CLEVELAND — A year ago at this time, Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Iman Shumpert had yet to make his season debut following September wrist surgery. What followed were 54 of the worst games of his career as he struggled to recover from the injury, excess body weight and a broken jumper.
Now, Shumpert's promising career is once again on the rise.
During this 2016-17 campaign, the 26-year-old has become the Cavs' best overall reserve, reaching personal highs in field-goal percentage (48.4), three-point shooting (45.3 percent) and offensive rating (113 points per 100 possessions).
The secret to Shumpert's revitalization? A healthy wrist, a new shooting form and plenty of summer work.
Despite playing solid rotation minutes for a championship team, Shumpert entered the offseason discouraged with his individual play.
He had registered career lows in points per game (5.8), field-goal percentage (37.4) and three-point percentage (29.5). Of 152 qualified players, Shumpert would have slotted 148th, per ESPN.com.
Head coach Tyronn Lue even praised J.R. Smith as the team's best perimeter defender, a title that likely belonged to Shumpert just a season before.
For a 34.2 percent three-point shooter, this wasn't acceptable.
"He went into the summer saying he was disappointed in his season last year even though I felt he was great for our team," LeBron James told Bleacher Report.
"He wanted to come in being a better basketball player just for himself. Defensively, he's a big part of the defensive strategy that we put on the floor every night. His ability to shoot the ball right now and also attack to the rim, his athleticism helps us out a lot. It's great to see where he's at at this point in the season."
He's also been far more effective around the rim this season, increasing his success rate from within five feet of the basket from 54.5 percent in 2015-16 to 70.0 percent, per B/R Insights.
Shumpert has a bounce in his step—a combination of a trimmed-down frame and the confidence in a brand-new jump shot that's paying immediate dividends.
A New Shot
Subbing Shumpert into a game means 20-30 minutes of high intensity on both ends of the floor.
So much so that a film study with trainer Adam Taylor led Shumpert to tone it down a bit on the offensive end.
"I stopped jumping so high. Being so high strung on energy I realized I never can match shooting the same shot twice because I'm always jumping at a different height," Shumpert revealed to Bleacher Report.
"Other than that, there was a lot of mobility stuff I had to do to get my wrist back right. I had to keep the ball going straight. Last year's shots I was missing right or left, and that shouldn't happen. They should either be short or long. A lot of that comes from the healing process of my wrist."
Just days before the start of the 2015 training camp, a ruptured extensor carpi ulnaris sheath in Shumpert's right wrist needed surgery. Since he is a right-handed shooter, Shumpert couldn't completely recover before returning to action Dec. 11.
Now, with all his shooting mechanics healthy and aligned, the results are surprising even Shumpert himself.
"Last year was frustrating, and it really didn't hit me, but, you know, I did mess up my shooting wrist. I didn't expect to shoot this high of a clip right away, but you know, I'm just glad I got it worked out this summer."
He conducts a big part of his outside shooting in the corners, an area that was, according to Shumpert, "definitely a point of emphasis" this summer.
Coming into this season, Shumpert was a career 35 percent shooter from the corners. This season, he's up to 55.6 percent.
Clearly, the summer work is paying off.
Embracing His Role
Getting his wrist back to normal was crucial. Shumpert also trimmed off 12 pounds this summer and appears to be as athletic and bouncy as ever.
With the physical improvements out of the way, it was time to accept his reserve role and understand that sometimes doing less individually would be better for the team.
"I've talked to him. He has more tools in the box, but with the way this team is constructed and the way we run our offense, we don't need to try and create all the time," Lue said.
"We know he can do more with the basketball, but with Kyrie [Irving], Kevin [Love] and LeBron, we really don't need that at all times with Shump. He worked on his shot all summer because he knows he's going to get those spot-up threes with Kevin, Kyrie and LeBron, and he's taking a liking to it. He has direct line drives like tonight driving the basketball, going under the rim and dunking it. He's got opportunities to do it, but it's just not as frequent as he wanted to in the past."
Of course, winning a title helps everyone buy into a role a little more.
"He understands his role. He's shooting the basketball well, and he knows when he has the ball we want him to attack early. Just understanding his role I think has helped him out a lot," Lue said
One of Shumpert's biggest supporters has been fellow backcourt member and locker neighbor Kyrie Irving.
"It's great," Irving said of Shumpert's improved overall game. "It starts with the work in the summertime and carries over into the season. He put a lot of work in just really trusting his shot and knowing the spots where he's going to be getting his shots. His understanding of the game is at an all-time high."
This isn't just the old pre-injury Shumpert, but rather a new and improved version the Cavaliers hope to enjoy for years to come.
Cavs' Insider Notebook
Climbin' On Up
James moved into ninth on the NBA's all-time scoring list during the fourth quarter of a 114-84 win over the Miami Heat on Friday, passing Elvin Hayes with 27,315 career points.
"I've read up on him," James said of Hayes. "I know the history of the game. Obviously, I haven't got the opportunity to see him much. Any time I get mentioned with the greats, and he's one of them, it's very surreal."
In November, James cracked the top 10 by passing another Houston Rockets legend, Hakeem Olajuwon. This is an impressive feat for anyone, much less a 31-year-old with a possible eight or nine seasons left to play.
Barring an unforeseen outcome, James will pass Moses Malone (27,409) during the next few games, with his short-term sights set on former teammate Shaquille O'Neal (28,596) for seventh overall.
Kyrie and Kevin Are Cooking
With a 23-point night against the Heat, Irving has scored at least 20 in a career-high 12 consecutive games, which is tied for the NBA's longest active streak. For the season, he's averaging 24.5 points, a career best and good for 11th overall in the league.
Of those five, Love leads the pack in both three-point shooting (41.9 percent) and free-throw shooting (86.0 percent).
James said that both Irving and Love were playing the best basketball of their respective careers.
"That kind of goes without saying," Irving said. "Coming off the type of year we had last year, you want to hold on to it. It does a load for our confidence. The trust factor is there. There are really no more questions when it comes to what level we have to play at in order to be great every single night. We don't have the miscues and the unknowns. All the questions are answered."
Calling Their Shots
As James dressed at his locker, he stared intently at the screen as if studying the game instead of merely watching it.
"He pullin' in," James muttered to no one in particular just moments before Westbrook attempted a long three-pointer.
Just a few possessions later, Harden dribbled the ball on the left arc, sizing up his defender. "Step back!" James yelled seconds before the Rockets guard executed such a move.
James is well-known for his basketball IQ, and small samples like this prove why.
Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @CavsGregBR.