Mike Woodson and the New York Knicks must transform Amar’e Stoudemire into a reliable three-point shooter.
It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
A Stoudemire deep threat makes sense on several levels and could be the trick to both keeping the perennially injured power forward healthy and integrating him on the court with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
This isn't the first time Stoudemire has been mentioned as a potential long-distance threat, so the concept is not out of the blue.
Mike D’Antoni may not be best all-around coach, but he knows a lot about offense, three-pointers and Stoudemire.
D’Antoni had this to say to ESPN’s Jared Zwerling in December 2011:
I don't want to exaggerate it, I don't want to fall in love with it, but at the same time it's a weapon. Amar’e can shoot the ball extremely well from three. If you get out here and just line him up and let him shoot, he's one of our best 3-point shooters...That's what Kevin Durant does. Why can't Amar’e do it? They're about the same size.
Stoudemire is already one of the best two-point shooting big men in the league. When he’s on, his 15-footers are lethal.
Take a look at Stoudemire's field-goal percentages over the years from 15 to 24 feet out.
|Season||8-16 Ft||15-19 Ft||16-24 Ft||20-24 Ft|
If you look at his prime years—not counting his rookie (2002-03), sophomore (2003-04) and injured campaigns (2005-06, 2011-12, 2012-13)—Stoudemire is much better than average in between the paint and the arc and especially close to the three-point line—not just for a big man but compared to most NBA players.
Between 2004-05 and 2010-11, Stoudemire shot 40 percent or higher in 22 of the 24 distances for the seasons concerned (in bold above), covering all shots between eight and 24 feet. Three times, he hit 50 percent of his shots or higher, including twice (2008-09 and 2010-11) between 20 and 24 feet.
The three-point line is marked at 23’9”. This distance would require Stoudemire to set up from just nine inches to five feet deeper than his comfortable 20 to 24-foot range.
How about that first season in New York (2010-11)? The farther he was from the basket, the better Stoudemire shot.
In 2013-14, the farther away he is from the basket, the less interference he will have with Anthony and Chandler down low. This will clear the elbow and the lane for Anthony and allow Chandler to control the paint and boards.
The Knicks' Big Three will each have their own personal space on the court, as evidenced by their shot charts. There is little overlap in the "green," where they play their best games.
Amar'e Stoudemire 2010-11
Carmelo Anthony 2012-13
Tyson Chandler 2012-13
There will be fewer “Whose ball is it?” moments under the basket, which occurred more than once last season and resulted in several turnovers.
Stoudemire will encounter less physical play leaning to the outside as well, which is important to keeping him healthy through the season.
The Knicks don’t need him to play aggressive defense or rock the boards by banging around on the inside and pressuring his knees. That is purposeless. This is Chandler territory.
History shows that New York does well when Stoudemire scores 15 points or more on Anthony's team. The Knicks were 8-3 last season when that happened, and it's all Stoudemire needs to do to elevate the team.
New York would be hard to beat if he pushed to 20 PPG, given its other scorers—and just a couple of three-pointers a game might be enough to get him there.
Scrambling back from defense on those occasions when he is not rushing inside to post up or set a screen—both of which must and will go on—Stoudemire can pull up around the arc while the play develops. This will also save his knees.
Sometimes, he can be the play from start to finish. Other times, just a decoy.
An occasionally perimeter-roaming Stoudemire will stretch opposing defenses when they double-team Anthony.
Opponents will need to spread out to cover yet another three-point threat on a team that has quite the itchy three-point trigger finger already. New York lived and died by the three in 2012-13 and will go back to the well.
Grooming Stoudemire into a regular 40 percent three-point shooter reinforces this undeniable key and strength to the Knicks’ game.
It's hard to believe, but Stoudemire has only taken 123 threes in his career at a 24 percent clip. During his first season with New York, though, he shot 10-of-23 from behind the arc for a take-notice 44 percent.
The Knicks should try to get the ball to him out there more often. Given Stoudemire's shooting touch and their need to choreograph the Big Three, it's worth a look.