Iman Shumpert may be the most unnecessarily criticized player on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most of it — if not all — is unwarranted and his poor play in the last two NBA Finals is what has left a sour taste in the mouths of Cavaliers fans. Shumpert has never been able to stride into his potential that had New York Knicks fans buzzing less than five years ago. He has yet to pan out as expected during his tenure in a Cavaliers uniform, but he has been a valuable role player with a skill set that is rare to come by.
Shumpert became unplayable during this past Finals but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he had one of his best seasons in terms of production. Shumpert shot better from the field (41.1 percent) and long distance (36 percent) this season than he did any of his first five. However he lacked the consistency that would have made those stats even higher. Shumpert shot well-above 40 percent from three during October through Novemeber along with January, but less than 30 percent from February until the end of the regular season.
Oddly enough, during the playoffs, his three point percentage spiked up to 38.5 percent. Mentally, he couldn’t keep up when it came to playing against the Warriors. Even when wide open, he was an absolute mess on offense during that five-game series and it’s what fans will remember most about him, but Shumpert showed plenty of value during the regular season, especially when J.R. Smith missed some time due to injury.
Shumpert started 31 games last season, 28 of them coming from the middle of January to the middle of March while filling in for Smith. During that time he played some of his best games as a Cavalier. He was knocking down shots and playing great one-on-one defense. Let’s take a look at what Shumpert did well as a Cavalier this season along with where he struggled.
Individual defense is his strength
Shumpert is an above-average on-ball defender, and it’s what he does best. He has great footwork and is quick enough to keep his body in front of most guards without fouling. He’s one of the best players in the entire league at getting a hand into the space of the ball when the man he is guarding is attacking the rim, which often lead to strips.
As fast as Bledsoe is running downhill, Shumpert has enough control to stay in front of and shift with his man. Being able to initiate contact without fouling is a huge factor in playing defense in the modern NBA. Less hand checking means you have to be disciplined while also being able to keep up with some of the fastest players the league has to offer.
His off-ball defense is not so great
While Shumpert is great at guarding the ball, he struggles heavily when screeners are involved. He had a tendency to get stuck behind screens which allowed easy lines to the basket for the dribbler. Instead of trying to fight around screens, he would often run straight into them, rendering himself useless and trailing the play.
This one may have been a moving screen on P.J. Tucker, but what shocks me is how often Shumpert refuses to go strong thorough the screens. He seems too afraid to pick up fouls and it results in an incredibly unaggressive approach. Until the NBA cracks down on moving screens, Shumpert will continue to fail in guarding the pick-and-roll.
He knew where his sweet spot was and he got there often
Shumpert’s most efficient shot on the floor is the mid-range jumper (which also happens to be the most invaluable shot in basketball). He was great at getting into a rhythm and knocking down jumpers off of curls or screens and that even translated to beyond the perimeter throughout the season.
Shumpert had plenty of success this season when he shot off the dribble. If he had time to jump into his shot, he was much more efficient.
Shumpert maneuvers well when he’s working with screens on offense, finding a way to get to the spot he wants for a shot in rhythm. However, creating his own offense is a different story.
He has little playmaking ability
Unless Shumpert had help on offense, he contributed little in terms of creating points. If I had to guess, Shumpert spends around 70 percent of the Cavaliers offensive possessions standing still in a corner while LeBron James and Kyrie Irving go to work. It’s fair to say that he likely wouldn’t get the ball much if he was more active on offense, but he seems lost at times. Shumpert’s offensive awareness is subpar and it’s easy to tell just after watching a few minutes of play.
Shumpert has his man beat going towards the paint but declines it for a tough turnaround fadeaway:
Plenty of unnecessary dribble moves that ultimately leads to nothing:
Shumpert didn’t have a great season for the Cavaliers, but he did have one of his personal bests. He’s only 26, but his window is closing. If he wants to remain in Cleveland for the future, he’s going to have to show up when the games matter most. For the season, Shumpert earns a C+ from me for his overall play and it would have been higher had he not been zapped of his talents during the NBA Finals. With all the trade rumors floating around, it’s hard to tell if Shumpert will still be a Cavalier at the beginning of next season but if he is, I will greet him with open arms.