The return of Chauncey Billups on Wednesday night signaled a reason for optimism for the once-sagging Clippers. Even with a surplus of talent at point guard with minute-eater Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles needed to have Billups, its no-questions-asked leader, back in the lineup to show his teammates how to win, not only telling them how from the sideline. Billups checked in, hit a three-pointer, and then faded back into the wallpaper the rest of the game. Just having him as an option, however, should steady a Clippers team that’s been uneven when saddled with the spotlight as a division leader.
With Billups back, here are the top 10 other impact NBA players who are most missed by their teams.
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10. IMAN SHUMPERT
It seems like nit-picking to wonder what New York could be like right now defensively with Shumpert healthy. As it is with him out till January with a knee injury, the Knicks are doing pretty well, thank you very much. They led the NBA in defensive efficiency until Houston scored 131 points against them, though they still force the fourth-most turnovers per game and are in the top 10 in defensive rebounds.
Defense is not a problem for New York, and yet Shumpert would make them even better with his active hands as shown below in his iso defense. Jason Kidd‘s defense this season hasn’t kept up with his otherworldly offensive contributions when he plays, and J.R. Smith — who’s the No. 2 option at shooting guard — holds teams to fewer points but, let’s be honest, is not focused on his defense. No, where the Knicks need Shumpert most is in the role as their No. 1 defensive stopper, with the length to guard down to a small forward if need be but the athleticism to check point guards.
The Knicks have played remarkable team defense but their sum is greater than their parts. Upon his return Shumpert will provide a stopper in the mold of Shane Battier or Tony Allen.