Two years ago the Cavs made a series of trades that netted them the sharpshooter J.R. Smith, a big Russian teddy bear named Timofey Mozgov, and a “three-and-D” wing with massive potential, Iman Shumpert.
The latter part of this trade was the supposed “highlight.” Shumpert was touted to be the next Jimmy Butler-esque defensive player, he had experience as a point guard, and he could make open three-point shots at a very respectable clip.
Shumpert was becoming a positive contributor in front of NBA fans’ eyes. The thought was that he could become a Tony Allen type defender with a respectable offensive game. The Cavs knew they had to retain him, and very quickly signed him to a double-digit salary over multiple years. Everyone rejoiced.
That is, everyone rejoiced until Shumpert broke his hand before the 2015-16 season started. Shumpert started the season late, and while he had a few memorable moments – great defense against Orlando in his first game back, a game-saving steal against Dirk, important defense against new teammate Kyle Korver in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, etc. – he was mediocre overall.
This mediocrity has continued into the 2016-17 season. Overall, Shumpert just has not been effective. The initial plan going into the season was that the former Georgia Tech guard would serve as the backup point guard to Kyrie Irving. That plan has failed.
These numbers are absolutely horrendous. Shumpert has been beyond useless on offense, and frankly, teams are starting to leave him wide-open with no fear of him shooting. And for good reason.
On the above play, Gordon Hayward leaves Shumpert completely alone from the three-point line, Shumpert gets a good look at the basket, and completely bricks the open three.
The Cavs are arguably better at defending isolation plays without Shumpert. They rank in the 86th percentile at defending isolation plays in the NBA. Thus, Shumper’s ISO defense is worse than the Cavs as a team. Below is a video demonstrating examples of Shump’s bad overall defense.
The three clips above show instances where Shumpert overplays driving lanes, and consequently, leaves the man he is defending wide-open. In these cases those men include Gordon Hayward and Evan Turner, and as a result, they torched the Cavs.
In the first clip, Portland attacks both Irving and Shumpert in the pick-and-roll, the latter blitz’s the ball-handler too hard, and Portland scores a wide-open three-point shot. In the second, Shumpert overplays the driving lanes, leaving a wide-open three for the Jazz.
These two clips point to something even scarier than Irving’s laziness and Love’s lack of lateral quickness. Iman Shumpert is perfectly able to defend the pick-and-roll, but he is not thinking, and thus makes the wrong reads. This same problem can be seen in the above video regarding Shumpert overplaying driving lanes. He simply is not a smart defender. Consequently no matter how hard he defends, or how athletic he may be, Shumpert may never have the basketball IQ to become an elite defender.
Shumpert will replace Liggins in the starting lineup against the Kings. Hopefully, for Cavaliers fans, this serves as a boost to the wing’s play. If not – on a team with far better shooters and a few better defenders – he may find himself unnecessary in Cleveland. That would be a shame for both the Cavs and for Shumpert, as only two years ago he was thought to be a large part of the team’s exciting future.