4 Reasons Why Amar'e Stoudemire Won't Benefit from Hakeem Olajuwon's Tutelage
By now Amar’e Stoudemire’s underachieving 2011-2012 season has been dissected to no end. The former perennial All-Star looked like a shadow of his usual self as he simply could not make a consistent impact on the court and struggled with his share of injuries.
Stoudemire has clearly taken the criticism to heart, however and spent time this offseason working with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post up game, according to ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling.
During his time in the league Olajuwon, whose “Dream Shake” post move remains one of the NBA’s trademark shots, was one of the most consistent back-to-the-basket scorers of all time.
He had a slew of moves, flawless footwork and could score on the block against even the most talented defenders.
However, while learning some post scoring moves should help Stat heading into next season, it will not remake Stoudemire into the kind of player he was in the past or that New York needs him to be.
Let’s take an in-depth look at why working with Hakeem Olajuwon won’t benefit Amar’e’s game as much as many think…
The Offense Will Still Run Through Carmelo Anthony
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For better or worse, the New York Knicks’ offense next season under Mike Woodson will run almost exclusively through Carmelo Anthony. The superstar small forward thrived last season under Woodson working with the ball in his hands and being the clearcut first option.
There was an alpha dog struggle early on in the season, but in Woodson’s more methodical, halfcourt offense Anthony’s isolation prowess really came to light. Stoudemire looked out of place and struggled to find consistent touches, culminating in a first round playoff series against Miami where he attempted just nine shots per game.
In order for Stoudemire to utilize his post up game he will need to get the ball early in the shot clock with time to work on his defender, but that will be incredibly infrequent with ‘Melo initiating the offense and dominating the ball.
Carmelo is also a post-up threat in his own right and the Knicks will often use Stat as a midrange jump shooter to open up room on the floor for Anthony to work on the block and draw opposing big men away from the basket.
This Knicks team has been built for Anthony to thrive with plenty of talented defenders both on the perimeter with Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer and particularly inside with the tandem of Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby.
The team played their worst basketball when they were trying to cater to the offensive needs of Stoudemire and Anthony, but when Anthony was the featured player and the team played physical aggressive defense around him they went on the 18-6 run that secured them a playoff berth.
This is clearly Anthony’s team offensively, and Stoudemire won’t be getting the kind of regular post touches needed to make a major impact.
Stoudemire's Loss of Explosiveness
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One of the reasons Stoudemire had such a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign was that he simply looked a step slow on the court. His injury struggles are well-documented particularly his microfracture knee surgery and ongoing back problems, and it showed in earnest last season.
Stoudemire is not the most skilled big man in the league, but in his prime he thrived thanks to his deceptive quickness, fast first step and ability to elevate and finish at the rim. His tremendous athletic talents complimented his shooting ability and made him an absolute nightmare to defend in the Phoenix Suns’ uptempo offense.
However, last season he couldn’t blow past his defender and power his way to the rim, relying more on outside shots as he appeared physically hampered.
In order to play like Hakeem Olajuwon in the post, Stoudemire will need to find some way to regain that quickness and explosiveness that was so clearly missing last season.
Olajuwon, despite being a seven-footer, was one of the most agile and speedy centers in league history allowing him to take advantage of players his size that couldn’t move as fluidly.
Though he struggled with his share of injuries during his long and illustrious career it never really impacted his post scoring ability as Olajuwon’s quickness and impeccable footwork allowed him to back down anybody.
The chief problem for Stoudemire is his back, which caused him to miss time last season and made him look out of sorts on the court. That kind of nagging injury will significantly limit his ability to play in the post the way Hakeem Olajuwon did.
Offense Is Not Stoudemire's Main Problem
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While learning a few new post moves is never a bad thing, the real area Stoudemire needs to improve is his play defensively and on the glass. Stoudemire has shined on the offensive end of the court since he entered the league, but his abilities as a shot blocker and a rebounder have never caught up.
Part of what made Hakeem such a transcendent player was that he was not merely a scorer, but the anchor in the paint for the Houston Rockets’ defense.
Olajuwon twice led the league in rebounding in 1988-89 and again the following season, while leading the league in blocked shots three times including a staggering 4.6 rejections per game in the 1989-90 season.
He could guard the post against any big man and thanks to his absurd length and leaping ability he was a phenomenal help defender when one of his teammates was beat off the dribble.
On the glass, Olajuwon consistently carved out excellent position, put in multiple efforts to keep balls alive and used his size to his advantage both on the offensive and defensive boards.
Olajuwon was even capable of guarding out on the perimeter if necessary and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year remains one of the league’s most feared big men on both ends of the court.
By comparison, Stoudemire has averaged over two blocks per game only once and swatted just one shot per contest last season. He has also never used his strength and leaping ability to dominate the boards regularly the way a player of his physical stature should.
Stoudemire also has difficulty staying in front of his man and denying penetration, leading many to simply question his effort level on any given night.
With Camby and Chandler manning the middle there will be less of a defensive responsibility for Stoudemire, but if he wants to return to his former glory and superstar status he should have had Hakeem teach him how to better protect the basket.
The Knicks Will Still Run the Pick-And-Roll and Push the Pace
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Throughout his career, Stoudemire’s most consistent method of scoring has always been the pick-and-roll. He is great at rolling to the basket, can finish at the rim and is not afraid to absorb contact and finish a play.
The team did not utilize the pick-and-roll much in the beginning of last season when they had no consistency out of the point guard spot, but once Jeremy Lin emerged Stoudemire looked somewhat rejuvenated, running the floor harder and consistently attacking the basket.
Obviously Lin is gone and the team’s offense will feature Anthony far more than Stat, but with Raymond Felton on board Stoudemire should still see a decent amount of pick-and-roll action.
Felton and Stoudemire demonstrated great chemistry during their brief time together before Felton was shipped off to Denver and although Woodson likes to rely on a slower, halfcourt offense he should still give them the opportunity to play the pick-and-roll, which maximizes both of their effectiveness and proved to be extremely tough to guard.
In addition, Stoudemire can run the floor better than almost any big man in the league. Despite the collective age of this team, they have some quick guards in Felton and Iman Shumpert that can play in transition and another big to run the floor in Tyson Chandler.
When Anthony is on the bench the team will likely look to play a more uptempo brand of basketball, perfect for Stoudemire to get easy scoring opportunities.
Considering that he has proven to thrive in two different offensive styles, it is hard to foresee the Knicks suddenly turning Amar’e into a dominant post presence when he has played best basketball as a floor-running power forward.