Shumpert is the most important returning player on an underachieving Georgia Tech squad that made the NCAA tournament with a 7-9 record in the ACC. This could be the year that the former McDonald's All-American finally has his breakout season.
Shumpert looks the part of an NBA guard. He's a physical and athletic specimen, standing 6-4 with an excellent frame and an incredibly long wingspan. He's a smooth, fluid athlete for whom everything comes easily for. He shows very good quickness, a powerful first step and the explosiveness needed to play above the rim.
His offensive game lacks a great deal of polish at the moment. He's not a prolific scorer at 12.5 points per-40 minutes, pace adjusted and he doesn't have the efficiency to compensate. He converts just 38.5% of his field goals, rarely gets to the free throw line and struggles in particular inside the arc, where he converts a paltry 42% of his 2-point attempts.
Shumpert does an excellent job pushing the ball up the floor and getting his team out in transition, but he lacks the skill-level and the decision making ability to be overly effective once he gets into the opposing team's half of the court. He tends to settle for the first shot that becomes available to him, resulting in dozens of possessions that end with a contested pull-up jumper early in the shot clock, before any of his teammates have had the opportunity to touch the ball. He doesn't seem to know what his weaknesses are at the moment. He tends to play with the confidence of a guy who shot 58.5% from the field last season, not 38.5%.
As a shooter, Shumpert actually shows better potential than you would expect considering his conversion rates. He has nice mechanics on his jumper, particularly with his feet set, and was relatively effective last season in the rare occasion that an open shot was created for him on the perimeter.
Unfortunately, Shumpert's shot selection kills any chance of him being an efficient half-court player. Teams regularly sag off him and go underneath screens when he's running the pick-and-roll, and he tends to reward them for that by settling for awkward pull-up jumpers. Shumpert attempted nearly twice as many pull-up jumpers last season than he did with his feet set and only converted 27% of them. He seems to make just enough of them to convince himself to keep shooting, which is a big reason Georgia Tech's offense struggled so badly at times last season.
One of the things that makes Shumpert attractive as an NBA prospect is the fact that, at 6-4, he sees such heavy minutes at the point guard position for Georgia Tech. He shows flashes of excellent court vision, at times threading the needle impressively between defenders with a highlight reel-caliber bullet pass or an alley-oop lob. He can also create for others off the dribble a bit, especially in drive-and-dish situations and occasionally on the pick-and-roll.
Shumpert is clearly not a natural playmaker, though, as his team's half-court offense very often looks disjointed. 27% of his possessions end with a turnover, which ranks him in the top 10 in the NCAA on a per-possession basis in that category. That's down from his freshman season, though, when he ranked in the top five in turnovers per possession.
Shumpert makes too many unforced errors for a team to be able to trust him as their full-time distributor at the moment, trying to be overly flashy at times, suffering from mental lapses, and often being too careless and making bad decisions with ball. While clearly showing significant talent with the ball in his hands, Shumpert is going to need to learn to reel himself in eventually if he's to reach his full potential as a playmaker.
Shumpert's shot-creating ability is also in need of serious refinement, as he's currently not even close to taking advantage of his terrific physical attributes. Mostly a jump-shooter at the moment, Shumpert's ball-handling skills are fairly crude, as he drives left almost exclusively, cannot change directions with the ball, and is nowhere near as good at drawing fouls or finishing around the basket as you would expect considering his tools. He also doesn't show any semblance of a post-up game, which is a shame considering that he often towers over his opposition at the point guard spot.
Defensively is where teams are likely to be most intrigued by Shumpert's potential, as he has the physical tools to defend at least two and possibly three positions in the NBA with his excellent size and gigantic wingspan. A menace in the passing lanes, Shumpert has the footspeed and length to switch on every screen and absolutely smother opponents on the perimeter, and he had some incredibly impressive possessions last season already against some of the top offensive players in college basketball, such as Evan Turner
, Greivis Vasquez
, James Anderson
and many others.
With that said, Shumpert is not the most fundamentally sound player you'll find, and still isn't playing up to his full potential on this end of the floor, often relaxing in his stance and swiping at the ball excessively, relying on his length to bail him out rather than working to deny his man a path to the basket. He seems to play with a bit of an aloof demeanor at times, not always putting a maximum effort in, which might explain the volatility he displayed from game to game in the ACC last season.
All in all, it's tough to ignore the physical tools and tantalizing flashes of talent that Shumpert displays on both ends of the floor. He's the type of player that could go into a private workout against lottery pick types and absolutely shock a team with his performance if they catch him on the right day.
As of right now, though, he has yet to find a way to play efficient, winning basketball on a regular basis in his first two seasons of college basketball. How much of that is a product of the team he plays for (always ultra talented, but often looking woefully disorganized) is a question that will be hotly debated when it's time for Shumpert to enter the draft, especially considering the way former Georgia Tech players have overachieved once reaching the NBA in the past.
If the light bulb ever comes on, and he learns to accept his role, Shumpert could be an exceptionally valuable player. He is still very young, not turning 21 until after the 2011 draft, so it's totally within realm of possibility that that happens at some point. What type of progress he manages to make in his junior season will be crucial for him.