In 2015, the Cavaliers were looking to add depth on the wings and especially coveted players who could defend multiple positions. At the same time, the Knicks were looking to dump J.R. Smith and were willing to part with Iman Shumpert to make it happen.
LeBron James puts it best: “J.R. [Smith] was just the ‘throw in’ to make the deal work.” Yet, fast forward two and a half seasons, and it seems like Smith was the centerpiece of the trade and Shumpert was the tax. It didn’t help that Shumpert started his Cavs tenure on the bench due to a shoulder injury.
As Shumpert was recovering from his shoulder injury in 2015, Smith took his starting role. The Cavs’ starting two-guard developed chemistry with James and Kyrie Irving, became reliable on the defensive end and took over Shumpert’s expected starting role.
The Cavaliers hoped Shumpert would continue to develop and signed him to a four-year, $40 million deal after the 2015 season. His performance peaked in 2016, but started to tail off this past season. At 6-5” and 220 pounds, Shumpert has the size and athleticism to be a fantastic three-and-d player in the NBA. But he’s never lived up to that potential. In 25.5 minutes per game last season, Shumpert averaged 7.5 points and 1.4 assists on 41 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from the three-point line in 2016-17.
While his shooting efficiency was the best of his career, his defensive prowess started to decline. His defensive box plus/minus number was a 0.0, which was the lowest mark of his career.
With the re-signing of Kyle Korver and the presumed addition of Jae Crowder, how important is Shumpert to the Cavaliers future?
The amount of time that Shumpert spent on the court in the 2017 NBA Finals reflects what the Cavaliers’ coaching staff thinks of him. In Games 1 and 2, Shumpert saw 19.5 minutes per game — six minutes less than his regular season average — shot 3-of-12 and was a part of a lot of defensive lapses.
The next three games, Shumpert only took the floor for a total of 27 minutes and had one field goal total. Korver and Smith took the minutes that Shumpert was accustomed to getting in the regular season.
Although it’s a small sample size, in the four losses in the NBA Finals, Shumpert’s net rating was minus-12.9. While his offensive rating was decent, his defensive rating of 113.2 wasn’t cutting it.
While Shumpert seems focused this offseason to try and turn his game around, I think it might be time for Cleveland to move on from their backup shooting guard.
There were reports before NBA Free Agency that the Houston Rockets had a trade in place for Shumpert, but it fell through. Recently, there were rumors that Shumpert requested a trade from Cleveland.
With LeBron’s on and off-court chemistry with Smith, I don’t think Shumpert can re-earn the starting spot. Korver’s deadly three-point shooting has earned him a backup role, leaving Shumpert as the odd man out. While he has the ability to play as a backup point guard — at least on defense — Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon seem to be filling those roles this season. And the Cavs didn’t trust him to play that role last year, so why would they do that now?
If the reported deal between the Celtics and Cavaliers go through, Cleveland will need to clear two roster spots to keep all the players they traded for. And getting off of his $10 million salary would ease the Cavs’ tax bill a bit more.
Look for GM Koby Altman to try and find a trade partner for Shumpert, a player that should be an ideal matchup against Golden State, but hasn’t lived up to the billing.