2015 NBA Playoffs: Iman Shumpert’s Defense Is The X-Factor In The Eastern Conference Finals

Forget what everyone else is talking about and heed these words, Iman Shumpert is the X-Factor in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

Yeah we know, you think I am exaggerating or “putting too much on it ” as the phrase goes, but when you break down what is about to happen on the basketball court, you will truly see that Iman Shumpert is the most important chess piece on the board for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This statement is not about what he can do on the offensive end of the floor for the Cavaliers.

He has provided some solid support for LeBron James in that department by averaging 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest in these playoffs.

Shumpert’s biggest contributions are going to be felt on the defensive end of the floor in this series against the Atlanta Hawks.

When you think about what the Hawks like to do offensively, it is about ball movement and motion of players, but the most important player to their attack is the point guard.

Jan 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert warms up before the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder get to probe and penetrate more often than not in order to set the table for Paul Millsap, Al Horford, DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver.

Where Shumpert will be important defensively for Cleveland is how he can be used to disrupt the rhythm and timing of the offense.

Shumpert’s best attribute coming into this series is his defensive versatility. Cleveland could use Shumpert to defend against Teague or Schroeder in order to make things difficult on them as they bring the ball across half court.

This would actually shorten the shot clock on Atlanta and force them to rush their offensive sets a bit. This could also force the Hawks into turnovers because their timing could be thrown off.

Also with the Hawks offense Shumpert could be used to take away one of Atlanta’s most important moving parts–Kyle Korver.

Korver was not really a factor in the semifinals against the Washington Wizards in the scoring department averaging 7.0 points per contest and shooting a meager 32.% shooting from the field hitting only 30% of his treys (12 of 42).

But the Cavs could decide to use Shumpert to make sure that Korver does not find his shooting stroke or at least has a hard time finding it by simply staying up in Korver’s jersey and not letting him shake free of screens.

This could be a defensive assignment that he draws in this series also that would actually be important to the Cavs cause.

The most important defensive assignment that Iman Shumpert could draw is having to slow down Hawks swingman DeMarre Carroll.

If Shumpert actually does draw this assignment, which there is a possibility depending on floor matchups at the time, Carroll will have a height advantage at 6-foot-8 compared to Shumpert’s 6-foot-5.

But Shumpert should be quick enough to stay in front of him and contest shots on the perimeter. But if Carroll does try to take Shumpert down on the block, this might be a mismatch that Shumpert may need a little bit of assistance on defending.

You just get the feeling that Iman Shumpert’s biggest impact is going to be made on the defensive end this time around in the playoffs. He could actually be matched up against a few different players during the series.

But if there was one defensive assignment you feel he would draw in this series and lock down his opposition it would be the Kyle Korver matchup.

There may be times you see Shumpert pressuring the ball as it is being brought up, but keeping Kyle Korver’s hand cool would be his best contribution.

Tuesday night we will see how Shumpert’s role as the potential X-factor plays out, but you better believe his defense will be key to the series.