In theory, an NBA player who stands 6’5” with a 6’9.5” wingspan, can capably guard multiple positions while also being a decent shooter and creator on offense would be a incredibly useful player on a good team. And if that player was locked in for $10 million a year under the current cap, his contract would be considered a bargain.
This is the player archetype that Iman Shumpert fills with the Cleveland Cavaliers, or at least the one he’s supposed to. At times during his season and a half in Cleveland, he meets exceptions and fills that role successfully. When he’s playing well and is healthy, he lives up the No. 6 billing and the best version of Shumpert could be even higher in the rankings.
But more often than not, Shumpert has been lacking and perhaps a bit disappointing. Maybe somewhat due to some nagging shoulder injuries, he had perhaps the worst year of his NBA career last year. In 54 games, Shumpert shot 37.4 percent from the field, a career 29.5 percent from three and averaged just 5.8 points per game. He was a bit better in the playoffs statistically, but the Cavs really had taken the ball out of his hands sans a shot here or there during their run to the title. And defensively - where his true value is supposed to be - Shumpert wasn’t always engaged and capable of taking on the stopper role Cleveland would like him to.
The best version of Shumpert - one that only existed during the first few games of his Cavs career - is a player Tyronn Lue can use in a variety of ways. On defense, he could guards ones, twos and threes in order to let Lue leverage match-ups and let Kyrie Irving avoid the league’s elite guards possession after possession. On offense, he might never be a knockdown shooter - which is why J.R. Smith is more valuable to the Cavs at this point - but should be passable off-ball as a shooter and as a creator. In a lot of people’s heads, this is the player Shumpert is.
But at the moment, Shump just isn’t at at that level. Offensively, opposing defenses spent most of the playoff run daring him to shoot when the ball was swung to him. One look at his shot chart from the regular season shows that he’s below league average at the rim and in four of the five three-point zone - aka the two areas on the floor he ideally would be killing at:
When he had the ball in his hands, teams sagged off to let him shoot or attempt to create 1 vs. 1. When he did attack, it wasn’t always in control and careful enough and there were moments where he’d lose control of the ball just after getting past his man. If he did attacking under control, he only appeared capable making the simple reads.
He’ll never be Steve Nash reincarnated and he doesn’t need to be, but the best version of Shumpert probably averages more than the 1.7 assists per game he averaged last year.
Now, writing the entire book on Shumpert now would be a bit shortsighted. The injuries can explain at least some of the struggles and he’s only 26. If he’s healthy this year, he’s talented enough to become some version of the archetype of the Cavs would like him to be. Lue, too, could better leverage Shumpert’s role to put him in positions on the floor when he can succeed.
If he does come off the bench again - and he could start this year, at least until Smith re-signs - he could work as a nominal backup point guard on bench units where Mike Dunleavy and Channing Frye can handle the spacing duties. On a whiteboard, that would leave Shumpert free to slash towards the rim - something he is good at - while using his energy to smother opposing guards on defense. As an added wrinkle, the Cavs could force him develop as a creator in moments where he can share minutes with the two players on the team (LeBron and Kyrie Irving) who can be a support system of sorts.
But at the moment, the reality is that Shumpert isn’t where he maybe should be. Last season certainly mucks up the picture, but even then, there is five years worth of data and film indicating that he isn’t quite at the level he could be.
By season’s end, Shumpert could be worthy of this ranking. But at the moment, the idea of what he is hasn’t matched reality.
Sixth place votes: 5
Seventh place votes: 3
Eighth place votes: 4
Ninth place votes: 1