Trade winds are swirling around Iman Shumpert as a desperate New York Knicks team looks to upgrade its aging and injury-plagued roster. The third-year guard is an obvious trade piece as the most valuable young asset on the team, which is precisely why New York should not deal him.
The Knicks shooting guard showed immediate promise in his rookie season after the Knicks plucked him with the 17th pick in the 2011 draft, demonstrating the potential to be an excellent on-ball defender with above-average athleticism. Shump quickly became a favorite of a New York fanbase starving for young talent and defensive effort.
While Shumpert's game has improved since he joined the league, most notably his long-range shooting, his development has not been as rapid as some in the organization expected. His points per 36 minutes this season (8.7) is down from his first two years (11.9 and 11.0, respectively), his shooting percentage is still hovering around 40 percent and he gambles too often defensively.
There are several reasons for Shumpert's slow progress. The lockout in 2011 and a torn ACL at the end of his rookie year prevented him from participating in training camp in either of his first two seasons and limited him to just 104 games in those years combined. Plus, he was not able to work on his game during the past two offseasons due to the torn ACL and another surgery on the same knee this past August.
However, those reasons are irrelevant to owner James Dolan, who entered the season under the delusion that the Knicks were championship contenders. Dolan needs a fall guy for the team's slow start, and the petty owner has had it in for Shumpert since the shooting guard was reluctant to participate in summer league this past summer, according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
Dolan and company man Steve Mills, who replaced Glen Grunwald as general manager prior to the start of the season, view trading Shumpert for a big man as a quick fix for the Knicks' depleted frontcourt. Yet it is difficult to imagine a team ranked 27th in defensive efficiency, via ESPN.com, benefiting from trading its best perimeter defender. Moving Shumpert would be akin to plugging holes on a sinking ship.
Even if the Knicks' horrendous start has snapped Dolan back to reality, he does not have the patience to build a contender. Dolan is like a spoiled child, always pining over the next shiny toy.
His latest plan is to re-sign Carmelo Anthony when the forward opts out of his contract this summer, then use the salary-cap space available in the summer of 2015 to add as much high-priced talent as possible around Melo, preferably a big-name player or two like Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love.
However, if the Knicks sign Anthony to a maximum-salary contract worth $129 million over five years, his annual salary will take up nearly half of the cap space. And even if Dolan and company are able to lure Rondo or Love to Manhattan, New York will not have enough money or flexibility remaining to surround them with the talent necessary to win a title.
The Knicks need to begin acquiring young players and draft picks rather than begin trading them away. They should explore trading Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler (whose body is beginning to break down) for those types of assets and develop the young talent they have, which consists of Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. (Shump is the more valuable of the two as a proven starter on a playoff team.)
It would be worth considering dealing Shumpert as part of a package for a star player and another promising young talent, such as Kenneth Faried, which the Knicks reportedly discussed with the Denver Nuggets, or a first-round draft pick. However, those scenarios are currently highly unlikely.
Shumpert's value is at an all-time low. Teams are reluctant to surrender valuable commodities for a struggling player who is coming off of two surgeries on the same knee, one of which was to repair a torn ACL.
Additionally, New York, which cannot trade a first-round pick prior to 2018 (the collective bargaining agreement prohibits teams from trading their first-round picks in consecutive years, and the Knicks already parted with their 2014 and 2016 picks), does not have the assets to pair with Shumpert to acquire an All-Star caliber player.
Shumpert’s ceiling has yet to be determined. In addition to injury woes, the third-year guard's development has been stymied by playing in an offense with two ball-dominant players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. He has not been given the freedom to develop his offensive game by serving as a primary playmaker or operating in pick-and-rolls.
It is too early for the Knicks to give up on Shumpert, and they are unlikely to receive equal value in return if they trade him. Their best bet is to allow him to fulfill his potential in New York.