Iman Shumpert seems to have finally found his footing.
After several shaky injury-plagued seasons with the New York Knicks, a blockbuster multi-team trade this winter, and even a few rap videos, Shumpert has found his place with the Cleveland Cavaliers, nursing his reputation as one of the top defenders in the NBA. Now, he’ll try to add to that growing legacy as he squares off against the Golden State Warriors’ backcourt, and MVP Steph Curry, in the NBA Finals.
Game 1 is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know about Shumpert:
1. He Played College Hoops at Georgia Tech & Was Drafted By the NY Knicks in 2011
After a dominant high school career in Illinois, where he was rated No. 15 among the nation’s top seniors by Scout.com, the 6-foot-5 Shumpert took his talents to Georgia Tech in 2008.
He finished fourth on the team in scoring as a freshman and suffered through injuries as a sophomore before hitting his true stride in a junior, during the 2010-11 season. Shumpert averaged 17.3 points per game for the Yellow Jackets that season and become just the seventh player in ACC history to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists. The performance was good enough to warrant NBA interest and on March 28, 2011 Shumpert declared for the draft, forgoing his final year of college eligibility.
Shumpert was drafted with the 17th overall pick by the New York Knicks in the 2011 NBA Draft. The pick did not come without controversy though as the Knicks passed over Chris Singleton and Kenneth Faried; players who were expected to go well before Shumpert.
2. He Was Traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January
Shumpert faced an up and down career in New York, tearing his ACL and meniscus in his left knee as a rookie and then dislocating his left shoulder on December 12, 2014. Eventually the inconsistencies of Shumpert’s game sent him to the trading block and on January 5, 2012 the shooting guard was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The trade was a blockbuster three-team deal that not only sent Shumpert to Cleveland but added his Knicks’ teammate J.R. Smith to the Cavs roster as well and dealt Dion Waters to the Thunder.
Shumpert’s trade didn’t come as a huge surprise. After all, the Knicks had failed to extend his contact in 2014 and he’s currently raking in just over $2.6 million in Cleveland. After this year, Shumpert will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and is expected to reach for $10 to $12 million on the open market, a number the Cavs may or may not be comfortable taking.
3. He Has a Reputation as a Lock-Down Defender
Facing a contract year, Shumpert has done more than enough this season to prove he’s worth the money as one of the league’s premier defenders. Now, he’ll face, quite possibly, the toughest task of his young career when he squares off against the Warriors’ ‘Splash Brothers,’ Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Following his trade to Cleveland earlier this season, Shumpert has almost single-handedly turned around the Cav’s perimeter presence. Even this postseason, Shumpert’s defensive presence has been felt across the Cavs roster. Cleveland has allowed the fewest points of any team in the plyaoffs (92.6) and is second in defensive field-goal percentage (41.2).
Shumpert told the Cleveland.com:
We’ve hung our hat on the defensive end since we’ve been put together. The better and better we have gotten on defense, the better we have gotten on offense. We make things easier for each other and we put less pressure on ourselves on the offensive end. I think that’s what makes our offense flow better.
So far this potseason, Shumpert has been tasked with defending an opponent’s most potent scoring threat, ranging from Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose as well as the Hawks’ Kyle Korver. Now, he’ll take on the most effective backcourt in the NBA this season. How? Same as always. Make them uncomfortable.
Shumpert’s defense strength comes from his undeniable ability to get under opponent’s skin. He’s annoying. A gnat that simply won’t go away. That’s exactly what he’ll need to be in this Finals series particularly against a shooter like Curry who is averaging 29.2 points per game this postseason.
4. He Wrote & Recorded a Cavs Playoff Anthem This April
A man of many talents, Shumpert has even dabbled in rap music throughout his basketball career. In April, to commemorate the Cavs imminent playoff run, Shumpert released “The Offs,” an original piece that he then released on YouTube. The song name-checked every single Cleveland player as well as coach, David Blatt.
This isn’t Shumpert’s first foray into the musical world. After injuring his knee in 2012, the then-Knick released “Knicks Anthem,” commemorating New York’s 14-4 start that season. The song was remixed over Kanye West’s “Clique.” He also relased a mixtape, Th3 #Post90s, in 2013 as well as the song “Dear Kendrick” in response to a Kendrick Lamar verse on a Big Sean song.
5. He Saw ‘San Andreas’ Last Week & Isn’t Thrilled to Be Traveling to California Any Time Soon
Shumpert has never been one to shy away from criticizing popular media. This past winter he called out the Fox show “Empire” for characters that resembled him and girlfriend Teyana Taylor. He later took to Twitter to explain that his anger was taken out of context.
Now, Shumpert is back with another critic of popular entertainment; “San Andreas” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Shumpert saw the movie, which depicts a cataclysmic earthquake along the San Andreas fault, and suddenly wasn’t feeling all too keen about having to travel to California for the upcoming NBA Finals. Los Angeles and San Francisco were both destroyed in the film and, for good measure, there was also a tsunami. None of it sat too well with Shumpert.
The Warriors responded to Shumpert’s worries in kind: