In addition to readying his team for the Pacers, Coach Mike Woodson has something else to prepare for going into the series against Indiana—the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire hasn’t played a game since March 7th and underwent the same knee debridement surgery on March 11th that kept him out of the action until January 1st. He will be out for Games 1 and 2 against the Pacers, but he is eying a possible return in Game 3.
Over the course of the 29 games that he did play in this season, Stoudemire gave the Knicks some quality minutes. He poured in 14.2 points and five rebounds per night in 23.5 minutes off the bench. The second highest-paid player on the Knicks also shot 57.7 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the free-throw line.
More importantly, contrary to public belief, Stoudemire’s presence on the floor did not affect Carmelo Anthony’s offensive production.
In the 25 games that the two were both on the court for the Knicks, Anthony put up 27.8 points per game, just under a point off from his NBA-best average of 28.7 points on the season. In fact, Anthony’s 30.3 points per game in January was his third highest of any other month this season (via ESPN).
Stoudemire will increase the Knicks’ offensive production off the bench, which now solely relies on the streaky Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith. However, after missing a ton of time in the beginning of the season, Stoudemire’s defense was terrible when he came back.
With Stoudemire on the floor, New York’s rebounding increased by 4.5 percent (via Basketball Reference), which will be huge because Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin are the team's only consistent front-court players. However, despite STAT’s ineptitude on the defensive end of the floor, the team’s defensive numbers weren’t much different.
The Knicks were seventh in the league in points surrendered with 95.7 points per game, and with Stoudemire on the floor gave up 95.0 points per game. It may be partly due to the fact that he played less than 25 minutes per game, but the team’s collective defense didn’t suffer over the 29 games that Stoudemire played in.
Anthony’s offensive production didn’t drop with Stoudemire on the floor, and neither did the Knicks’ defensive numbers. The team's rebounding will increase when he comes back, which will be very important against Indiana, and he will bring some much needed scoring and energy off the bench.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that STAT will only help New York going forward in the playoffs, and it’s also clear that the Pacers are the only ones in this series who aren’t looking forward to his return.