Will Amar'e Stoudemire Help or Hurt NY Knicks Chemistry?
Amar'e Stoudemire's pending return from knee surgery has clearly put New York Knick fans at the edge of their seats in anticipation.
And for good reason, too. The Knicks' ability to welcome the former All-Star back into the fold makes or breaks their season.
On the surface, New York appears to have an abundance of talent. And with reinforcements Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert (rehabbing his own knee surgery) on the way back, that abundance is about to get borderline ridiculous.
Is there a thing as having too much talent? With only one basketball and 240 minutes for coach Mike Woodson to spread around, the Knicks are about to find out.
There's an obvious cause for concern with reintegrating Stoudemire (and, to a lesser extent, Shumpert). There are changes on the horizon for the Eastern Conference's second-best team (21-8) after the first third of the 2012-13 season.
The Knicks have thrived under Woodson's direction. They are sharing the ball on the offensive end and hounding it defensively.
Neither aspects have been particular strong suits in Stoudemire's 10-year career.
He's never been asked to create for teammates, thanks in large part to an impressive career scoring average of 21.6 points per game.
Defensively, he's left plenty to be desired. Despite his 6'11", 245-pound frame, he's never averaged double-digit rebounds and only once averaged more than two blocks per game (2.1 in 2007-08).
But that doesn't mean that Stoudemire's destined to disrupt the Knicks hot start.
In fact, he'll make this club even harder to deal with.
As good as this team has been offensively (102.8 points per game, fifth-best in the NBA), they've built false hopes with an unbelievable perimeter barrage. They are connecting on 40.4 percent of their three-point shots on the season, with seven players shooting above 35 percent from deep.
But two of those players (Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd) are shattering their career averages. Both players are shooting nearly 10 percent better than their career marks. So history suggests that those numbers will eventually regress toward what these players averaged during their first 27 seasons combined.
Two others (Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland) are rookies. So there's no proven NBA track record indicating their ability to keep shooting at this level (their international statistics can't carry over given the differences in dimensions on the NBA court).
The Knicks lack offensive creativity on the offensive end, with Anthony so far removed from his teammates in terms of being able to consistently produce.
Here's where Stoudemire makes his biggest impact.
When healthy, Stoudemire is one of the most productive players in the league. Nevermind the gaudy scoring numbers, just look at how reliable he's been on the offensive end. He's shot 53.3 percent from the field during his career, topping the 50 percent mark in six of his 10 seasons.
He's had past success with point guard Raymond Felton. With Felton at the helm of the Knicks offense for the majority of the 2010-11 season, Stoudemire exploded for 24.7 points per game.
And he's not going to impact the number of touches given to Anthony. Anthony has attempted 20.7 field goals per game, a sustainable number even with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire (who's only attempted more than 16.5 per game three times) will rather eat into the shots being given to Felton (16.4) and J.R. Smith (14.2).
Surely there are some logistical issues for Woodson to work out. Anthony's thrived in the power forward slot, the traditional home of Stoudemire. And Tyson Chandler has played far too well (12.6 points on 68.9 percent shooting and 10.0 points per game) for Stoudemire to take his spot.
But Anthony's more than capable of moving (in spurts) back to the perimeter. The three-headed frontcourt afforded to Woodson could be the best in the NBA.
Not to mention, Stoudemire's return can ease up some of the workload on his post peers. Anthony and Chandler have seen the floor for a combined 68.5 minutes per game. So Woodson has some wriggle room to form a solid three-man rotation with Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler.
Any team that has played as well as these Knicks will face some dark days when making this drastic of a transformation to both their starting lineup and rotation.
But New York's future already looks bright, and Stoudemire hasn't even hit the floor yet.
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