All things considered, Shumpert could be the Knicks' biggest X-factor this year. They're pretty deep and talented as it stands, but a significantly improved Shumpert could push them over the top.
We saw hints of just how big an impact Shump could have in the playoffs. Against the Boston Celtics in Round 1, Shumpert's 17-point outing was enough to seal the deal and send the Knicks to the next round despite a defiant effort from the C's.
Shumpert made arguably the biggest play of the series—and the season—in that game, coming up with a steal and breakaway score to bring an end to Boston's 20-point streak.
Unsurprisingly, coming off ACL surgery, Shumpert was inconsistent on the whole last season, but games like that and his much-improved jump shot should give us hope for what's to come in 2013-14.
Defensively, Shumpert is already the one of the Knicks' key players and, even after the acquisition of Metta World Peace, is arguably still their go-to stopper on the perimeter.
The question now is whether he can continue to build on his offense and become a consistent scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony.
According to ESPN, Knicks legend Larry Johnson is high on Shumpert and wants the guard "to take a bigger role this season," especially on the offensive end.
Taking into account his athleticism and ability to hit the three, Shumpert definitely has the potential to be a strong offensive player, but there's plenty of work left to do for him to get to that point.
Now that his knee is fully recovered, Shumpert should get to the rim a lot more often than he did last year. In his rookie season, that was a key part of his offensive repertoire, so it should simply be a case of regaining confidence in his surgically-repaired knee.
What's going to be more difficult is finding ways to create his own shot and score in mid-range. He has good handles and explosiveness, but so far he hasn't been able to put the two together in one-on-one situations.
In his exit interview, Shumpert said he was going to work on that aspect of his game and, although we didn't see much of him in summer league, knowing his work ethic we should expect him to enter the preseason as an improved offensive player.
When asked by ESPN what he expects offensively this year, Shumpert simply said, "I'm just going to show you." That sounds like a man who's confident and focused on the task at hand.
Shumpert isn't going to be New York's second option this year. There's simply too much for him to work on a year after averaging just 6.8 points per game. It is, however, possible that we could see him average 10-14 points a night, with the occasional big game throughout the year.
That should be enough to help the Knicks stay near the top of the Eastern Conference and will hopefully keep them competitive when J.R. Smith goes cold and Amar'e Stoudemire inevitably misses time during the season. Shump doesn't necessarily need to be a go-to option when everyone's healthy, but he does have to prove he can be a reliable alternative.
While the overall focus this year is on coming together to win a championship, Shumpert's development is a very intriguing subplot. If he can emerge as a key player by the time the Knicks clear the books in 2015, they'll have the chance to build a very strong team with him and hopefully Melo as the foundations.
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