There's an air of excitement surrounding the New York Knicks after their 4-0 start, their best since the 1999-2000 season that saw half their team with their ankles, knees, elbows and wrists in braces and wraps at one point or another.
Under Mike Woodson the Knicks are 22-6, dating back to Mike D'Antoni's firing halfway through the 2012 campaign.
Three-pointers are falling, the defense is dominating and Carmelo Anthony is looking like a legitimate MVP candidate, and that's all with two of the team's best players yet to sniff the court this season.
Iman Shumpert continues to nurse his knee after ACL surgery in May, and he'll likely be out until January at the earliest, while Amar'e Stoudemire is still weeks away from returning after a cyst ruptured in his left knee during the preseason.
Logic deems that the return of those two guys will make this team even better than they look right now, right?
Well, that would make sense, but basketball isn't exactly a logical sport.
At this point the Knicks really need to examine their team with and without Amar'e Stoudemire. Are they better off with him, or would it make sense to find another home for the big man?
Popular opinion around the Internet these days is that Stoudemire clashes too hard with Carmelo Anthony, and with both of them in the lineup it's harder to run out to the big leads that the Knicks have been able to gallop to so far this season.
Of the guys that played in at least 30 percent of the Knicks minutes last season, Stoudemire was their seventh most effective player based on how well the team does with him on and off the court. For a guy who makes tens of millions of dollars, that's not exactly ideal.
Going further, the most effective lineup that New York put on the floor last season was a Baron Davis-Iman Shumpert-Landry Fields-Carmelo Anthony-Tyson Chandler quintet. The team doesn't seem to lose anything but a bit of size when Anthony bumps up to power forward and Stoudemire is bumped out of the lineup.
What makes them capable of playing without Stoudemire is a combination of Chandler's defense and Anthony's offense.
Chandler has been able to provide an anchor for their defense no matter the lineup the put around him. He has basically made the team a dominant defensive group based solely on the idea that he's keeping guys from getting to the rim. With that sort of security blanket it's easy for everybody else to play passing lanes and force turnovers.
Meanwhile, Anthony as a power forward is a ton more efficient than him as a small forward. Instead of having what is likely the opposition's most athletic defender on him, he gets to deal with a power forward that is most likely slower and less sure-footed than he is. That means he gets to go down in the post more often, or he drags his guy out and beats him off the dribble, finding a more open shot.
It seems obvious that the Knicks are at the very least better off when Amar'e and Carmelo aren't on the court at the same time. Because of that I would go about bringing Stoudemire in off the bench, rather than outright shopping him around. The only issue there would be whether or not he is fine with being a bench player after being an early-season MVP candidate just two seasons ago.
If he doesn't go for bench play, then it might be time to look for other options.
The concern on the trade market is that there isn't a single team out there who will be willing to take on Stoudemire's contract, which has over $60 million remaining on it over the next three seasons.
If that hurdle can somehow be jumped, then it's time to flip the big fellow for whatever they can possibly get for him.