During the summer of 2011, Chauncey Billups – still a member of the Knicks at the time – had participated in some competitive pickup games at the Impact Basketball League in Las Vegas while awaiting a resolution to the NBA lockout. Among those who caught his eye immediately was Iman Shumpert, who had been recently drafted by New York that June and played alongside Billups on his first day of action:
“…I’m just looking forward to playing more with my new teammate Shumpert. He’s very athletic, and I’m just trying to learn his game right now. I’ll only have to play with him a few times and I will see how to best use him. I’m gonna try to make him a star, man.”
Though Billups would eventually be amnestied before the two could suit up for a regular season game together, it wasn’t very long before the Knicks and their fans appeared to see Shumpert as a promising prospect to develop for their future. From having his name chanted at Madison Square Garden during his second game as a rookie and being a mainstay rotation player during the “Linsanity” craze of 2011/12 to helping the Knicks win their first playoff series in over a decade last May, Shumpert has proven to be a key contributor during some of New York’s successful runs.
14 games into his third season in the league, those days of success seem to be a distant memory. Despite averaging a career high 30.1 MPG this season, Shumpert is shooting 38.9% from the field overall, and while that number isn’t too far off from his career average, his 32.4% clip from long distance represents a steep drop from last year (40.2%). Arguably his poorest performance came against the Trail Blazers last week, where he went scoreless with no rebounds or assists in 23 minutes of action. The 6’5 guard has been the hot topic of trade rumors as of late, leading some to speculate the talk as a reason for his poor play. Although he went on to deny such a notion, even Walt Frazier – the Knicks’ TV color commentator – recently surmised that the rumors were an impetus for Shumpert’s lost confidence:
“…Sometimes he doesn’t look like he’s happy out here. Maybe that’s because he heard the rumors he’s being traded. But he’s very stern in his face. It doesn’t look like he’s having fun.’’
Earlier this month, the Knicks had been linked to the Nuggets regarding a potential Shumpert-for-Kenneth Faried swap, although talks didn’t make much progress. Aside from the reported failed attempt to deal Shumpert in a package for Rajon Rondo, another name recently tied to discussions was Jason Thompson of the Kings. Just yesterday, Marc Berman of the New York Post wrote that New York is currently seeking front court help as they look to gauge Iman’s value on the trade market.The former Georgia Tech product is currently on the books for $1.7M this year, likely creating a challenge to find another trade partner who would be able to make a one-for-one swap (that is, unless the Knicks are looking to trade for a player making around the $1.4MM veteran’s minimum or someone on a rookie-scale deal).
Hypothetically speaking, if the Knicks were to pursue Jason Thompson ($5.64MM this year) or a player making similar money, they’ll have to wait until December 15th in order to have the ability to include some of the small contracts they signed over the summer (i.e. Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih, or Cole Aldrich to name a few) as a means to make salaries match in a trade. On the other hand, if Andrea Bargnani maintains his current production (14.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.2 BPG on 46% shooting from the field) between now and the February deadline, one could argue that Shumpert and Bargnani could make for an intriguing trade package to shop around the league as well.
Although Shumpert may not currently resemble the “star” that Billups had envisioned helping him eventually become, a change of scenery could be what he needs to move past his current struggles. His numbers thus far might be off-putting, but Iman isn’t too far removed from a postseason in which he averaged 9.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG and shot nearly 43% from three. With J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. on board, New York could arguably afford to part with Iman in favor of a big man that could bolster a front court that includes a recovering Tyson Chandler and minute restrictions on Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire.