The 22-year-old came off an impressive playoff run just a few months after returning from a left ACL repair, and coach Mike Woodson said Tuesday, "The sky's the limit for that young man."
Even when Shumpert was missing shots in the postseason, he was making up for it consistently with his defense and rebounding -- something J.R. Smith was not doing regularly. While Smith has All-Star scoring potential, he needs shots to go down for him to care more about defense and intangibles. Shumpert, however, is always hungry to guard the best scorer and make the small, significant play.
He just needs to be more involved offensively next season.
"I've got to just keep my game where it is defensively and become more consistent with rebounding the ball," Shumpert said on Monday. "Then, making sure that I become an option scoring the ball."
Woodson is smartly thinking the same thing.
"I think he will be a bigger part," he said. "That was our whole thought process prior to him getting hurt. ... I think this summer will be very pivotal for his growth. He's got an opportunity to be a pretty good player."
This past season, Shumpert mostly played off the ball at the 3 position, watching Smith, Anthony and Raymond Felton go to work on offense. One of the reasons Shumpert moved from point guard as a rookie to small forward this season was because the Knicks didn't want to overwork his surgically repaired knee. In fact, he sometimes guarded weaker players.
But down the stretch, when Shumpert felt more comfortable healthwise, he guarded the best scorer, jumped higher for rebounds, attacked the open court as a one-man fast break, and looked to penetrate more and dunk in half-court sets.
"Shumpert came back during the season, which is tough," former All-Star point guard and current Miami Heat scout Tim Hardaway, who overcame a left ACL tear in 1993, told ESPNNewYork.com. "Guards are running full speed, stopping and going. We've got to pick up full court, we've got to come off pick-and-rolls, we've got to get in the lane, stop, pop. I commend Shumpert at what he was able to do."
Hardaway said Shumpert will return next season "playing a lot better," crediting the consistency of Shumpert's recent play. Hardaway remembers not being the same player right away, but he said Shumpert is further along and "won't have any knee effects."
"What impressed me was his jumping ability and movement, and how strong he was playing day in and day out at a high level," Hardaway said. "Sometimes I played at a high level and then sometimes my leg wasn't there. I could play defense on one play, but I wasn't able to jump off the leg and shoot over somebody. I was very surprised and encouraged with his progress out there."
Hardaway went on to have a long All-NBA career, and he expects "great things" from Shumpert because of his 1 through 3 position versatility. He also respects Shumpert's relentless work ethic, which stems from the Chicago playgrounds where both players honed their skills.
"We have a mentality that we're going to go out there no matter what," Hardaway said. "We have a lot of pride in our abilities. ... If you tell us to go out there and guard a 7-footer, we're going to guard a 7-footer. In our mind, we are a 7-footer, too."
Shumpert has the entire mental and physical package. He just needs to unleash his offense.
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