New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire had a rough 2011-12 season, as he battled injuries, personal tragedy and team chemistry issues.
As a result, he missed the All-Star game for the first time in five years, posted subpar numbers in every category and the Knicks finished seventh in the Eastern Conference.
You would think that having stars like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler on board would improve his shooting efficiency, even if his point totals went down. But that wasn't the case. The paint-heavy Stoudemire shot 48 percent and struggled to find a rhythm.
Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York notes that the frontcourt lineup of Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire was just the fourth-most effective lineup in 2011-12 from a plus/minus standpoint.
New York can't afford to keep these stars off the floor too long, so how can both Stoudemire and the Knicks get to the next level?
His work with Olajuwon include adding several back-to-the-basket moves, which will vastly increase his versatility. If he embraces this style of play, it will give him more options—a better chance to see the floor, dish the ball to Carmelo and company and score on the block.
The "Dream Shake," baby hook, and turnaround jumper should be a more integral part of Stoudemire's game this upcoming season. Utilizing the pivot foot for pump fakes, including the up-and-under move, will help him draw fouls (in 2011-12, he attempted a career-low 5.2 free-throws per game).
Aside from the Olajuwon tutelage, Amar'e must reconnect with his 2010-11 teammate Raymond Felton, with whom he thrived before the Carmelo trade.
Post-up looks from Felton will only work so much; Stoudemire is most effective with Felton when he's on the move. Using curl screens, flashing to the high post, diving to the rim and working the pick-and-roll are proven methods. The key is to mix it up:
This footage of the 2011 Celtics game shows just how potent Amar'e can be when he's moving, targeted and varying his approaches.
When he gets the ball on the wing with room to work, or deep in the post with good position, he's much more dangerous than when he gets the ball in the middle of the defense.
Oftentimes, when he's caught in between, he settles for contested 15-footers that don't fall at a high percentage. Stoudemire's a solid mid-range shooter, but not when things are congested.
Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated discussed his struggles from mid-range last year:
"Stoudemire touched the ball at the elbow much more frequently than Anthony did, nearly seven times per game compared to 3.75 for Anthony, one of the 10 highest numbers in the league. He also shot the ball on 42 percent of those possessions, a very high number. There was just one problem: He was ineffective. Stoudemire shot a middling 46 percent on those elbow possessions and turned the ball over at a pretty high rate."
Amar'e should only shoot the 15-17 foot jumpers when he's open and in rhythm. Otherwise, he should be looking for teammates or attacking the hoop to draw fouls.
The final aspect of his return to stardom is just as important as the other aspects: assertive defense and rebounding.
Stoudemire is a 6'10", 250-pound athlete with the physical capability to rebound and defend better than he actually does. Most of his defensive problems stem from his indecisiveness defending the pick and roll. This must improve.
As for the glass, both Amar'e and the Knicks would benefit tremendously from an uptick in rebounding. He's had some above-average rebounding campaigns, but he's never been a great offensive rebounder.
A more concerted effort on the offensive boards will undoubtedly improve his scoring, free-throw attempts and shooting efficiency.
Revamping his game 10 years into his career isn't going to be easy, but it's doable. If Stoudemire stays aggressive but settles only for high-percentage looks, he will not only excel, but he'll keep Carmelo involved and buoy New York toward the top of the NBA.