Iman Shumpert has been a steady servant since arriving in ‘The Land’. Leaving the bright lights of New York, he was a prized wing defender the Cavaliers craved during last campaign, and since his arrival, Iman has delivered on that end of the floor. Every night, “Shump” suits up and leaves it all on the floor for the Wine and Gold. The Cavaliers lean on Shumpert’s defense in order to be a great team, however, Shumpert’s role in the offense will be a major factor this time round. Come postseason, he will be a key ingredient to the Cavaliers success and achieving their long awaited goal of an NBA Championship.
During various periods this season, Iman has really struggled to be any form of offensive threat for the Cavaliers. Despite his defense remaining at a sustainably excellent level, the Cavs may need to ask more of Shump when putting points on the board and helping offensively. As of late, especially when LeBron James has sat out, Shumpert has definitely struggled to have any impact whatsoever, playing decent minutes with little to no positive production at all. Another ugly stat sheet against the Indiana Pacers surfaced this truth again. When James has sat out four times this year, these have been Shumpert’s performances in his absence:
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At Indiana – 35 minutes, 0-4 from the field, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 fouls, +5 (+/-)
At Washington – 34 minutes, 4-12 from the field, 1-6 from 3, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 fouls, -8 (+/-)
At home vs. Houston – 35 minutes, 11 points, 4-14 from the field, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 fouls -8 (+/-)
At home vs. Dallas – 31 minutes, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 fouls, -5 (+/-)
As you can see, there is little production in significant minutes. Shumpert isn’t the only one that suffers in LeBron’s absence. In fact, when James sits, nearly all Cavalier players see a decrease in their efficiency and overall production. This is a testament to LeBron’s greatness, who could somehow make a mannequin productive on a basketball court, and has always made his teammates better since he first laced them up in high school. However, Shumpert becomes a shadow offensively, and this shouldn’t occur with his raw talent and god given athleticism. The problem is, Iman is capable of so much more, with or without LeBron.
In an NBA world levitating more towards putting points on the board and high powered offense, the need to put the ball in the basket is at an all-time high. For players like Shumpert, whose offense doesn’t come naturally, it’s a part of his game that is a working product, not an intrinsic feel. He must constantly work on adapting his game in order to be effective in today’s changing NBA world. In that respect, he may have been better suited to an earlier era which was defense oriented, but his athletic gifts are too valuable to not utilize in today’s modern NBA.
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Come playoff time, the Cavs are going to rely on Iman to give them a spark, not only defensively where he excels, but on the offensive end also. Much like Tristan Thompson, (who is also predominately a defensive player), he must find a way to cause defenses problems. Thompson rolls hard to the rim, catches lobs, jump hooks, cleans up around the basket and pulls down offensive rebounds. Shumpert must also find his place and role on the offensive end. A role that will demand the opposition to respect him at a higher clip. He may not appear in the scouting report, but he’ll be enough of a threat where defenses can’t forget about him completely. Shump must make other shooting guards accountable defensively when guarding him, causing them to expend energy on that end also. This can only help the Cavs when trying to maintain advantages in playoff series.
The Cavs will be looking for a scoring punch, and Iman can be the man to surprise and deliver just that. Iman specializes defensively, but has also claimed he loves scoring the ball. He will need to bring back his early New York days of shooting 40% from downtown, that put him in the NBA’s “3&D” company. The Cavs will continue to depend on scoring from the shooting guard and small forward positions, where Shumpert will occupy. He needs to continue to be a slasher and attack the rim whenever the opportunity presents itself. He should continue to look for his favorite two dribble, mid-range pull up that he makes with some consistency also.
Shumpert is definitely capable. Earlier this season, he showed this in a big win at Minnesota. He had 23 points in 29 minutes, connecting on 3/6 three pointers and grabbing 3 rebounds. He has also showed he can show up in the playoffs. He made big shots to see off Atlanta in the Conference Finals, but I vividly recall Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semis. With his family in attendance, the Bulls made a big mistake by causing Shump play angry, and he punished them. He was in a superb rhythm, and swung momentum in the Cavs favor. He registered a quick fire 13 points and added 7 rebounds and 4 assists, dropping down 2/4 three pointers to eventually push the Cavs to a hard fought series win. The Cavs needed every ounce of it, and don’t be surprised if Shumpert springs up again this post season. His numbers might not justify his somewhat hefty price tag, but his intangibles and approach are second to none. His value remains colossal.
Shumpert is a throwback NBA player with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a winner, he’s a great teammate, and he was one of the first Cavalier players to say that last season’s Finals left a bad taste in his mouth. His hard-nosed, Chicago background shows in his court toughness, and it’s just what the Cavs have needed since his arrival.
His big-time defensive plays have seen teammates claim he has the best hands in the league. Now his production needs to go up, and those active hands need to put the ball in the basket a little more, in pursuit for a greater goal.