With two first round draft picks, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a chance to make some nice business which they can’t in the free agency market. The New York Knicks, without draft picks or any cap space available, are probably willing to trade Iman Shumpert for one of those picks, just for the sake of change, and trying to bring something new to a roster that doesn’t look like it can do much in its current state.
The Thunder don’t have cap space to use either, and have no plan on getting past the point of paying the luxury tax. This means that using one of their picks in the first round (21st and 29th) is possibly their best way of adding a player who can contribute right away as they’ll mount another challenge at the NBA title, something that has been eluding them since they’ve taken a serious interest over the last four years.
Why Shumpert? The Knicks have too many players in Shumpert’s position, even if he can play even as a small forward. J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. are both much better offensively, and Shumpert isn’t that good defensively to make him untouchable. His scoring numbers fell to 6.7 per game last season, shooting only 37.8% from the field, a career low for a player who hasn’t seem to advance one bit since entering the league.
So while Phil Jackson values Shumpert’s defense and his size for one of the guard positions, he doesn’t think he’s a very good passer or someone with the necessary basketball IQ to do well in the triangle offense. His shooting is OK – 33.3% from beyond the arc last season, but nothing too special. In short, if there are teams that want him, as he is entering the final year of his contract, it’s time to try and get something out of him.
The Thunder are probably going to lose Thabo Sefolosha, maybe even to the Knicks. Derek Fisher might become a head coach or somehow involved with the staff there, and will try to carry over the defensive specialist who seemed to fall out of favor with Scott Brooks during the postseason. Shumpert is similar to Sefolosha in size and in playing style, only younger and with possible more room to grow. Is he worth a first round pick though?
The Thunder can’t keep counting on youth to improve. Something about this team has to change, fundamentally and in certain personnel spots. While there are plenty of question marks around Shumpert not just as a player but as a person, there’s an upside to this deal and a chance to get a lot more out of him than they would from a late first round pick. For a team that’s hungry to win the title now and not in a few years, it might seem like a good deal to make.