New York Knicks: Would Amar'e Stoudemire Be Better Utilized off the Bench?

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIApril 23, 2012

The recent return of New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire brings with it a burning question about whether or not both he and fellow forward Carmelo Anthony can co-exist on the same team.

One drastic, yet potentially effective solution to this question would be to move Stoudemire to the bench, in an effort to increase the cohesiveness of both the starting five and the bench unit.

Though this idea comes with its own question marks, it's easy to see that there could be some direct benefits from making this move.

First of all, it would allow Anthony to continue playing power forward alongside Tyson Chandler, a position in which he has flourished during the month of April. 

Doing this improves the offense—helping with spacing—and it also improves the defense, because recently, Anthony has proven himself more capable of guarding the 4 rather than his native 3. 'Melo is more than strong enough and tall enough to hold his own against the NBA's power forwards, and though he's no slow coach, his level of speed is also more suited to doing so.

The move would also improve the Knicks bench.

If April has shown us anything, it is that the Knicks' starting five without Stoudemire is strong enough to win games. The bench, though, needs a lot of interior help, especially offensively.

The bigs on the Knicks bench—excluding three-point specialist, Steve Novak—now consist of Josh Harrellson, Dan Gadzuric and potentially Jared Jeffries. While all three are solid defensively, another thing they have in common is that they simply cannot be relied on to score.

Adding Stoudemire to the bench unit would improve their overall offensive productivity tremendously.

The move would help backup point guards Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas, who will both be relied on extensively in the playoffs, especially with Baron Davis' injury worries. With STAT alongside them, they will have themselves a realistic option in the pick-and-roll and a reliable scorer to pass to other than Steve Novak and the streaky J.R. Smith.

And that's not even mentioning the fact that Stoudemire would be free to torture weaker opponents from the other team's bench.

Another factor is that both he and 'Melo appear to want to be "the man." Having Stoudemire on the bench allows him to be that among the bench players, and 'Melo to do the same with the starters.

Of course, moving Stoudemire to the bench doesn't necessarily need to mean reducing his minutes. Both Stoudemire and Anthony will be present in the fourth quarter, and likely at other various points in the game, as it's virtually impossible for them not to be.

The main concern that may come from this decision isn't really tactical, but more based on emotion and personality.

Tim Legler of ESPN's NBA Today podcast made a fantastic point about this, and essentially what he said was that the main problem lies with the fact that NBA players take being moved to the bench as a "demotion."

It doesn't have to be that way.

Plenty of starting-quality players in the NBA have taken bench roles to improve the flow of their team's play, and it has been extremely successful in plenty of cases.

You've got James Harden behind Thabo Sefolosha in Oklahoma City, Manu Ginobili who has been the sixth man for most of his time in San Antonio and even last year's championship-winning Dallas Mavericks had Jason Terry behind DeShawn Stevenson.

These three players have a combined four championship rings from accepting this role, with Harden poised to get his own in the near future.

Being on the bench does not mean you are a lesser player.

As the first superstar to arrive in New York, it's understandable for Stoudemire to be upset that he'd now be playing behind the man he recruited to join him, but it's not like Knicks fans would completely forget that Amar'e turned the franchise around last season.

Stoudemire would still be the team captain in the eyes of his fellow players and adoring fans, so there's really nothing to worry about.

Despite all this, though, the best-case scenario would be for Mike Woodson to simply find a way to make it work with both players starting, and based on early results, he'll be the man—if anyone—to do it.

Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks are 7-2 with their two superstars starting, which is a win rate markedly better than that achieved with Mike D'Antoni at the helm.

In their latest game, the two both scored over 20 points and looked as comfortable as ever offensively in their victory over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks.

The fact is, the two of them will be starting for the rest of the season and during the playoffs, making this debate relatively futile. Woodson has even said this himself.

This will give us the chance to see if the two can combine their talents on the biggest stage of all—in the playoffs against either the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers.

Moving forward, you can be sure that this question will rear its head once again as soon as the start of next season and regularly during the contract-bound three years the pair will have together in New York following this one.