Jeremy Lin's Shoes to Be Filled by Iman Shumpert: Will This Work?
Jeremy Lin is sitting on the bench in his warm-ups, and he won't be coming off of the bench any time soon.
Oh, how the present and near-future so closely resemble the past for Lin.
Lin's left knee injury will require surgery, and he currently is slated to miss the next six weeks.
With the playoffs starting on April 28, this means that Lin is guaranteed to miss the remainder of the regular season, and at least the first round of the playoffs.
But will the New York Knicks even make it that far?
The depth of the Knicks' bench is about to be tested once again, after having to soldier through the remainder of the regular season without Amar'e Stoudemire.
With Baron Davis' back issues, the player most likely to see increased minutes at the point guard spot is rookie Iman Shumpert.
While some feel Lin's absence may be a good thing, I believe it is a terrible turn of events.
Call me Captain Obvious, but it needs to be said.
Even in a compacted, lockout-shortened season, I suppose it is possible to view the recent past through rose-colored glasses and believe that Shumpert would be an upgrade over Lin.
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After all, he is more athletic than Lin. And he was drafted.
But Shumpert's short tenure as a professional has already been a roller-coaster. Let us look back on his development, starting with the 2011 NBA Draft, to gain some perspective.
The Knicks selected Shumpert with the 17th overall pick, bypassing big men such as Chris Singleton to do so. The Knicks faithful were not happy.
His scouting report showed that he was a great defender, but the fact was that most people did not know who he was.
This then set up the Knicks fans to be overjoyed with his pro debut, where Shumpert was poised and ready to contribute immediately.
That lasted only three quarters, as he was injured in his first game and was scheduled to miss two to four weeks.
The need for a point guard had the Knicks considering bringing back Nate Robinson but, in a twist of fate that no one could have predicted at the time, the Knicks decided to claim Jeremy Lin off of waivers.
Lin saw little playing time and the Knicks struggled out of the gates, posting a 2-4 record. Both starting guards at the time, Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, were floundering.
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The call for Shumpert to supplant one of them was growing and, as the Daily News' Frank Isola wrote, the young rookie was a "favorite among the Madison Square Garden faithful."
Up until that point, Shumpert had a grand total of two NBA games under his belt.
In his third game, he supplanted starting point guard Douglas in the second half, and a star was born. Shumpert's energy and hustle propelled the Knicks to a come-from-behind victory over the Washington Wizards on Jan. 6, and New York City was ready to anoint him as savior.
Kevin Kernan of the New York Post had this message for then-coach Mike D'Antoni:
Two games later, and the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence put forth the idea that Shumpert was the steal of the draft.
Of course, anybody who follows NBA basketball (or pop culture, for that matter) knows that Shumpert's run as the starting PG for the Knicks would eventually end, and it did on Jan. 28 against the Houston Rockets.
During his 12-game run, Shumpert continued to show his prowess on defense, but he left much to be desired as the facilitator of an offense; he averaged just over three assists per game and nearly as many turnovers.
However, the numbers alone do not convey the entire story.
With Shumpert at the point, the Knicks offense seemed to stall.
At that point in the season, he had a skill set that is currently better suited to the shooting guard or small forward position, and as a point guard he often missed hitting the open man and instead heaved up an ill-advised shot of his own.
The same is still true of his game now, and the Knicks offense will suffer if Shumpert is charged with running the show for extended periods of time.
Lin is rightfully criticized for turning the ball over far too many times, but he also has a knack for getting the ball to his teammates for open shots and alley-oops.
Lin also puts pressure on the opposing team by driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He has gone to the line 125 times since he became a starter, which puts him in the top 10 among guards in that category.
Will Shumpert be an upgrade over Lin?
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Will the Knicks be better off, in any way, shape, or form, without Lin?
A resounding no.
Can the Knicks still make the playoffs?
Without Lin and Stoudemire, the Knicks will need to lean heavily on Carmelo Anthony and his ailing groin.
Whenever Shumpert is in as the point guard, the Knicks can do both men a favor and slow down the offense, allowing them to run post-up plays for Anthony.
This will highlight Anthony's strengths offensively while minimizing Shumpert's offensive shortcomings. He will still be able to disrupt the other team's offense with his on-the-ball defense and steals.
And the Knicks will still be able to play some post-season basketball.
However, their chances of advancing past the first round have been thoroughly diminished.
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