Earlier this week Knicks coach Mike Woodson was asked about his third-year guard Iman Shumpert and responded with a deceptively nuanced critique.

"Iman plays hard. That to me is the thing that's kept him on the floor" Woodson said adding that Shumpert had to also become more consistent on defense where he is sometimes "so over-aggressive that he gets beat."

Woodson has made this intimation—that Shumpert's hustle rather than his improving all-around game was the thing earning him playing time—several times during the preseason. On top of that he has said that the starting shooting-guard role Shumpert won last year is now up for grabs.

The Knicks' handling of their best two-way player raises a question: Why does the organization—one that lacks the kind of young developing talent that some other NBA teams enjoy—often seem lukewarm on Shumpert?

An old-school player in nearly every sense the 23-year-old guard out of Georgia Tech has qualities that would appeal to a traditional defensive-minded coach like Woodson. Despite being the youngest member of last year's team Shumpert bluntly called the Knicks' second-round exit a "failure"—a stance no other player on the most veteran squad in history opted to take with reporters. And everything from Shumpert's 1990s-style flat-top hairdo (which he trimmed down this week) to his hustle and hard-nosed defensive style would have been welcome during the era in which Woodson played.

"Oh [heck] yeah" said former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy when asked whether Shumpert could have played for his rough-and-tumble Knicks teams of the 1990s. "He's not as offensively skilled as John Starks was but he has that same 'I'm never gonna back down' sort of belief. Some call that cocky but find me a great player that doesn't have that trait."

Teammate Metta World Peace agreed. "I think he'll be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate very soon" said World Peace the last wing player to win the honor.