In New York, everybody loves Shump. Except for the New York Knicks, it seems. In his third year in the league, Iman Shumpert is at the epicenter of trade rumors. The intriguing question is whether or not it’s worth it to trade him. Once the team has decided if they want to trade him or not, they have to figure out what they would want in return. The Knicks seem to be shopping Shumpert to teams around the league, but it remains to be seen what the rest of the league thinks he’s worth.
With a player like Iman Shumpert, measuring his trade value is a tricky thing because his development has been hampered a few times. He’s had a rocky start to his career so far. Drafted just before the lockout of 2011, he lost his first summer league and training camp. Just as we started to see him show flashes of the kind of player he could become, he tore his ACL on the first day of the 2012 Playoffs. Fast forward to his second season as a pro, Shumpert made his return in the middle of the season. He was once again deprived of a training camp, and he went through the natural growing pains that accompany coming back from such a devastating injury. By the summer of 2013, expectations for Iman Shumpert were through the roof. His exit interview after the Knicks’ playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers had Knicks fans hopeful about his future. However, once again, there seemed to be another hitch in his development. The Knicks wanted him to play point guard for their Summer League team. He apparently had other ideas for his summer as he put forth a less than token effort in his lone Summer League appearance and bolted for an Adidas promotional tour in China. This reportedly angered the Knicks organization and the owner, Jim Dolan (who seems to have a short fuse these days), who had to be talked out of trading him over the summer. This season, Shumpert has shown an improved jump shot, but his defense seems to have regressed a bit. It is still too early in the season to give a definitive report on his progress as a player, but so far it has been underwhelming.
The first question on trading Shumpert is on his potential. How good can Iman Shumpert really be on the Knicks? Clearly, he is still very raw. The Knicks want to mold him to be a penetrator that can create offense for himself and his teammates. So far, he seems to be better suited as a spot up shooter and slasher off the ball. Some think that he has the potential to be a star, and his athleticism and attitude are exciting to watch. His decision-making should improve with time and opportunity.
The second question is on his production. On a team that is trying to win now (Dolan expects the team to be Championship contenders), does he produce enough to be a part of the core of the team? So far he’s averaging 8.0 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game. These are right on par with his career averages of 8.3 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists per game. He has also shot around 40% for his entire career. His lack of tangible improvement has rookie shooting-guard Tim Hardaway Jr. matching his points per game average in half the minutes played and with slightly higher efficiency. Defensively, Shumpert’s reputation as an on-ball defender and his aggressiveness on that end is what is giving him playing time. Despite his presence, though, the Knicks’ perimeter defense is still horrendous. It’s not his fault that Raymond Felton gets beat consistently by opposing point guards, but had he improved his decision-making and ball-handling this summer, he would have earned some time at point guard, and possibly helped the perimeter defense at the point of attack.
Shumpert’s limited skill set makes him almost expendable by the Knicks, but his immeasurable potential makes him hard for the Knicks to let go. Even if the Knicks decide to trade him, it’ll be hard to do. His production and salary don’t warrant bringing back any blockbuster players. His perceived potential would make almost any move an unpopular one. Last week, it had been reported that the Denver Nuggets rejected a trade involving third-year forward Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert because they wanted more than just Shumpert. Faried, despite having limited upside, is very productive. For his career, he averages 11.1 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game and 1 block per game. Simply put, Shumpert’s trade value is still a mystery. Unless one of the involved parties has a change in philosophy, he may not flourish in New York, and his potential may remain untapped if he isn’t in the right situation. NBA teams understand this, but in a “what have you done for me lately” league, Shumpert hasn’t done much.
If Shump wants to remain a New York Knick, he must improve his play, especially on the offensive end. He needs to make himself indispensable to the team. If he wants to be traded, he needs to dictate his trade value by playing well enough to be worth trading. At the end of the day he just has to do better because he is by no means a sure thing. New talent enters the league every year, and there are plenty of examples of potential that fell through the cracks. He needs to take more responsibility on both sides of the ball and make himself a bigger asset. Currently, he’s too much of a variable for anyone to gauge exactly what he is worth.