Iman Shumpert: Making the Case for Shumpert to Claim NBA Rookie of the Year

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2012

There are plenty of reasons Iman Shumpert won't be named this season's Rookie of the Year—the only one that matters being a guy named Kyrie Irving.

Irving isn't Shumpert's only competition to be sure, but his 18.8 points and 5.7 assists per game are just too impressive to give anyone else a second look.

Nevertheless, a second look is exactly what Shumpert deserves.

His numbers have been impressive, especially in Jeremy Lin's absence. Over his last 10 games, Shumpert is averaging 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.9 steals. Those may not compare favorably to Irving's production, but they're the first argument in a case for Shumpert's consideration in the Rookie of the Year discussion.

The next argument is the one that matters, though.

No rookie this season has displayed a similar penchant for on-ball defense and physical intensity on both ends of the court. It's difficult to measure the impact of that defense, but his 1.9 steals a contest should be a hint.

Shumpert has also been a model citizen for a New York Knicks team undergoing a season full of change. That can be hard for any players, but for rookies in particular.

Nevertheless, Shumpert has been successful under both Mike D'Antoni and Mike Woodson. He's remained steadfast throughout injuries to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, and he's weathered the midseason infusion of backcourt pieces like Baron Davis and J.R. Smith.

When other rookies might have grown discouraged by the threat to their playing time, Shumpert continued going to work and earning that playing time. While it's only natural for a rookie to be deferential, Shumpert didn't confuse deference with defeat—he's consistently risen to the occasion and justified a prominent spot in the rotation.

Given the lack of attention paid to defensive prowess and the intangibles characterizing his rookie campaign, Shumpert's case for Rookie of the Year honors will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.

Even so, though, there's no question this kid is well on his way to a successful pro career. He's demonstrated the full package—the athletic upside, mental fortitude and multifaceted talent. All are signs of a rookie at the top of his game and a rookie whose best days are still ahead.