NBA Playoffs 2012: New York Knicks' Most Important Role Player

Judd CohenContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives against Iman Shumpert #21 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on April 15, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Iman Shumpert is the key to the Knicks' playoff success.

While most people believe the Knicks’ playoff hopes lie on the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, it will be their raw defender that will have a larger impact on the outcome of the games. 

Defense is the key to winning in the NBA

Tyson Chandler is credited with the turnaround in the Knicks’ defense, but the on-ball defense of Shumpert and the mid-season acquisition of J.R. Smith are something that gives the Knicks an additional dimension over last year’s squad. 

Shumpert finished 10th in the league in steals per game with 1.72, proving his ability right off the bat to wreak havoc on opposing ball handlers. Shumpert’s quick feet allow him to stay in front of the player he's guarding, and his length allows him to bother both passes and shots. 

In the Knicks first round series against the Miami Heat, Shumpert will be trusted to guard Dwyane Wade. He may not be able to silence Wade, but his defensive tenacity should be able to quiet him.

While Shumpert is a great on-ball defender, he can be overly aggressive—leading him to commit silly fouls, and poor shot selection. He will have to become more selective on offense if the Knicks want to succeed in the playoffs.

If Shumpert doesn’t learn some shot selection, he could end up hurting the team more on offense than his defense helps it. 

Shumpert, who was the 17th overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft, should be cut some slack in his lack of awareness on the offensive end, but will have to grow up quickly if the Knicks have a chance of making noise in the playoffs.

In order for the Knicks to win games in the postseason, they will need to make stops.

Shumpert will be on the floor to guard Wade in the first round. Since Shumpert will be seeing significant playing time, while also being asked to do some ball handling, he will need to be watchful of his shot selection.

New York needs some big performances out of their role players, and Shumpert will be getting a big chunk of playing time.

Depending on how Shumpert plays, the Knicks will either watch him jack up ill-advised shots and crash out in the first round of the playoffs, or hone in his offensive hubris and help the superstars lead the Knicks to the second round.