The Knicks lost rookie guard Iman Shumpert for the remainder of the season as the former Georgia Tech star tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the lateral meniscus in his left knee on Saturday against the Heat, writes Howard Beck of The New York Times. Shumpert, 21, faces six to eight months of recovery time which will impact his offseason development and could potentially delay his start to the 2012/2013 season. Already thin in the backcourt after Jeremy Lin tore his left meniscus earlier this spring, the Knicks will have to make adjustments heading forward in the playoffs and during the offseason to help stabilize the shooting guard position.
Billed as the Knicks' premier perimeter defender, Shumpert's absence will make the uphill battle of upsetting the Heat an even more arduous task as play resumes with Game 2 on Monday in Miami. Shumpert, one of the league's leaders in steals per game, was tasked with guarding Dwyane Wade, a responsibility that will now fall on either Landry Fields or J.R. Smith, whom the Knicks prefer to bring off the bench as the sixth man. Shumpert, the Knicks first-round pick in 2011, missed seven games due to injuries over the course of his debut season at the Garden in which the Knicks went 2-5.
Looking ahead to the offseason, the Knicks face a series of decisions surrounding the future of their backcourt with up to five guards potentially heading elsewhere for the 2012/2013 season. Lin and Fields will be restricted free agents while veteran point guards Mike Bibby and Baron Davis are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Smith, who holds a player option for next season at $2.5MM, is the most likely player to leave the Knicks as he should be able to command a heftier contract on the free agent market.
Unless Davis enjoys a complete career renaissance over the course of the playoffs, look for the Knicks to place a high priority on re-signing Lin given his strong performance this season, age (24 in August) and marketability. Bibby should be a cheap option for the Knicks to consider bringing back as his play has been inconsistent in the limited opportunities he's been afforded over the course of the season. The Knicks hold Fields' Early Bird rights, which means the Knicks can offer Fields up to 175% of the league's average salary for up to four years without having to use their mid-level exception.