Prior to the start of the season we will, one position at a time break down the roster of the New York Knicks. The Knicks have a strong crop of shooting guards including one hoping to return to his best after an injury plagued season, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and a rookie looking to make a strong impression. They have improved their depth in the back court and as they look to improve their performance in the playoffs, these shooting guards will play a key role supporting All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks’ team. Here are the 2013-14 shooting guards for the Knicks and what we can expect from them this season.
The Knicks’ likely starter once again at shooting guard for 2013-14 is third-year swingman Iman Shumpert, whose 2012-13 campaign was hampered by injury. The 23-year-old Shumpert missed a significant part of the season recovering from an ACL injury which limited him to just 45 games. He started all 45, but his numbers across the board were all down from his rookie campaign. He averaged 6.8 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes per game as he worked his way back into rhythm after his return.
Shumpert improved as the season went on and as the playoffs rolled around he became one of the most important players on the roster. He upped his numbers to 9.3 points and six rebounds in the playoffs, showing promise for next season and beyond. Shumpert provides tremendous defense on the perimeter and is a solid outside shooter, raising his 3-point percentage to better than 40 percent last season. His defensive intensity and floor spacing fits well with the Knicks’ starting lineup and as he matures, his role is likely to increase.
Players traditionally can take a season to get back to their best after major surgery so after returning to the court and showing promising signs in ’12-13, Shumpert should be back to his best this season. Splitting minutes with J.R. Smith and occasionally playing the small forward position should allow Shumpert to play a career high in minutes and should easily be able to average 11 to 12 points per game to go along with four to five rebounds.
The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner, J.R. Smith is back for the Knicks and will have a chance to defend his award in ’13-14 as he is poised to be one of the most impactful and productive players in the NBA off the bench. Smith, who had by far the best season of his career in 2012-13, signed an extension with the Knicks in the offseason and the focus now turns to improving the team’s’ performance in the playoffs. Last season in 80 games, Smith averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game off the bench to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
He was the Knicks’ primary source of offense behind All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the team heavily relied on his ability to create his own shot. Smith has always had a rare combination of athleticism and skills, now just days shy of his 28th birthday, he finally appears to be maturing and becoming a more consistent player in New York. The question now becomes how Smith will back up his performance last season now that he has signed an extension and has more pressure on him to help the Knicks get to the NBA Finals. Smith will need to continue to mature and round out his game to fulfill the rest of his immense potential and should be trying to improve on the defensive end.
Smith will be suspended for the first five games of the season due to a violating NBA drug policies but he should hit the ground running and should be able to replicate his 2012-13 season. Expect a slight drop in points due to a healthy Iman Shumpert returning, but a 17-point, four-rebound average will give the Knicks that constant threat of the bench they relied on last season.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Michigan rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. joins the Knicks after being selected 24th in the 2013 NBA Draft and is no stranger to the bright lights of the NBA. Hardaway’s father, Tim Sr., was a multi-time NBA All-Star and the younger Hardaway got great experience in the NCAA tournament, playing through to the championship game in 2013. Hardaway played three seasons at Michigan and was a member of the under 19 Team USA squad, giving him more experience than your average rookie, and he appears mentally ready to take on the challenge of the NBA.
Hardaway has good size for the shooting guard position, can handle the ball, shoot and play the pick-and-roll; however, his defense will need to improve to hang with the athletes in the pros. Hardaway may not get much of an opportunity when the team is healthy however with Smith’s early suspension and the potential for injuries, Hardaway will be ready and waiting to take his opportunity whenever the chance presents itself. We will see in pre-season if he is ready for minutes in the NBA, Hardaway will spend the majority of the season on the bench or potentially in the D-League thanks to the Knicks’ depth, but look for him to show flashes of being a contributor whenever he is given the opportunity.