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Why Are New York Knicks so Desperate to Trade Iman Shumpert?

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Why Are New York Knicks so Desperate to Trade Iman Shumpert?
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

The New York Knicks have a rising star in Iman Shumpert, an athletically gifted 23-year-old with great two-way potential.

That's not my analysis, by the way. That's the story New York has aggressively been attempting to sell to possible trade partners, and one the Knicks clearly don't subscribe to themselves.

If this team valued Shumpert's talent, he wouldn't be spending his career on the trade-rumor mill.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the Knicks are shopping Shumpert with an eye on Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. Knicks fans may remember Faried from his featured role in Shump for the Manimal: The Trade That Wasn't, a poorly planned-out picture that was not well received in Denver the first time it aired this season.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Hoop heads outside the Empire State will remember Shumpert for his role in every single failed trade proposal to date.

He was reportedly involved in New York's fruitless pursuit of Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Los Angeles Lakers inquired about Shumpert in mid-December, via ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. Broussard had previously reported the Knicks had discussed a Shumpert-Dion Waiters swap with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Shump's name even surfaced in a rumor for Rajon Rondo, a notion that drew a single reaction from the Boston Celtics brass—unbridled laughter, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The names being discussed in this deals don't matter.

Regardless of New York's trade targets, this is not the way an NBA team should conduct business.

Shumpert isn't a sell-high candidate by any stretch. He had a moderately successful rookie campaign in 2011-12 and has been fighting just to get back to those levels of production since.

The Solidly Unspectacular World of Iman Shumpert
Season PPG FG% 3PT% APG RPG PER
2011-12 9.5 40.1 30.6 2.8 3.2 10.8
2012-13 6.8 39.6 40.2 1.7 3.0 11.7
2013-14 7.0 38.1 35.4 1.8 4.6 9.8

Basketball-Reference.com

His usage percentage has declined in each of his three seasons (bottoming out at 14.0), leaving him over-reliant on finding his offense with a three-point shot he doesn't possess (career 35.1 percent).

His stat sheet shows the feast-or-famine lines one would expect from a shooting guard with an inconsistent shooting stroke. He's had five games with at least 16 points and six scoreless outings.

He's been effective as a defender, but he still falls short of what you'd call a stopper.

The Knicks have an above-average defense when he's on the floor (102.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, would be ranked 13th) and the league's worst outfit when he sits (109.3). He's holding opposing players to just 35.3 percent shooting out of isolations, via Synergy Sports (subscription required).

Not everything is golden at that end, though. When he's suited up at the shooting guard spot, he's been shredded to the tune of an 18.3 player-efficiency rating (league average is 15.0) against, via 82games.com. When he's moved over to the 3, that number climbs to 18.5.

With good length (6'5" with a 6'9.5" wingspan) and athleticism, Shumpert has the physical tools to become a lockdown defender. Some have questioned, though, whether he's up for the mental grind of handling that assignment.

"I think he could be an elite defender," one scout told ESPN New York's Ian Begley. "He's got the range, he's got the wingspan and the quickness. He's got to want to do it, though. He's got to commit to it, and I think at times he wavers on it."

Eric Gay/Associated Press

In other words, Shumpert is far from a perfect player.

He's the kind of trade chip that needs some polishing before it hits the open market. The kind of asset whose value can fluctuate dramatically off perception alone.

Right now, there are legitimate questions about just how good he can eventually be. The Knicks are making it impossible for a potential trade partner to get carried away with that answer by the eagerness they've shown to get him off the roster.

Shumpert still has some intrigue around him. He's young, he's gifted and he still has another season left on his rookie contract. For cash-strapped teams searching for cheap help, Shumpert should be at or near the forefront of those discussions.

He's not. Because the Knicks won't let him be.

New York has taken what could be a rough gemstone and made everyone see it as a worthless rock. No one's going to break the bank for the chance to go Dumpster diving behind Madison Square Garden.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Not only has this trade chatter tremendously lowered Shumpert's value, it's clearly affected the player himself.

"He’s always been a very confident guy,’’ Knicks Hall of Famer and MSG Network analyst Walt Frazier said earlier this season, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Sometimes he doesn’t look like he’s happy out here. Maybe that’s because he heard the rumors he’s being traded. But he’s very stern in his face. It doesn’t look like he’s having fun.’’

Amid mounting frustration, it's almost as if the prospect has now become a problem child.

Shumpert did himself no favors by sticking around for only one game at the Las Vegas Summer League. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, in an off-the-record comment that was captured on video, said Knicks owner James Dolan was ready to trade Shumpert for his abbreviated Sin City stay.

Shumpert's since had a shouting match with Tyson Chandler and another with Carmelo Anthony. Knicks coach Mike Woodson actually had to tell reporters he doesn't like Shumpert earlier this season, via Berman.

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

No one does dysfunction better than the Knicks.

Not only have they managed sabotage Shumpert's stock, they've backed themselves into a corner where they need to trade him. For pennies on the dollar. Because they've forced him into the clearance section.

Why are the Knicks so desperate to deal him? Because, at this point, they have no other options.

Shumpert's clearly not a key piece of the present nor the future in their minds. The trade winds have made it inside his head and plagued his production ever since. He's moderately attractive now and will only look worse the closer his rookie deal gets to its expiration date.

Shumpert could have been the coveted, blue-chip prospect the Knicks are now trying to sell him as if they'd only stayed out of his way. New York opted instead for a heavy-handed approach and will now be forced to pay for that mistake.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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