Harris DeckerAs much as it pains me to say, the time has come to bench Iman Shumpert.
This warm Sunday morning, the Knicks sit at 8 and 18 and remain 3 games back in the Atlantic Division. Without question, the most disappointing player on the most disappointing team in the NBA has been Shumpert. He is shooting 36% from the field and 32% from behind the arc, also a career low. The worst part is, he’s started all 25 games this year. The time has come to make a change while the Knicks are still technically in close playoff contention.
While Shumpert has been a disaster this season, J.R. Smith hasn’t been much better. Smith is shooting 33% from both the field and from 3-point range. The difference in their games is that Smith’s percentages have been on the rise while Shumpert’s have been on the decline.
The only player that has been worthy of time at shooting guard is Tim Hardaway Jr. who is shooting 47% from the field and 42% from behind the arc. He’s averaging 8.1 points in just over 17 minutes per game. Compare that with 6.4 points over 28.3 minutes for Shumpert and 11 over 31.2 minutes Smith.
More impactful than per game stats are how much better Hardaway Jr. is playing per 36 minutes. Per 36, Hardaway is averaging 4.1 points more than Smith and 8.7 more than Shumpert. No matter how you spin it, Hardaway Jr. has been more effective than both of the other shooting guard options.
Of course, there’s the rookie factor. Hardaway Jr. is a rookie who is in the midst of his first NBA season. Smith is a 10 year veteran and Shumpert is in his 3rd season in New York. It’s difficult to uproot an established veteran. Rookies have to earn their place but the case has been made and it’s a winning one. Hardaway Jr. deserves to crack the starting lineup over Iman Shumpert and see his minutes increase. Sure it might be catching lightning in a bottle but at this point Mike Woodson needs to try something new.