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NBA AM: Iman Shumpert Odd Man Out In New York?

Iman Shumpert heard his name in trade rumors all last season. Is he part of New York’s long term plan?

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Updated 12 months ago on
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Is Iman Shumpert part of New York Knicks’ long term plan?

Iman Shumpert’s name floated in trade rumors for the majority of the 2014 campaign leading some to doubt whether the talented guard was part of the New York Knicks’ long term strategy. But that was under the old regime. Newly crowned president of basketball operations Phil Jackson hasn’t furthered those rumors since taking the helm and for now Shumpert appears safe heading into training camp.

But is Shumpert truly safe?

Shumpert, the No. 17 overall of the 2011 draft, is entering the final season on his rookie scale contract. The Knicks have until October 31 to sign Shumpert to an extension or opt to wait and let the market set his value in restricted free agency next summer (assuming a qualifying offer is made, which is certain in this scenario). New York could also to reopen trade discussions involving Shumpert who has developed into one of the league’s better young perimeter defenders.

According to a recent report by Ian Begley of ESPN, the Knicks appear to be taking a wait and see approach in regards to Shumpert’s long-term future with the organization. League sources are cited implying the Knicks have yet to begin contract extension discussions with Shumpert or his team with just over 30 days remaining until the deadline.

The Knicks seemingly desire to keep their financial flexibility intact. The team has a $92 million payroll this season but are currently projected to have just $50 million on the books for the 2016 campaign. The Knicks are also in a strong leverage position at Shumpert’s position with second year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. showing promise as a rookie and rookie draft pick Cleanthony Early pegged by some to be a surprise breakout candidate.

Both Early and Hardaway Jr., figure to come at a much lower price tag than Shumpert, with less of a desire to be in a featured role as well.

What’s working for Shumpert, remaining in New York, is Jackson’s long preference of having big guards in the backcourt who are capable of defending at a high level (think Ron Harper with Chicago and Los Angeles).

However, with an organization set on changing culture and preserving cap space, Shumpert might find himself as the odd man out in New York before the trade deadline or next summer in free agency.

Kevin Durant talks his looming free agency … in 2016

Since the current NBA collective bargaining agreement doesn’t make it beneficial for elite players to sign early contract decisions, their respective roads to free agency routinely turn into a mainstream circus. It happened with Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and LeBron James. Now the attention shifts toward reigning league MVP Kevin Durant who is set to make his entrance into the land of free agency during the summer of 2016.

The Oklahoma City Thunder star has answered the questions with poise, often complimenting his current franchise but stopping short of giving a guarantee that he’ll stay put. Like many, Durant is undoubtedly keeping his options open and will seemingly explore the market to evaluate if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

“We’ll keep dancing around (the topic), and by the time it comes it’s going to be even more awkward than it was, so it’s not a surprise (that people ask him about it) because everybody wants to know,” Durant told Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. “But I’m taking it day by day with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s my main concern. And whatever the future holds, I don’t know, because I can’t tell you the future. I’m going to take it a day at a time. I enjoy being here. I enjoy my teammates. I like the direction we’re going in, and that’s not just a cliché (expletive) answer. That’s real.

“I’ve been here for seven years now…growing up in this city. When you spend so much time in one place, you feel a part of it, especially with some great years you feel a part of it. It’s a huge part of my life, and I can’t just come here and punch the clock, saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait until July comes so I can leave (during the offseasons).’ I never felt that way.”

The Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012, losing to the Miami HEAT in five games but have been derailed the past two seasons in the playoffs due to injuries to key cogs in the rotation (2013 Russell Westbrook, 2014 Serge Ibaka).

Thunder general manager Sam Presti understands the stakes that 2016 brings with a once in a generation type talent, like Durant, being free to decide his next career stop.

“We know it’s there, and we are looking forward to it — the opportunity to re-sign a legacy player — especially when you consider where our team could be at that point, with two more years of experience and cohesion and taking that into account,” Presti said. “We have to honor the season in front of us, because we have a tremendous opportunity to win right now and continue to build the tradition of the Thunder. We are fortunate to be in this position, and we want to capture and respect this moment. We have to put that anticipation in its place for now and not allow ourselves to get distracted from the present, regardless of what the future could look like for Kevin and the organization he has built with us, brick by brick.”

There will be no shortage of suitors for Durant in 2016. Rumors have already begun surfacing about the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards’ interest in the All-Star forward. But for now those teams play a waiting game, while the Thunder have two more cracks at winning a title – which would undoubtedly go a long way in keeping Durant in the fold.

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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