Why Amar'e Stoudemire Isn't the Most Sorely Missed Injured Player on Knicks

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterNovember 21, 2012

Apr 15, 2012; New York, NY, USA;  New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (21) defends Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden.  Miami won 93-85.  Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Maybe it's just me.

Maybe it's the art of the steal that gets me fired up. The idea of a defensive magician who can tie his assignment's laces together after handcuffing his wrists, all without making any contact with the victim.

Iman Shumpert is one of the few guards in the league who can impact a game defensively.

If you put stock in points off turnovers, then you're probably familiar with Shumpert's defensive value.

He's as good as anyone I've seen defending the ball, using his athleticism, quick feet and long arms to blanket his defenders like a "Snuggie." Shumpert makes opposing guards so uncomfortable with the ball that a restraining order sounds like the only reasonable solution.

Being able to turn defensive possessions into offensive points is like a pick-six in football. It's a two-score, or four-point, basketball swing. Even if the Knicks don't convert off the turnover, it's obviously still a successful defensive possession.

Shumpert's activity level was as high as almost any guard's in the NBA in 2011-12.

Last year, Shumpert averaged 2.84 steals per 48 minutes, good for fourth in the league (among players who played a minimum 20 minutes) behind Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Tony Allen, and ahead of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Andre Iguodala.

The amount of turnovers he's forced just by pressure is another story. Usually, the guy who pokes the ball away doesn't get credited with the steal.

Here's an example of Shumpert using his length and defensive instincts to turn a routine pass into a pick to the house.

This wasn't just a one-time occurrence. If you're a New Yorker or have the League Pass, you've seen this time and time again...in his one year as a pro.

Here is Shumpert making arguably one of the biggest plays of last season, down five without the ball, one minute and 30 seconds remaining:

The Knicks came back to win that game, but it was Shumpert's defensive energy that sparked the run and gave them a chance.

His skill set stands out and makes a direct impact on a nightly basis. Whether he's scoring or not, his defensive presence never fades.

And that's where he'll be missed more than Amar'e Stoudemire.

Shumpert will be able to contribute every night, regardless how off his shot is.

In Game 1 of last year's first-round matchup with Miami, Stoudemire made two field goals and grabbed five boards. In Game 5, he pulled in four rebounds and coughed up five turnovers. He missed Game 4 after lighting up a fire extinguisher.

In two of the four playoff games he has played in, he was a nonfactor on one or more sides of the ball. At least when Shumpert struggles offensively he has something else to offer.

This isn't to say Stoudemire can't play or he's over the hill. The article was meant to highlight Shumpert's importance, not to denounce Amar'e's contributions.

With Carmelo Anthony playing the most effective ball of his career, and the offense clicking on all cylinders, defensive depth and athleticism sound like valuable additions for the playoffs.

Or maybe it's just me.