According to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, power forward Amar'e Stoudemire is targeting a Christmas return from a left knee debridement. Although the New York Knicks have started well without him, there is no way around the impact this will have.
Stoudemire's return will be a Christmas gift for the Knicks.
Already sitting at 12-4, New York has been one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. With their smothering defense and high-powered offense, the Knicks have an average margin of victory of 14.9 points per game won.
In other words, the Knickerbockers are already elite.
Believe it or not, this team is bound to get better with STAT's return. Despite what history may suggest, the pairing of Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony is exactly what this team needs.
Which is just one of the many reasons they're bound for success.
Balance Wins Championships
Thus far this season, the New York Knicks are 12-4 with averages of 102.4 points scored and 94.7 points allowed per game. At the forefront of this extraordinary start is All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging 26.8 points per contest.
Temper your optimism, folks. The Knicks are in dire need of a secondary scoring option.
Raymond Felton is averaging 15.1 points per game, but he's also shooting 43.0 percent from the floor. This comes by virtue of Felton's tendency to fall into one-on-one battles with his assignment.
A strategy which has proven disastrous more than once this season.
As for J.R. Smith, his efficient play deserves praise. Unfortunately, elevated defensive pressure has forced him to shoot just 36.2 percent from the floor over the past 10 games.
Stoudemire will not only provide an elite pick-and-roll finisher for Felton, but the defense-collapsing low-post presence Smith has needed. In other words, he will open lanes for all of the Knicks' role players to perform at their highest level.
So how about 'Melo?
The Two Tales of STAT and 'Melo
Under head coach Mike D'Antoni, the tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire did not function as planned. The Knicks were 23-37 with both men in the rotation under D'Antoni, which offers insight into how the head coach did not fit his personnel.
Sound familiar, Lakers fans?
According to Mitch Lawrence of The New York Daily News, STAT and 'Melo's ineptitude was brought to the attention of current head coach Woodson. Woodson's response was not only indicative of the approach that he has taken as head coach, but it offered insight into an important truth.
“Is it an overall losing record with me as a head coach?’" Woodson said. “I can’t think about what happened before I took over. As a coach, I feel good about both of them playing on the floor at the same time. That’s not going to change.’’
To answer Woodson's question, no it is not an overall losing record under him. In fact, the Knicks are 8-2 with STAT and 'Melo playing together under coach Woodson.
In those 10 games, the Knicks scored an average of 100.8 points per game and allowed 91.1. That's a 9.7 point per contest margin of victory, which suggests that Stoudemire and 'Melo can coexist.
In fact, they can dominate. Woodson has made sure of that.
Interior Scoring Boost
Contrary to popular belief, the New York Knicks are one of the worst interior scoring teams in the NBA. Although Carmelo Anthony is averaging an impressive 26.8 points per game as a flex 4, 'Melo is not dominating in the paint as some are making it out to be.
In fact, he's playing most of his ball from mid- to three-point range.
Anthony has attempted 193 of his field goal attempts from mid-range or beyond the arc. He's attempted 123 from inside the paint, however, which seems to display his work as an interior scorer.
Or does it?
Of his 316 field goal attempts, 212 have come on jump shots. In other words, the only difference 'Melo would see in shifting back to small forward would be the label of his position.
All Woodson would need to do to recreate 'Melo's interior play is spread the floor and flash Anthony to the post.
Aside from Anthony, the next leading interior scorer is Tyson Chandler at a responsible 12.2 points per game. Although Chandler is shooting 71.3 percent from the floor, his low-post game is questionable at best.
Amar'e Stoudemire and his career average of 21.6 points per game are certain to help the Knicks in said area. As will his offseason workouts with Hakeem Olajuwon (via YouTube).
During Raymond Felton's first tenure with the New York Knicks, he posted averages of 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game. Thus far in his second tenure, Felton's numbers sit at 15.1 points and 6.8 assists.
Although the Knicks' depth at the point guard position can be accredited to this dip, there's no way around one truth. With an elite pick-and-roll finisher, Felton's assist numbers could rise right back up to 9.0 dimes per night.
Yet another reason Amar'e Stoudemire's return is a blessing.
With Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks have three great-to-elite pick-and-roll facilitators. Unfortunately, their impact has been limited by the fact that they lack the proper talent to work with.
A primary reason the Knicks rank 24th in the league in assists per game.
With Stoudemire's ability to roll off of screens and work his way into the paint, the trio will have their perfect complement. STAT is also one of the most athletic finishers in the league, which enables the team to display a sense of comfort in throwing it up for an alley-oop.
Paired with STAT's low-post prowess, the Knicks now have add the one facet missing from their already elite offensive attack. That number of 102.9 points per game could see a rise as soon as Stoudemire returns.
All the Knicks can do now is wish for Christmas to come early.