The return of Iman Shumpert is the perfect shot in the arm to cure their sputtering ways.
Anthony Rieber of Newsday reported on January 13, 2013, that Shumpert would return for the Knicks' January 17 game against the Detroit Pistons. Shumpert has been absent since tearing his ACL in April 2012 (via ESPN New York).
All 15 Knicks landed in London. Iman may start Thursday, Camby is out, Rasheed doubtful & J.R. Smith is probable to take the town by storm— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) January 15, 2013
Shumpert's return couldn't come at a better time.
The Knicks are struggling at an extremely disappointing level. Even still, they remain just a half-game behind the Miami Heat for the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
A direct result of Miami losing four of their past six games.
With all of this being noted, it is Shumpert's athleticism that will be the deciding factor in the race for first. If the former Georgia Tech standout is able to return and provide the explosive play we've come to expect, New York will make a legitimate push.
If he is unable to, they will not.
Fortunately, optimism is something that is well warranted in this instance. Shump is a dominant defender that will return to his smothering form.
The question is, where will it help most?
Curing Defensive Woes
During their first 19 games, the New York Knicks allowed an average of 94.6 points per game. They allowed just five opponents to top the 100-point plateau.
Over their past 18 games, the Lakers are letting up 99.2 points per contest. The Knicks have allowed at least 100 points in 11 of those 18 games.
Oh, how the Knicks have missed Iman Shumpert.
In 2011-12, Shump burst onto the scene by leading the Knicks with 1.7 steals per game. This is merely statistical evidence for the fact that Shump emerged as the team's lead perimeter defender.
His efforts played a key role in the Knicks winning 18 of their final 24 games to secure a postseason berth.
This is exactly what the Knicks need in 2012-13, as Shumpert's ability to defend all three perimeter positions will be a major relief. Keep in mind, their top perimeter defenders at the moment are Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith.
As admirable as their efforts may be, they do not specialize in man defense.
Rasheed Wallace will miss his 15th consecutive game on January 17 (via Newsday).
In other words, the Knicks have been depleted by injuries and don't appear to know which way is up. The result of these unfortunate circumstances is that the Knicks' defense has been without three key contributors.
Fortunately, Iman Shumpert can do everything that Felton does and much, much more on D. He can also make up for the lack of interior depth by adding an elite perimeter presence.
Perhaps most important of all, Shump will improve the efficiency of the Knicks' offense.
With Shumpert back in the rotation, the Knicks will be able to run their offense more freely. Shump is a lock to give an elite scorer or facilitator trouble, which enables players such as J.R. Smith to work off of the ball and jump out in transition.
Even if the Knicks are down three rotational weapons, Shumpert's return should push their defense right back to the level expected of them.
Relieving Aging Legs
Just as the sports world predicted, the New York Knicks' aging legs have begun to regress.
During the first month of the season, Jason Kidd had posted a slash line of .509/.489/.1000. He also averaged 2.1 steals per game.
Thus far in January, Kidd is averaging 1.4 steals on a slash line of .333/.344/.000.
This isn't limited to Kidd, but the point is as follows. If the Knicks are going to win games, they need a lead perimeter defender that is not 39 years old.
Iman Shumpert can serve in said role to perfection.
Not only will this enable Kidd to play in a more physically forgiving manner, but it will also enable the aging Knicks to play less help-side D. In turn, they will be able to channel their focus to their assignment.
One way or another, Shumpert will open lanes for every player to work in their comfort zone.
Shumpert will help in relieving aging legs, overcoming injuries and improving a struggling defense. Most important of all, he will provide an athletic boost to a team that has seemed far too complacent with their early success.
Mr. Shumpert is the shot in the arm the Knicks so desperately need.