is still as intense as they come. He’ll crash the boards and stay on his man like a glove. Whereas the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, the Pacers have to depend on recently crowned “Most Improved Player” Paul George. The latter is yet to have established quite a clutch gene, so perhaps sicking Shumpert on him will be enough to shake him early on. Perhaps that’ll help the Knicks set the tone on defense overall.
All in all, Shumpert stands to help New York in a number of ways. With the Knicks charging in to their first second-round playoff series in over a decade, there’s no denying there’s no better time than the present for Shumpert to rise up as an X-Factor.