New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire makes $20 million per year playing basketball in the greatest basketball town on the planet, yet there's something preventing him from being a bona-fide superstar for his franchise.
What separates him from the truly elite superstars in the league are his shortcomings on defense.
If Stoudemire could improve his team defense and be more proactive on that end of the floor, he'd be considerably more valuable and take the Knicks to another level.
It's no coincidence that his plus/minus was minus-44 last season, worst on the team. Most of that can be attributed to his substandard stoppage.
From his recent comments, it seems like he wants to upgrade his defense, and he realizes the importance of it. But for New York fans and media, talk is cheap, and they're adopting an "I'll believe it when I see it" mentality when it comes to Amare's defensive commitment.
At the root of his flawed defensive technique are indecisiveness and a lack of lateral movement.
Stoudemire's not a bad one-on-one defender, and we know the physical tools are there. His help defense and team defense, however, need substantial improvement. The key to making stops as a unit is immediate action and rotation.
The major area of his team defense that must improve is his pick-and-roll defense. Far too often, he finds himself caught in between actually hedging on the ball-handler and rotating back to the block.
Amar'e's task as a post defender is difficult, but he doesn't get a free pass. He must be more decisive and diagnose plays faster in order to keep the unit's defense intact . A sharper effort on pick-and-rolls will help New York avoid yielding easy buckets.
Aside from pick-and-roll deficiencies, Stoudemire often hurts the Knicks with his late help defense, ineptitude on inbounds and somewhat sluggish transitions.
All good help defenders have their heads on a swivel and stay low to shuffle quickly into position. Amar'e is inconsistent with these fundamentals, and he must incorporate these traits into every trip to the defensive end.
Tyson Chandler provides a great measure of paint protection for the Knicks, but if Stoudemire actually backs up his verbal commitment, the club would be infinitely more dangerous.
Whether Amar'e actually puts forth the effort during training camp is up to him and Mike Woodson. If he does, he'll become the superstar New York has always wanted, and he'd catapult the Knicks into contention.