A few years ago, it was a perfectly valid argument of who was the better player between Iman Shumpert and Jimmy Butler. Both were selected in the 2011 NBA Draft (Shumpert was drafted 17th, Butler 30th) and have very similar games at the time of their arrival into the league: athletic wings who could defend, but needed to polish their offensive games.
Right now, in 2015, that argument is no longer valid. Butler has ascended to one of the best two-way players in the game, while Shumpert has battled injuries and hasn't reached the potential on the offensive end that many touted he would reach when he was originally drafted.
Yet, despite the somewhat disappointment in not reaching the level of hype that surrounded him coming out and also while he was in New York, it's not too late for Shumpert to lose the label as just a perimeter defender. With a solid year on a title-contending team, it's not too far-fetched for Shumpert to become a more all-around player that would elevate him.
Of course, Shumpert's redemption season will start the same way his first season started with the Cleveland Cavaliers; injured. Last year, it was a shoulder injury that made him wait eight games to make his debut with Cleveland after being traded over from New York. This year, he'll miss the at least the first 12 weeks of the season after suffering a wrist injury a week before training camp.
The injury will be an obvious setback to his season, but before the injury was announced, Shumpert stated during media day that he had spent most of the off-season working on his ball-handling and playmaking off of the dribble. Although it's common for players to spend time telling reporters what they worked on over the summer, this is somewhat of a push in the right direction for Shumpert and making any sort of improvement on the offensive end.
Shumpert has never been a great shooter, nor has been any sort of scorer. He can show flashes of having an impressive game, but the difference between making him a good offensive player and an average one is consistency. One of those flashes come from his handle. Looking at the tape, Shumpert has his own go-to move; a hesitation crossover that leads in to either a pull-up jumper or a stepback jumper. It's a simple move, but it's an effective move that he can use on more than one occasion.
Take a look at how he used this move against the Atlanta Hawks in the last year's playoffs:
What makes this move effective is that it combines both his quickness and shot-making ability from midrange. Shumpert doesn't shoot well enough from behind the arc to become a 3-and-D player, but he has an above-above midrange game, an ability that some of the better ball-handlers in the league have -- guys like Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving.
Now, in no way shape or form is Shumpert anywhere near the players that Paul or Irving are, but if wants to become a better scorer, he has to utilize a skill that is slowly fading away from today's game. Too many people want to ignore the midrange (and rightfully so), but it should be utilized for someone who has the ability to score from 15-to-19 feet. And since he has at least one move to create shots from that space, there's no reason he shouldn't use that more this year.
The problem with that one move is that it's Shumpert's ONLY effective move. Shumpert has the quickness to blow by defenders, but he doesn't have the handles or any sort of finishing ability to be a more effective player on the offensive end. With that being said, how much better could he be if he added another move or two? Shumpert doesn't need a deep array of moves, but he certainly needs more than one.
If Shumpert does, in fact, become a better ball-handler, will that allow him to play point guard? The Cavs already have impressive depth at the point guard position, but if Shumpert can be trusted with the ball in his hands, it will make an already loaded Cavs' offense that much better. And as we've seen before, maybe he'll need to step up if a few players go down.
I don't expect Shumpert to light the world on fire on offense, but the Cavs don't necessarily need him to. It's not out of this world for him to average around 12-to-14 points per game. Could an improved handle that he supposedly worked on over the summer make any better as a scorer? Or will his poor finishing ability continue to haunt his offensive game that many said would improve? Either way, it's make-or-break year for Shumpert to shed the label as a "defensive wing."