The New York Knicks are better off when Amare Stoudemire is taking shots from close range.
Amar'e Stoudemire has appeared in 20 games this season for the New York Knicks and averaged 13.6 points per game. If he continues to compile his points at the same rate for the rest of the season, he will finish this season with his lowest scoring average over a full season since his rookie campaign when he averaged 13.5 points per contest.
For a player who is being paid the fourth-highest amount in the NBA this season, and no doubt considers himself a franchise player, not scoring more points per game could certainly give off the impression that he is having an incredibly disappointing season.
However, in actuality, Stoudemire is on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career, and certainly his best season in a Knicks uniform, thanks to the fact he has rediscovered the offensive efficiency that made him such a potent offensive weapon during his Phoenix Suns tenure.
After two disastrous offensive seasons in a Knicks uniform, this season, Stoudemire has produced 119 points per 100 possessions, which, if he is able to continue his current level of output, would be the third-highest mark of his career.
Stoudemire has been able to score at such a remarkable rate as a result of remembering that the more of his shots that go through the basket, the more value he will have to the Knicks as an offensive contributor; he is also benefiting from grabbing offensive rebounds at a rate we have not seen from him since the 2009-10 season (9.8 offensive rebound percentage).
Extended over an entire season, his .559 effective field-goal percentage would be his fourth-highest shooting percentage and would definitely do a lot to erase the memory of his woeful shooting over the past two seasons.
One minor tweak that has contributed to Stoudemire being able to shoot better than he has since arriving in New York has been where the distance from which he is attempting his shots.
Over the course of his career, and especially over his last two disastrous seasons, Stoudemire has been guilty of being unduly enamored with shooting of jump shots from between 10 feet and the three-point line.
In the 2011-12 season, 36.4 percent of his shots were from the aforementioned distance, and during the 2010-11 season, he was even more of a culprit of falling in love with shots from that range as evidenced by 37.7 percent of his shots being attempted from that area on the court.
No other seasons have seen him attempt so many shots from 10 feet to inside three-point line.
There is a reason why the mid-range game is a lost art. It is because it is one of the most inefficient areas on the court from which to try to score, which is a fact Stoudemire seems to have reminded himself of this year.
This season, Stoudemire has taken his shots a lot closer to the rim, with 85.3 percent of his 177 field goal attempts taken within 10 feet of the basket as opposed to just 14.7 percent of his shots being taken from 10 feet to inside the three-point line.
In addition to just taking his shots closer to the basket, Stoudemire has been able to convert them at a very respectable rate, posting an effective field-goal percentage of 59.6 percent from that range.
Without his mid-range shots dragging down his shooting percentage too much, it is no wonder Stoudemire has been able to convert his field goal attempts so well this season.
Additionally, with Stoudemire taking his shots closer to the basket, he has also been able to draw a lot more fouls and visit the free-throw line a lot more frequently than he ever has in a Knicks uniform.
This year, Stoudemire's free-throw factor has been 0.418, which far surpasses his 0.319 free-throw factor in 2010-11 and his 0.284 free-throw factor in 2011-12.
The days when Stoudemire can put together a masterful season like his 2007-08 campaign when he produced 124 points per 100 possessions and contributed .262 win shares per 48 minutes while carrying a usage percentage of 28.2 percent are probably behind him, but that cannot stop him from being an extremely valuable part of the Knicks team.
All he has to remember is that the closer he is to the rim on offense, the better off he and the Knicks will be. His elite-level offensive efficiency so far this season clearly demonstrates that fact.