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Iman Shumpert is having a rough February from three

After a scorching start to the year, Iman Shumpert has come back to Earth.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Iman Shumpert started this season having his best shooting season since, well, ever.

While he still struggled inside the arc, he seemed to have rediscovered his three-point stroke. This was important, as Shumpert shot a career wort career-worst 29.5 percent from three last season.

But since the start of February, Shumpert’s raw three-point numbers have fallen off. And at the same time, he’s taking more threes per game than ever before. February was his highest volume month on a per game basis. To date, his January and February averages would be his two highest attempts per game averages over the course of a full season.

Iman Shumpert's 2016-17 three-point shooting

Month Three-point percentage Attempts per game
Month Three-point percentage Attempts per game
October 66.7 1
November 41.7 3
December 36.2 3.6
January 44.4 4.2
February 27.8 5.1

He’s also struggling on catch-and-shoot threes - a shot that accounts for 58.3 of his attempts on the season:

Iman Shumpert 2016-17 catch-and-shoot numbers

Month Three-point percentage Attempts per game
Month Three-point percentage Attempts per game
October 66.7 1
November 39.3 2.3
December 32.6 2.7
January 44.5 3.7
February 29.4 4.9

Shumpert is 8-25 on unguarded threes, per Synergy. Before February, he was 21-50 on unguarded threes. And as he takes and misses more threes, Shumpert is also going to the rim less and less. Per Synergy, he’s 1-3 on shots at the rim for the entire month of February. Before February, he shot 51.5 percent on shots at the rim while taking 1.5 per game.

In short: Shumpert has become a high-volume, low-return three-point shooter, at least when compared to what’s he’s been before. And he’s doing it in only marginally more minutes more than his season average of 25.3.

The easiest way to explain this is to note that Shumpert’s role has changed month by month. At the start of the year, coach Tyronn Lue viewed him as a the team’s quasi backup point guard. His job was to do a lot of cutting and focus a lot on defense. But because of J.R. Smith's injury and Jordan McRae and DeAndre Liggins' ineffectiveness, he’s been a two-guard. He also moved into the starting lineup and is spending more time with the Cavs’ starters. Lue, in a sense, has put Shumpert into Smith’s role.

Smith’s injury, in particular, prompted an uptick in Shumpert’s shooting. Before Dec. 20, he was taking 2.9 threes per game game and after, that number has jumped to 4.4 per game. And even after Kyle Korver made his debut, Shumpert’s been shooting more and more. Since Korver’s debut on January 10, Shumpert’s taken 5.1 attempts per game.

The Cavs also haven’t seen a drop off in their play as a result of Shumpert’s poor shooting. In February, the team is 8-2. One of those losses came on Saturday when Cleveland took on the Bulls without both LeBron James and Kevin Love. Shumpert, for what it’s worth, was 0-4 from three vs. Chicago. And he missed the type of threes the Cavs need him to make:

And here he is a bit more open after Irving creates space:

This, though, says more about the team’s ability to play at a high level in spite of Shumpert’s shooting. Cleveland has had the league's best offensive rating in February by 3.9 points over the Warriors despite Shumpert's struggles.

When Smith does come back - perhaps in mid-March, perhaps a bit later - Shumpert can take on a smaller role. It’ll take time for Smith to get his legs and form back, but it can happen. Love’s return will take away Shumpert’s need to shoot. Deron Williams’ imminent arrival will help too. And perhaps his shooting will bounce back the other way if Lue can get him back to taking fewer attempts.

There’s still a role for Shumpert to play in the grand scheme of things. At his best defensively, he’s still capable. RPM views him as only a slight negative, although Synergy paints a much bleaker picture in the context of team play. His role, ideally, just involves a lot less shooting.