When is it Okay to Be Critical of Shumpert?

Tommy Dee

I’ve been very critical of Iman Shumpert’s offensive game over his first two seasons as a Knick and I’m fully comfortable in saying he was my favorite player during the playoffs last year with his intensity and quick scoring ability at times. His put back dunk against the Pacers was legendary as was his performance in the 3rd quarter of game 6. He was exceptional at times against Boston. But whenever I say the slightest thing about him that is critical, I get yelled at on Twitter for being a “hater.”

But with the great moments come increased expectations and with expectations there must comes criticism.

Shumpert is an easy player to root for. He’s engaging and he plays hard during the regular season. He’s shown flashes that he can help offensively, but as he moves forward there are many questions that just need to be asked.

Forget yesterday. I’m bothered that he allowed Austin Rivers to literally tear him up on both sides of the floor and that I hoped he had more natural ability with the ball in making decisions, but let’s assume he will be better in the next few games.

What’s his real position? We know it’s not the 3, because his agents reportedly aren’t cool with the lack of touches even though it makes him more “efficient” and that gets metric folks all giddy. I think in an ideal world fans would just assume the guy be a 25 minute a night, cheap player who doesn’t need to be near the ball.  Sort of what we’ve seen when he’s healthy.

Speaking of that, the knee thing is no longer a crutch. Not after what we saw in the playoffs. Now it’s about confidences and improving skills. People used that as an excuse often, and that was fine, but heading into this year I hope to hear it less and less. The guy made exceptional plays and played exceptionally hard. He’s almost 100%.

Anyway, the problem with that fan thinking is that Shumpert  and his camp want more minutes, and with more minutes come more opportunity to put the ball in the basket. And let’s face it, his handle is weak, he’s not a upper echelon shooter and he’s really not that great of a finisher off the dribble. You saw Tim Hardaway Jr. smoothly come in and score in a variety of ways: catch and shoot, mid range pull, above the rim and off the bounce for an and one. That’s natural scoring ability and that ability isn’t possessed by Shumpert. He’s learned to catch and shoot and effectively make threes and that would be great, but will it satisfy him and his ability to develop?

The fact is, and it’s why he’s getting reps in the summer, he NEEDS to develop with the ball and he NEEDS to be able to find ways to score. It’s a critical thing that the Knicks need from him EVERY game, not just quarters here and there. The talent is there and I was very disappointed with his game yesterday. He should be their go to guy when they needed hoops and they needed them often down the stretch.

It’s going to be interesting to see the progression of Shumpert’s game as his contract approaches and how he improves offensively. He’s not going to be the wonder kid defensive wiz who plays 20-25 minutes a night forever. At some point he’s going to have to learn to score with the ball not off of it.

All fair criticisms.