After a slow start following his return from injury, Iman Shumpert has made significant improvements for the New York Knicks over the course of the season and is bringing his best now that he's made it to the playoffs.
Shump had a fantastic rookie season—especially considering the expectations going in—but it was cut short early in the first round when he blew out his ACL. A year later, the guard is making up for the time he missed in his playoff debut.
Through the first eight games of the postseason, Shumpert is averaging 10 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals, all of which are up on his regular-season numbers. On top of that, he's shooting an efficient 47 percent from the field, up from 40 percent.
One of the most impressive things about Shumpert is the way he's shooting from downtown. He worked on his shooting motion a lot while he was out and is now shooting 46 percent from behind the arc. And it's not just a fluke either, as he even shot 40 percent in the regular season.
His biggest moment in the series came in Game 6, where he scored 17 points while also playing his typical elite defense. The Celtics threatened to come back with a 20-0 run in the fourth quarter, but Shumpert put a stop to that with a timely steal and fast-break finish.
That wasn't the only timely play Shumpert has made in the postseason. He's made a couple of game-changing putback dunks, and his defense is always up to scratch when it matters most.
Shumpert was already considered a huge part of the Knicks' future, and he's showing us once again just how much potential he has.
A few weeks after his return, there were rumors that New York considered swapping Shumpert for Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns, but his play thus far has done enough to ensure the rumors won't resurface in the summer.
Shumpert simply has too much talent and youth to be given away without receiving another elite prospect in return.
That doesn't even take into account how important Shumpert is to team chemistry. He leads the pregame huddle, is one of the most active cheerleaders on the bench and helps ball movement as a former point guard playing at small forward.
Much has been made of the Knicks' old age this season, but having Shumpert gives them some much-needed energy and a chance to improve from within with limited resources to add players in free agency.
With Smith likely hitting the open market in the summer, there's a chance he could be lured out of New York with a big contract. If that happens, Shumpert is going to be even more important and tasked with replacing the huge scoring load Smith will leave behind.
Either way, this is a player with a bright future, and with Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd behind him, he has unlimited potential.
Shumpert has the athleticism, talent, drive and understanding of the game to make a name for himself in the NBA, and we're starting to see it come together in these playoffs.