Iman Shumpert is in a tough spot, dumped to a rebuilding team as salary filler, recovering from major knee surgery, and fighting for minutes as an experienced player on a team full of young guards and wings. If George Hill hadn’t morphed into the second coming of Ramon Sessions, Shumpert would still be wearing the wine and gold. He was never a part of the plan.
Shumpert enters the season with his hope of playing time balanced precariously on two shaky principles: his reputation as a quality defender and Dave Joerger’s preference for sprinkling veterans alongside the Kings’ developing core. His best chance of establishing himself in the rotation is leveraging that moniker of a reliable stopper to prop up Joerger’s reasoning for any significant time he spends on the court.
Shumpert’s primary hurdles, aside from the focus on the young nucleus, are also twofold. His ability to actually lace up and walk out onto the hardwood has been a constant challenge throughout his career, as Iman has missed 40% of his career games, a total of 249. And even if he is healthy enough to go to battle on a nightly basis, Shumpert’s offensive limitations are severe, as he has shot just 39% from the floor and 33% from distance in his seven years in the NBA. His best season was his last full year, in which he made 41% of his field goals, still in just the 26th percentile, and 36% of his three-pointers, good for the 55th percentile. His passing (7.8 AST%) and rebounding (6.2% TRB) are also nothing to write home about. No coach puts him into the game for his scoring ability.
If Iman is going to revive his career in Sacramento, his defensive contributions will need to be potent enough to overcome his lack of offensive punch, the young guards who likely will be given priority over him, and the injury concerns constantly swirling about his rebuilt legs. Prognasticating his future as a defensive agitator is almost impossible using his numbers from last year, as he appeared in just 14 games, but studying the data from the 2016-2017 season renders a much clearer look at his reputation as a perimeter stopper, a role the Kings desperately need to fill.
Four plays made up the majority of Shumpert’s defensive profile two years ago: pick-and-roll, spot-up shooter, isolation, and dribble handoff. Iman is relatively impressive when contrasted against his present teammates, as he was the third-best pick-and-roll defender among all Kings players, the fourth-best against spot-up shooters, and the fifth-best in isolation and dribble handoffs. But, placing in the top three or four or five in comparison to the current roster doesn’t necessarily indicate a strong defense contributor; rather, it signifies an experienced player who out-defended rookies, sophomores, and over-the-hill veterans. Measuring Shumpert’s impact not just in relation to his fellow teammates, but also to the league as a whole, reveals a defender who may be more reputation than reality at this point in his career.
Pick and Roll Ball-Handler
While Shumpert was ahead of the majority of his teammates, the same cannot be said for the rest of the league. He was at or below average in three of the four most commonly defended plays, and isolation, the one play type in which he was significantly better than others, made up for just 10% of his defended possessions. He just wasn’t effective the vast majority of the time.
Sacramento needs help on the defensive end of the floor, there’s a reason why they were the 29th ranked team in that category last season, but adding an injury-riddled, average defender to that mix won’t make enough of a difference to sacrifice the playing time of the developing guards and wings on the squad. De’Aaron Fox, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Justin Jackson should all be prioritized over the expiring veteran. He simply isn’t a part of the plan.