It's on the offensive end that Stoudemire is shining. But he is definitely showing improvement on the defensive side.
Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were supposed to be the Knicks’ chance to win it all. But last year, the discussion quickly became about how these three simply could not play together.
It was true.
According to NBA.com, last year’s offensive and defensive ratings with the three of them in the lineup weren’t pretty: Their offensive rating was 98.5, while their defensive rating was 100.3.
Those are losing numbers. But in the 108 minutes that the three have played together this season—a very small sample size, mind you—they have an offensive rating of 115.2 and a defensive rating of 103.1.
In other words, it seems that these three are starting to figure out how to play well together.
It all started when coach Mike Woodson told Amar’e Stoudemire to develop a post game by training with Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer. No one really expected much to come out of that—a post game can take years to perfect.
Yet on Friday night against the Orlando Magic, Stoudemire went 7-of-7 shooting, many of which were on post-ups. But what’s even more fascinating is that he is scoring 1.04 points per possession when operating in the post.
Statistics aside, Stoudemire's production opens up an opportunity for all three to play off each other. Tyson Chandler is, arguably, one of the best pick-and-roll finishers in the league. Watching him and Raymond Felton shred defenses is brilliant.
The problem is that defenses were starting to get used to the pick-and-roll, so the second big man on the floor was crowding Chandler. This made the pick-and-roll more difficult. When Stoudemire returned, the second forward who would have crowded Chandler previously now has to stay honest with Stoudemire because if he doesn’t, it’s an easy basket.
Let’s take a step back and understand what Stoudemire did here. He conceded what is arguably his best skill—a pick-and-roll finisher—to Chandler when both are on the floor. He then moved down into the low post to ensure that his defender stays on him, thus opening up the floor for Chandler to operate.
This also makes it more difficult for Carmelo Anthony to get double-teamed. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen—we saw double-, even triple-teams on Friday night—but it opens up chances for Stoudemire to post up.
There are not enough defenders to stop the offensive juggernaut that is this three-headed dragon.
Think of it in terms of this hypothetical play. Raymond Felton dribbles the ball up the court. Stoudemire moves down to the low post while Anthony moves to the perimeter. Chandler comes to give a pick, thus allowing Felton to go around it, resulting in Chandler falling to the rim.
But let’s say that Stoudemire’s defender hedges his bet and goes to prevent Chandler’s basket. Stoudemire is now left wide open. Even if Anthony’s defender moves over to Stoudemire and the shooting guard rotates to cover Anthony, you have mismatches.
Felton can easily kick the ball out to Anthony for a mid-range or three-point shot. Or he can pass it to Stoudemire, who now has a smaller defender on him for the easy post.
And if those rotations don’t happen fast enough, Stoudemire is left open for quite a few easy dunks. We definitely saw those dunks on Friday night.
There is no denying that there are still some glaring weaknesses on the defensive side for this unit. Stoudemire just isn’t the best of defenders. But when it comes to offense and needing to get the ball in the basket, can many teams say they have three All-Star—Chandler is finally one—players who can put it in? I’d say no.
Jacob is the co-founder of Curave, a morning newsletter about the NBA.