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Iman Shumpert's early returns are promising

Iman Shumpert's hasn't been a Cavalier for long, but the early returns are promising.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the three players the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired in early January, Iman Shumpert in some ways came in under the radar.. He was seen as the main get for the Cavs in the Dion Waiters deal, but was out with a shoulder injury at the time of the trade, and had been struggling on and off with the New York Knicks since being a part of a 50-win Knick team in 2012-13.

Shumpert's impact - key bench minutes as a defense-first off guard with some limited offense - has been far less noticeable than the impact brought by Timofey Mozgov's rim protection and Smith's shooting ability/excellent Instagram account. But Shumpert is still making an impact and has made the Cavs a more complete team. After returning, Shumpert has been a useful two-way player on a team in need of that type of players.

While he isn't starting at shooting guard as some expected, Shumpert has been playing 20.6 minutes per game with the Cavs (down 5.4 from his time with New York, where he was a starter) and has been a part of the reason why both Shawn Marion and Mike Miller are not a regular part of David Blatt's current rotation.

That is in part due to Shumpert being a mix of both players. He can't defend twos, threes and fours like Marion, but he provides a different brand of defensive versatility. Depending on who the Cavs are playing and what lineup Shumpert is playing with, he'll defend ones, twos or threes and does each rather effectively. One such example here is when Shumpert is playing with LeBron James, he will take LeBron's man on occasion. 

Shumpert, at least to an extent, is a better floor spacer than Marion; that is to say teams actually will close out Shumpert if he gets an open shot as opposed to Marion, who teams largely ignore on the perimeter. He does create space for the other Cavs on the floor like Miller does (although Miller isn't shooting up to his reputation this season at a career low 33.3 percent) but he has been an effective offensive player with the Cavs, who are 3.7 points per 100 possessions better on offense with Shumpert on the court.

Shumpert is only shooting 5.4 times a game on average, down from an even nine shots per game with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Shumpert's highest field goal percentage was 40.1 percent in 2011-12 and 40.2 percent on three-pointers in 2012-13. With the Cavs, Shumpert is shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 44.7 percent on three-pointers. Even more startling: He has a TS% of 64 percent with Cleveland, which is over 10 percent higher than any other year for Shumpert. His shot chart for the entire year, which puts him at 43.2 percent from the field, show where he's been effective this year.

Via Nylon Calculus, Shumpert has been much better as a shooter in Cleveland and is shooting an absurd 83 percent inside three-feet with the Cavs.

His shot distribution is also encouraging, as he's not taking many mid-range shots and indicate that he is at least some version of a functioning three-and-d player. Per NBA Stats, Shumpert is shooting 47.2 percent on catch and shoot opportunities (which account for 55.4 percent of shot attempts with the Cavs) and he's shooting the same percent on on catch and shoot three-point opportunities with Cleveland. Both figures are significantly higher than his figures with the Knicks.

These numbers aren't likely sustainable for Shumpert. Over the course of his career, Shumpert hasn't shown to be a consistently good shooter and while the lower attempt numbers with the Cavs will help, they won't automatically turn him into a good shooter. At some point, Shumpert's numbers are going to regress, even if it isn't all the way back down to his shooting numbers with the Knicks.

That, however, shouldn't really impact his role. It may force the Cavs to consider playing Smith more against certain teams - the Bulls, for instance, could be tricky if they can pack the paint against LeBron and have a healthy Joakim Noah in the middle - but his value defensively likely means he'll have some sort of minutes role with the Cavs as against teams like the Hawks who have a plethora of wings who can score and move the ball well. Even against the team like the Wizards, Shumpert has value as he could shift onto John Wall for stretches while Kyrie Irving defends Bradley Beal. As a whole, the Cavs have been 3.5 points better per 100 possessions with Shumpert defensively.

It's still early to fully evaluate Shumpert, as his spiked shooting numbers indicate. He's yet to log any significant time with any particular set of Cavs. For instance, his best lineup with the Cavs is Shumpert, LeBron, Marion, Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson - a group that has played a whopping total of 29:34 together. And some his flaws - his ball handling, for instance - have yet to fully appear. His reduced role - his usage is down to 15.5 in Cleveland after being a career high 20.3 in New York before being traded - is certainly is a part of that

But the early signs are encouraging. Shumpert has shifted into a smaller role in lower minutes than he played with the Knicks and has done as smoothly as could have been expected and perhaps even better.