Just how good can Iman Shumpert be?

Are Iman Shumpert's best days ahead of him? And will they be in a Knicks uniform? Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Iman Shumpert seems to be involved in almost every trade rumor making the rounds these days.

The most recent report, courtesy of ESPN's Chris Broussard, says the Cavaliers have talked to the Knicks about a deal for Dion Waiters. Naturally, Shumpert emerged as a possible candidate for the Cavs.

Shumpert is the Knicks' only trading chip at the moment. And New York seems committed to move him before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

But you have to wonder: In shipping Shumpert out of town, will the Knicks' front office make a transaction they'll one day regret?

The answer depends on whether Shumpert one day develops into the perennial All-Star some project him to become.

Not everyone is convinced that he will.

"I'm not 100 percent sold on Shumpert," said a veteran NBA scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "You can see flashes and stretches where Iman is a good defender, but he's inconsistent. I don't know if he can be a starter on a good team or a bench player. I'm not sure what he is."

Shumpert's widely regarded as one of the top young perimeter defenders in the league. But the numbers don't necessarily support that. The Knicks allowed 105.3 points per 100 possessions when Shumpert was on the court last season. When he sat, that number dropped to 102.9.

While that difference may seem minor, three fewer points per 100 possessions would’ve moved the Knicks from 17th to seventh last season in defensive efficiency rankings, according to ESPN Stats & Information's Deontay Morris.

Shumpert's on-court, off-court splits have improved this season, as he's further removed from the ACL surgery he underwent following his rookie season. This season, the Knicks are allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions while he's on the floor and 108.6 points per 100 possessions while he's on the bench.

Iman Shumpert

Iman Shumpert

#21 SG
New York Knicks

2014 STATS

  • GM14
  • PPG7.0

  • RPG4.1

  • APG2.4

  • FG%.389

  • FT%.842

"I think he could be an elite defender," another scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said. "He's got the range, he's got the wingspan and the quickness. He's got to want to do it, though. He's got to commit to it and I think at times he wavers on it."

Whether or not he shows it now on a consistent basis, most league observers agree Shumpert has the skill set to be a strong perimeter defender.

But there is no strong consensus when it comes to Shumpert's offense. And what he's shown on offense thus far paints an incomplete picture. For his career, Shumpert's averaged 8.2 points on 39.8 percent shooting. He's also a career 34.6 percent 3-point shooter.

"The strategy is to let him shoot," one scout said.

There are several factors to consider when looking at Shumpert's production to date. As a rookie, Shumpert didn't have the benefit of an NBA training camp to help ease the adjustment from college to the pros. He was thrown into the fire as soon as the lockout ended in 2011.

Then, Shumpert tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs. He spent the next seven months rehabbing the injury, returning in mid-January. Shumpert needed to work off the rust after sitting out for seven months. He also needed time to gain confidence in his knee. He said earlier this year he didn't start to feel like himself until last season's playoffs.

So, when projecting Shumpert's future value, maybe it's best to look at his playoff performance last spring.

Shumpert shot 42.9 percent from beyond the arc in 12 playoff games. He had a true shooting percentage of 52.5 (true shooting percentage is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 3-point field goals and free throws). His effective field-goal percentage, a measurement that adjusts for the value of a 3-point shot, was 50 percent.

These numbers are fairly impressive. Extrapolated out to a full season, they put Shumpert in some good company.

Joe Johnson put up similar statistics in 2004-05, as did Ray Allen (2011-12), Danny Ainge (1986-87), Al Harrington (2006-07) and B.J. Armstrong (1992-93).

What could set Shumpert apart from these players is his defense. Still, some scouts believe his perceived value is a product of playing in one of the biggest media markets in the country.

"He came up in New York and everything got a little blown out of proportion," one scout said.

And there may be some truth to that.

Shumpert's defensive win share -- or a measure of wins contributed by a player's defense -- was 2.5 in his rookie season. That number will likely improve. Josh Smith led the NBA in defensive win shares that year with 4.9, but he played 6,000 more minutes than Shumpert.

Shumpert's overall win share coming into this season was an even five. That’s on par with players such as Nick Young, Willie Green, Derrick Williams, Landry Fields and Ronnie Brewer. Not an overly impressive list.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, there's no advanced statistic to determine the degree to which Shumpert can improve. If New York deals Shumpert, he'd be the latest first-round player or pick to be dealt by the team (David Lee and Danilo Gallinari being the most recent players; 2014 and 2016 being the most recent picks).

But the team has to ask this question as it considers different trade proposals for Shumpert: Just how good will he be when it's all said and done?

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