What Iman Shumpert Must Do to Earn Starting Role with NY Knicks in 2013-14

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterAugust 16, 2013

According to coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks will head into training camp with two open spots in the starting lineup. 

Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler are all safe. 

Though the team added some intriguing veteran pieces over the offseason, the guy fans should be most looking forward to seeing is shooting guard Iman Shumpert

After tearing his ACL during the 2012 NBA playoffs, Shumpert returned just eight months later, though he didn't find a rhythm til late in the season. Now, he'll enter his third year as a key member of a rotation looking to emerge from the East. 

But with the addition of Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, along with the return of J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, there's definitely some competition for playing time. 

For Shumpert to win the starting gig, he'll need to excel in two specific areas, as well as get some help from a specific teammate whose role directly affects Shump's. 


Spot-Up Shooting

We'll start with the biggest key for Shumpert—spot-up shooting. For the most part, Shump played really well during last year's playoffs. Credit that to his shooting stroke, which he used to knock down 18 three-pointers at a 42-percent clip. 

Between Felton's drive-and-dishing, Prigioni's extra passing and the double-teams Anthony commands, open three-point looks aren't something the Knicks have problems getting. 

This team has a number of ball-dominant scorers. And the best way to complement them is by surrounding them with players who can shoot. The more threatening Shumpert becomes as a spot-up shooter, the less help-defenders help and the more space his counterparts have to work with. 

With Melo playing the 4, he's in a spot on the floor where he's difficult to stop one-on-one against slower-footed big men. Given the angle and spacing, if Melo draws the help defender he'll have open shooters waiting around the arc.

This is one of the reasons why the Knicks have been so successful with Melo at power forward. He improves the spacing and scoring opportunities for those around him. If guys like Shumpert start missing the open looks Melo creates, that's when Melo goes into hero-mode. And Melo in hero mode could be real bad news. 

Anthony, Felton, Smith and even Udrih are all capable of beating their men and breaking down the defense. Once one of them breaks through, he'll either have the open shot or trigger the collapse, which ultimately leaves shooters open. 

Below, Melo beats his man and draws another, leaving Shumpert and Prigioni standing wide open on either side. 

For the Knicks to maximize their offensive attack, they'll need whoever's playing 2-guard to knock down open catch-and-shoot jumpers.


Transition Buckets, Easy Points

The Knicks shouldn't have to rely on Anthony to generate all the first-quarter offense. They'll need him to save it for the fourth. 

If Shump could get the Knicks some easy buckets—buckets that Melo and Smith don't have to expend loads of energy to get, it could take some of the pressure of the big guns' shoulders.

Shumpert's current strengths as an NBA player are on-ball defending and scoring in space. He's up there with some of the biggest defensive pests in the game. Forcing turnovers and converting them into transition points would probably rub Woody's goatee the right way. 

In the half court, Shumpert should be looking to make plays off the ball without using the dribble. The Knicks have enough ball-dominant guards. Picking up offensive boards, cutting back-door for layups and tipping in misses are all plays he can make without having his number called.

Remember this one? I sure do, as does everyone else in the Garden that night:


If World Peace Starts, So Does Shumpert

Think about it: If Metta World Peace starts at the 3, which seems like a strong possibility, Melo moves to his sweet spot at the 4. That would automatically set their frontcourt and send Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire to the bench.

That would leave Pablo Prigioni as the lone competitor for the position, and as much as I like "The Maestro," Shump seems like a more potent two-way weapon.

With Shumpert and World Peace securing the perimeter and Chandler protecting the rim, there's no reason why the Knicks shouldn't be a suffocating defensive unit.