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Iman Shumpert Is Critical Piece to NY Knicks Future, Not Trade Bait

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Iman Shumpert Is Critical Piece to NY Knicks Future, Not Trade Bait
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sportsss

The trade rumors surrounding Iman Shumpert are heating up, and that's not good news for fans of the New York Knicks.

Recent reports from CBS Sports have linked the young guard to the Phoenix Suns, with a possible swap for Jared Dudley (and picks) being mentioned in particular.

This is not the first time the Suns have been after Iman Shumpert; they also pursued him heavily in the summer as part of a potential Steve Nash sign-and-trade. 

Though the Suns are the ones who initiated discussions this time around—indicating that New York isn't necessarily shopping Shumpert—another recent article from Sheridan Hoops suggests there could be friction between Shump and the Knicks:

There are major concerns (from people close to Shumpert) over how the Knicks are developing him. They feel he’s being played out of position (at small forward) and his confidence is suffering because of it. They understand the team is having success and it has to be the right deal, but they’d prefer Iman in another situation… And soon.

This news is a lot more worrying for Knicks fans, mainly because Shumpert's people actually have a point. The Georgie Tech product is a critical piece to the Knicks' future and deserves to be treated as such.

At this early point in his career, Shumpert has all the tools to be a future star for the Knicks if developed well.

Before his ACL tear in the playoffs, he was one of the most athletic players in the NBA, and we've already seen flashes of this since his comeback.

Shumpert's defense is his most impressive trait, as here in his sophomore year he's already regarded as one of the league's elite perimeter defenders.

He has the confidence to take on anyone in the league and pressures the ball every single possession. Just look at the way he took on Dwyane Wade in his standout defensive performance last season:

On the offensive side of the floor, Shumpert is more of an unfinished product, but simply by being athletic, he at least has the potential to develop into something dangerous.

Shumpert has already made strides in fixing the main weakness in his game—that being his jump shot—having taken the time to work on his stroke when his rehab process wouldn't let him do anything else.

As a result, Iman has improved from a 34 percent mark from outside last season to 40 percent this season, and he has also improved from 40 percent to 48 percent on his effective field-goal percentage from jump shots.

Once Shumpert fully recovers from the ACL tear, he'll be able to penetrate and finish in close the way he could before the injury, making him a much more complete offensive player.

Something that may not get enough attention is that Shump is also charismatic. He is confident, but not arrogant, which is the perfect mix for a future star.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Shumpert is an important part of the present, and an even more important part of the future.

Already, as a sophomore, Shumpert leads the Knicks' pregame huddle and is a player his teammates clearly enjoy being around. By the looks of it, he also appears willing to learn from the many vets on New York's roster.

As Carmelo Anthony told the New York Post, there really shouldn't be any rumors regarding such an important piece of the future:

He shouldn’t be worrying about that. The Knicks shouldn’t even be in trade talks right now.

But it's not only the trade rumors that need to stop—Mike Woodson really needs to make sure Shumpert is being developed properly.

Right now, Shumpert is starting for the Knicks out of position at small forward, which is not ideal for a player still trying to get back in NBA shape.

Shumpert started off as a point guard for the Knicks last season, but what the Knicks really need to do is develop him as a 2-guard, which is where he played towards the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

It would make a lot of sense to move the tired Jason Kidd to the bench and Shumpert over to the off-guard position. This allows Kidd to rest a bit and Shumpert to log more minutes at his natural position.

On the whole, though, the key thing for the Knicks right now is just not to use Shumpert as trade bait.

Shumpert is talented, athletic and confident, making him a major piece of the Knicks' future. He shouldn't be used as trade bait right now, especially if it's only Jared Dudley (a minor upgrade at this point) we're talking about.

The Knicks are in a position where they only really need to make minor moves to cover their weaknesses, but trading Shumpert would be an unnecessary way to harm chemistry and mortgage the future at the same time.

 

Stats used in this article were accurate as of Feb. 18, 2013. Advanced stats are from 82games.

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