Amar'e Stoudemire may not be the player he once was, but that doesn't mean he can't be productive coming off the bench for the New York Knicks in 2013-14.
Going in to training camp, STAT has had plenty of time to rest and hopefully, after having a debridement performed on both knees, he'll be able to stay healthy for longer next season.
Although he may not be an All-Star any more, Stoudemire proved he can still be an efficient scorer in the minutes he plays, averaging 14.2 points on 58 percent shooting coming off the bench.
Now that the team is taking more precautions to keep him healthy, we should see him for closer to a full season, with an eye on having him ready for a major role in the playoffs.
Stoudemire is still capable of playing physically inside and, combined with his mid-range game and post moves, he can still be an effective scorer in limited minutes for the Knicks.
Amar'e Stoudemire's return to action last year coincided with the Knicks' worst run of games and, unsurprisingly, people quickly jumped to blame him for the team's lack of success.
Wtih STAT back in the rotation, the Knicks went only 16-13, struggling to play consistently on both ends of the floor.
What most people seem to ignore, however, is that this stretch of games saw both Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd struggle with injuries of their own, which undoubtedly had a major impact on chemistry.
Meanwhile, Stoudemire himself was putting up an efficient 14.2 points per game on a career-high mark of 58 percent from the field. To blame him for the team's struggles when he was playing that well is just ridiculous.
More to the point, this is a bench player we are talking about. In a lot of these games, he wasn't even playing enough minutes to have a particularly large negative impact on a game.
With everyone (possibly excluding J.R. Smith) expected to be healthy on opening day, we should see the team start to win with Stoudemire in the lineup.
The point guards are all healthy, and with a full training camp for the team to build chemistry, integrating Stoudemire won't be a problem. Having an efficient, physical scorer off the bench is a positive for any team, especially when the rest of the squad is healthy.
To predict a completely injury-free season for Amar'e Stoudemire at this point would be bold, to say the least. But with the team taking every precaution with his health, it's not out of the question for him to play in at least 60 games in 2013-14.
Stoudemire has now had a debridement performed on both knees within the last year, which is a surgery that is supposed to clean out the knee and reduce the likelihood of further injury. He's also decided not to work with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer in order to get as much rest as possible, meaning he should be fresh and ready to play when the season opens.
According to the New York Post, the team is planning to keep him on a strict limit of only 20 minutes per game, possibly with the added caveat of keeping him out of the second game of back-to-backs.
Looking at how Stoudemire's season ended last year, it's clear the team not being rigid enough on his minutes limit was part of the reason he was injured in early March. In his last three games, Stoudemire played over 30 minutes twice and also played in both games of a back-to-back for the first time. The next day, the team announced he would be out for the remainder of the regular season.
The Knicks have more than enough offensive firepower to get by with STAT playing on his minutes limit. With Andrea Bargnani and Jeremy Tyler added to the team, the Knicks shouldn't end up in another situation where they're forced to play him more than they should.
If they can stick to these precautions all season long, it won't be too surprising to see Stoudemire relatively healthy when the playoffs roll around. There will inevitably be some stretches of missed games here and there but not enough to derail his season again.
Now that he's playing on a minutes limit, it's unlikely that Amar'e Stoudemire will ever be an All-Star again, but it's not out of the question for him to play at that level when he comes off the bench.
Even last season, STAT averaged 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, which likely would have made him a borderline All-Star had he played more. After all, Chris Bosh made the team averaging only 18.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.
New York isn't going to be short of offense next season, and as long as he's scoring efficiently, it doesn't really matter how many points Stoudemire averages on the season. With a strict minutes limit, he should end up scoring anywhere between 12 and 14 points per game, but it's his field-goal percentage that really matters.
Stoudemire shot a career-high 58 percent from the field in 2012-13, and if he can get anywhere near that number again, he'll clearly be making a positive contribution to the team. He won't be posting flashy numbers, but if he can play like an All-Star within his 20 minutes per game, he and the team should be fine.
On the defensive end, however, STAT has a lot of work to do. The team will need him to play a lot more in the postseason, but it won't be able to if he continues to be such a liability on that end of the floor.
Considering all the injuries he's faced, Stoudemire hasn't actually had much time to learn from Mike Woodson, but this year, he'll have a full training camp and the regular season to work on his D.
For the first time in his career, Amar'e Stoudemire didn't start a single game last season, and it's likely that his time as a starter in the NBA has come to an end, at least in the regular season.
After a solid offseason, the team now has plenty alternatives that will likely be better for chemistry and spacing in the starting lineup. Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert will all be in contention for the starting forward spot alongside Carmelo Anthony, while STAT should prepare to come off the bench from day one.
It doesn't really make sense to start a player on a minutes limit anyways, and someone as physical as Stoudemire could be more useful bringing intensity off the bench. He can spell both Melo and Tyson Chandler when necessary and can carry the second unit if J.R. Smith isn't ready to go on opening day.
Unfortunately, this move will likely see Stoudemire spend even less time on the floor with Raymond Felton, which is a shame considering how well they played together as pick-and-roll partners back in 2011-12.
With that said, New York will likely have both Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih coming off the bench with STAT, which should provide more than enough quality point guard play for him.
The Knicks struggled big time going up against the Indiana Pacers' physical defense in the playoffs, and they really could have used a healthy Amar'e Stoudemire in that series.
Stoudemire played a total of only 32 minutes in four games against Indiana and was unable to make a significant contribution. With unproven playoff performer J.R. Smith struggling, the team simply didn't have enough offense to get past the Pacers.
Though he's never won a championship, STAT is the kind of player who raises his game when it matters most. He has a career PER of 22.4 in the playoffs, which raises to 23.9 once you exclude the injury-riddled postseasons he's had as a member of the Knicks.
With New York now trying to make sure it uses Stoudemire as little as possible in the regular season, he should be healthy enough to help out the team when it needs him in the playoffs.
Much has been made of how his presence seems to hurt chemistry, but when the three ball wasn't falling last year, it was clear the Knicks needed someone like him to take it to the hole and score in the post.
Starting Andrea Bargnani in the regular season is fine, but he's only appeared in 11 career playoff games and didn't look particularly impressive in any of them. When the postseason rolls around, the team will need STAT more than ever, and it won't be a surprise to see him start or at least play closer to 30 minutes per game.
The Knicks proved they don't need STAT so much in the regular season with their play last year, but looking at the way things broke down in the playoffs, they certainly missed his experience and inside scoring.