The Amar'e Stoudemire that plays for the New York Knicks in today's NBA isn't close to being the late-2000s scoring machine we saw with the Phoenix Suns. But after a two-year span from 2011 to 2013, where his body failed him in nearly every way imaginable, STAT has reinvented himself. He isn't a $100 million player, he isn't an All-Star—but he does have a role in the league somewhere.
The Knicks are just hoping they can find a way to maximize Stoudemire's talents so that he's not a net-negative whenever he's on the floor.
It will take a number of adjustments, but there's reason to believe Amar'e can be useful in the triangle. He'll be 32 by mid-November, so the time for wholesale changes to a player's repertoire has come and gone. But even during his four-year Knicks tenure, he's shown an ability to adapt—whether it be by sacrificing minutes or completely morphing his scoring approach.
And if Stoudemire can make the necessary adjustments to thrive in Derek Fisher's offense, it could be a major part of the Knicks being a potential surprise playoff contender in the East.
Scoring on the Block
Some time during Stoudemire's extended stay away from live action, the Knicks urged the former star to reinvent his offensive attack.
According to Synergy (subscription required), Stoudemire posted up his opponent just 12 percent of the time in 2010-11 under Mike D'Antoni. This past season under Mike Woodson, 32 percent of his plays were post-ups—which was down from 36 percent in 2012-13.
|Season||% of total plays that were post-ups||Points per play|
His vicious face-up game from Phoenix is essentially extinct, but instead Stoudemire has reappeared as a reliable back-to-the-basket scorer, which is inherently valuable from a triangle big. In 2013-14, he was one of only three Knicks to log player efficiency ratings better than league-average. From Dec. 1 through the end of the season, his 57.1 effective field-goal percentage would've qualified for the fourth-best mark of his career over a full season.
Amar'e is by no means a perfect all-around fit in the system. Among other things, he's never shown a knack for making great reads or creating for teammates. But if Fisher's staff works to instill the system's principles into Stoudemire's mind, there's no doubt that his ability to get to the rim and score is an asset.
Just as Everyone Suspected
After last season—as Carmelo Anthony put up career numbers on a 37-win team—it's clear that the Knicks are desperate for a premier scorer to shoulder some of the load. Three years ago, when New York assembled the All-Star core of Stoudemire and Anthony, they never imagined this would be an issue, with two 25-point scorers in the starting five.
As we all know, things didn't go according to plan. But Amar'e could still be the scoring partner 'Melo needs—or at least part of a worthy surrounding cast.
After beginning last season with a stretch that had the NBA world convinced he was toast, Stoudemire averaged 13 points and five rebounds on 57 percent shooting after November per 24 minutes, while coming away relatively healthy, save for a sprained ankle that cost him two weeks in January.
If STAT can avoid that ice-cold start and establish himself as a legitimate option behind Anthony on the scoring totem pole, it would only make 'Melo's life easier, coming off his highest minutes total in a season since he was 19.
Anthony's battles with fatigue last year were well-documented, and can be attributed to Woodson for riding his star like freakin' Secretariat (as D'Antoni would put it), but with no legitimate weapons off the bench, and with his job on the line, the truth is Woodson didn't have a choice.
Anthony's field-goal percentages dipped from 49 percent in the second quarter, to 45 in the third, down to 38 percent in the fourth. In overtimes, he shot 30.8 percent.
In clutch scenarios, according to NBA.com, Anthony's numbers were even uglier. In the last three minutes of games where the score was separated by no more than five points, 'Melo shot 32 percent. In the final minute of those close games, he shot 17 percent. In the final 30 seconds, he was 1-of-16.
A logical coaching approach will help, but if Stoudemire can truly cement himself as a trusted weapon, it wouldn't only make things easier for Anthony on the floor, but it would also help keep him fresh for when it matters most.
The Mysterious Eastern Conference
After LeBron James shook up the conference with his move back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the entire East is a giant unknown at this point.
Cleveland and Chicago figure to be the front-runners, with the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat trailing behind. The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets are also in the mix, with the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons unable to be counted out of the postseason picture, either.
Where do the Knicks fit into all this right now? Nobody can be sure just yet, but it's clear that there will be plenty of similarly skilled teams battling for lower seeds. New York can probably compete with the bulk of those teams but getting consistent production from Stoudemire all year could potentially boost the team's chances more drastically than any affordable free-agent signing.
In a wide-open East, and on a team as desperate for production as New York, a surprising season from STAT could be the difference between mediocrity and a playoff push. If he can put his retooled skill set to work in the triangle, while implementing a few coaching tips along the way, there's reason to believe Amar'e can close out his Knicks career with a flourish.