The Knicks are a better team without Amar’e Stoudemire. His 2-4 week absence from the team while he rehabs a bulging disc in his back is a blessing that will allow the Knicks to showcase the kind of basketball they should have been playing all season.
Defense wins championships. It’s an old cliché that is true across all sports, and it is the main reason the Knicks will thrive in Stoudemire’s absence.
Throughout his career Stoudemire has been an offensive force, but his defense has always been weak, and now that he is almost 30 it is downright embarrassing. It appears at times as if he is stuck in quicksand as younger quicker forwards move passed him for easy buckets.
Granted, Amar’e has clearly been playing injured, but in the NBA if you’re on the floor then you’re expected to play at a certain level regardless of pain. In his absence the defensive force that is Jared Jeffries will play more. Jeffries is a notoriously awful offensive player, who struggles from under the basket, but the Knicks do not need more offensive weapons, they need five guys on the floor who focus on the defensive end.
Whether or not Stoudemire is injured, the Knicks best starting five is: Lin, Shumpert, Anthony, Jeffries and Chandler.
This lineup gives the Knicks their best chance to win because they can play both sides of the ball effectively in ways they can’t with Stoudemire.
Shumpert, Chandler and Jeffries are great defensive players, and Anthony can lock down his man if he is motivated to do so. He isn’t motivated when he sees his superstar counterpart acting as a turnstile providing easy access to the hoop.
Shumpert has proven to be an in-your-face defensive force, and Chandler is the presence in the middle the Knicks haven’t had since Patrick Ewing. Jared Jeffries takes charges like no other player is willing to do. He leads the team with 10 charges taken, for perspective the next closest is Chandler with three. More importantly he never allows easy shots the way Stoudemire does down low.
On the offensive side of the ball the scoring will obviously primarily come from Anthony, with Lin and Chandler running the pick-and-roll, Shumpert adding solid points and dishes while attacking the rim and Jeffries attempting to stay out of the way.
Stoudemire missed time earlier this season and in his absence Jeremy Lin emerged as the point guard. Looking back at the “Linsanity” run, it is clear that Lin ran the pick-and-roll better with Chandler, than he ever had with Stoudemire.
In their recent blowout of the Orlando Magic, Chandler caught an alley-oop pass over Dwight Howard and slammed it home. I wouldn’t expect Stoudemire to make the same play given the chance. Chandler plays physical and at this point can play higher above the rim than Stoudemire.
Stoudemire is in the midst of a season that has seen his statistics hit a low in which he hasn’t experienced since his rookie and sophomore seasons.
He is shooting 47 percent from the floor, his worst mark since his second season in the league, and his 17.6 points per game are his worst since his rookie year.
A declining Stoudemire who doesn’t play defense is not what the Knicks need to make noise in the playoffs. They need defense.
They also need Carmelo Anthony to be the superstar the Knicks gave so much up to acquire last season. With Stoudemire out, Anthony can now shine as the lone superstar on the floor, with an extremely strong supporting cast who know how to play together.
There will be no more problems with the spacing on the floor as Stoudemire and Anthony work around each other, and there will be no more running post plays for Stoudemire. Rather, those plays will go to Anthony who is a far superior post player to Stoudemire at this point in his career.
Carmelo Anthony will play his best basketball as a Knick over the upcoming weeks, and New York will get a taste of what championship caliber basketball looks like, something they haven’t seen in a long time.
Follow Adam Ramirez @NYNJSportsGuy