It’s not a stretch to say that Iman Shumpert is one of the more widely known players in the NBA. Thanks to a mix of remarkable hair, strong defense, electrifying dunks, and, most of all, playing under the lights of the Big Apple, Shump’s fame has exploded since he was an unknown prospect playing for Georgia Tech. Heading into the 2011 draft, Shumpert was billed as an extremely athletic yet raw player who would struggle with the finer points of the game, but could make an impact through defense and transition play. For his rookie year, he lived up to those expectations. However, in his shortened sophomore season Shump showed impressive development in his offensive skills.
Arguably the biggest thing that plagued Shump his rookie year was his shooting, or lack thereof. Shump was simply a bad shooter. He tossed up 3.7 threes per 40 minutes, a mark greater than the league average for shooting guards of 3.2, and made them at a paltry 30.6% rate, well below the shooting guard average of about 36%. Not only did he not make shots, but he showed zero restraint in limiting the damage. However, that all changed this past season. Shump shot a sterling 40.6% from three point land and boosted his attempts accordingly to 5.1 P40M. Now, while such a remarkable one year turnaround may seem unsustainable, I don’t think that’s the case with Shump because his form is actually pretty good.
When he starts to shoot he’s square to the basket, he doesn’t have a hitch, he flicks his wrist, and he fully extends his follow through. When he finally lands, he’s on balance and still square to the basket. I fully expect him to shoot a high percentage on a similar volume of threes next year, especially on a three point shooting team like the Knicks, which truly is fantastic news for Knicks fans.Three pointers are an incredibly efficient shot; that extra point is worth far more than you’d think. For example, shooting 33% on threes is the equivalent of shooting 50% on two pointers. Being able to take and make threes is huge for raising both individual and team offensive efficiency. A huge reason for the Knicks third ranked offense last season year ws that they attempted the most threes per game 1 last year and sunk them at the fifth highest rate. The additional lethality of the three point shot is that it creates more space for the offense inside the arc, something which undoubtedly aided Melo last year.
The other area where Shump improved was in his off-the-dribble game. Last season Shump scored 0.7 points per play in pick-and-rolls as the ball handler, which ranked as the 127th best mark in the league. While that may not be a fantastic number, keep in mind that Shump was recovering from a torn ACL.What really helped Shump out on the P&R this season was his new jumper. In addition to his improved three point shooting, Shump also shot 41% from 16-23 feet this season, which is not only above the league average of 39%, but also well above the 37% mark he posted his rookie year. With his newfound ability to hit jumpers, teams cannot simply cut off the lane from Shump and give him space to take jumpshots, or he’ll make them pay.
Teams were forced to stick closer to Shump which allowed him to get inside the arc, and Shump made huge strides this season in this regard. He showed a certain saviness in using screens; if his man started to get into position to defend the play before the screen was set, he would quickly go away from the screen to get inside. In addition to this he showcased an excellent handle and very shifty game which enabled him to get all the way to the rim. For example, take the below clip against the Pacers. Shump sees Paul George cheating, so he goes away from the screen and delivers an excellent between-the-legs crossover to get inside. When Paul George recovers, Shump does an excellent job keeping him away from the ball on his hip, before finally drawing the foul on Hibbert.
Not convinced? Here’s another great display, but this time against the Jazz. In this clip Shump goes away from the screen again, but this time uses an excellent crossover to get inside the arc. Next he eurosteps around Big Al to get to the rim and draw the foul.
Now, before you start accusing me of calling Shump the next Michael Jordan, Ill admit – it wasn’t all good. For one, Iman Shumpert isn’t a passer; his assist percentage 2 last year was 11.6%, a miniscule number that ranked in the bottom 9% percentile among shooting guards who played at least 500 total minutes and averaged 15 minutes a game. His inability to pass will prevent him from ever becoming a truly elite pick-and-roll player, and this is evidenced in his attempts to pass out of the pick-and-roll.
The other aspect of Shump’s off-the-dribble game – isolations – showed improvement as well. Shump averaged 0.71 PPP in isos this year, good for 157th best in the NBA. Much like his pick-and-roll game, Shump utilized a strong handle and patient game to get inside. For example, in the video below, Shump receives the ball and patiently probes the defense waiting for an opening. When he sees one, he drives towards the middle of the floor, stops on a dime, goes behind his back to get by Paul George, and hits a tough shot at the rim.
Below is another strong play by him. Shump simply crosses over Jeff Green which forces Green to foul him when he’s trying to recover.
Those were two plays against an excellent defender 3 and a good one 4 and in both of them Shump was able to get by his man and score thanks to his strong handle and knack for getting to the basket.
Now you may be wondering why I’m so high on Shump’s off the dribble game, seeing as he ranked only in the lower to mid 100s in the terms of ranking for isolations and pick-and-rolls, and that 0.7 and 0.71 aren’t great efficiency numbers. While those numbers are simply average, keep in mind that Shump was recovering from a torn ACL this season, and it did have an impact on his game, most noticeably in his ability to finish at the rim. Last season, Shumpert shot 48.7% at the rim. That’s simply a horrendous number. It’s way below the shooting guard league average of 64.2%, and is actually the 2nd worst at-rim % of any shooting guard last season 5. When you consider how bad Shump was at the rim, it’s impressive that he was even able to possess average numbers in isolations and pick-and-rolls. Thankfully for Shump though, as shown by his incredible putback dunk, he began to slowly regain his athleticism as the season went on.
Shump’s regained athleticism definitely helped him with his ability to finish at the room. The below table shows his improvement as the season went on 6.
This coming season, Shump should be fully recovered from his ACL injury and he should be able to equal the finishing stats he posted his rookie year, which should boost his pick-and-roll and isolation numbers to some very impressive levels.
The development of Shump’s offensive game is fantastic news for the Knicks. After being fairly raw and unskilled his rookie year, Shump worked tirelessly on his game and it payed off big time. With his new three point shot, Shump fits in perfectly with the Knicks three point philosophy. Additionally, with his athleticism back, Shump should be more than good enough to function as the Knicks third option on the perimeter, and on the all-too-many nights when J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton aren’t feeling it, he could even function as the second option.
Solely based on his offense, Shump already looks like a steal for the Knicks. If he can regain the excellent defense he showed his rookie year, he seems like a lock to become one of the better shooting guards in the league.
- pace adjusted ↩
- assist percentage is a stat that estimates the percent of his team’s shots a player assisted on while on the court ↩
- Paul George ↩
- Jeff Green ↩
- If you were curious, Boobie Gibson was the worst at 47.1%. ↩
- I’m using restricted area numbers because basketball reference doesn’t allow you to look at data month by month, like NBA stats. ↩