When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder, they acquired a first round pick that was later converted into Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. What was lost in the flashy play of Smith was that Iman Shumpert was the targeted prize of the move, while Smith was supposedly the tax.
While Smith started every game up until his suspension in the playoffs for a faceshot to Jae Crowder. It was at that point that Iman Shumpert stepped into his envisioned role as the Cavs starting shooting guard. The plan that the Cavs had in place for Shumpert became even more clear this summer as they signed him to a four year extension for $40 million dollars.
For the purpose of this review, I'm going to focus solely on Shumpert's time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I don't think you should try to gauge a players value when playing for the New York Knicks for the same reason you wouldn't judge an athlete's agility and speed when trapped in quick sand.
Shumpert was traded to the Cavaliers in early January, but his debut with the team was delayed as a result of a shoulder injury he was rehabbing for. He didn't show any ill-effects of that shoulder injury when he finally joined the team as he shot 36.7 percent from behind the arc throughout the months of January and February. Sadly that shooting was not sustained as those percentages dipped to 29.3 percent after the all star break. Inconsistent shooting has been a hallmark of his game throughout his career. He has shown the ability to stretch the floor at times, but either injury or fatigue seem to get in the way of him recognizing his potential as a shooter.
A prime example of this would be his shooting in the playoffs. He performed very well in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but a groin injury he suffered was compounded with another to his shoulder in Game One and became an offensive non-factor for the remainder of the Finals. While his 35.5 percent three point shooting during the playoffs was solid, for whatever reason it was not present when it was needed most.
While his shooting was inconsistent, there were aspects of his game that were consistently extremely positive for the Cavaliers and likely a big factor in why they were willing to commit to him long-term. Shumpert's defense hadn't always been there with the Knicks, but with the Cavaliers he showed dedication, poise and great footwork and anticipation. He's always had a gift for taking the ball away from the opposition, and that continued to be the case after the trade. The Cavs held their opponents to 6.2 points per 100 possessions fewer during the regular season when Shumpert was on the floor. He also provided consistent effort on the boards no matter how many possessions he was given with the ball. This is obviously an essential trait for any role player that is going to be playing next to LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. His dedication to doing the small things and being a positive overall, even when his jumper isn't falling, is a big reason why he is in wine and gold rather than Dion Waiters.
While J.R. Smith was a complete liability in the Finals when his offense abandoned him, this wasn't the case with Shumpert. That, plus his youth, lead to the Cavs not hesitating to bring him back while they continue to sit in limbo with the enigmatic Smith over contract negotiations.
While his positive attributes are present, there are some deficiencies that could cause some concern with Cavs fans, especially now that they've committed significant money and term to him. His ability to put the ball on the floor is still in need of drastic improvement. He is capable of creating some space or penetration off the dribble. But his handle isn't tight and it can result in turnovers or missed dribbles leading to him picking up the ball. He also didn't finish at the rim particularly well when he did get by his defender. His fluctuating effectiveness behind the arc is tolerable, but for a player that possess great length and athleticism it's essential that he start finishing at the rim. But as it stands now, his shot chart is a mosaic of inconsistent shooting:
While we're at it, better shooting from the corners wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Now he of course won't be asked to create a ton of shots playing alongside the big three and he's already proven that he can consistently be a positive for the team. But having players that can create for themselves and others was a point of emphasis for the team this summer and in order to give their stars meaningful rest, they're gonna need players to step up in that regard. At twenty four years old there's still plenty of time for his game to grown and evolve, but it's important that he fine tune his skills and iron out the inconsistencies as he advances in his career. Especially now that he has gained an understanding that one more basket or one fewer turnover could be the difference between planning parade routes and going home sore and disappointed.
Overall I would say that Iman Shumpert had a successful first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without a doubt he fills a very important need for the team and appears to have bought into his role. Now that he has had an opportunity to experience a deep playoff run and understands exactly what he would need to do within the team structure that has been put in place. Last season was a feeling out process, and it's up to Shumpert and the rest of the team to adjust their games to fill the roles that are required of them to come away with an NBA championship.