The New York Knicks have become Carmelo Anthony’s team; there’s no questioning that. From coaching changes to roster moves, it appears all personnel decisions are at least run-by Anthony, if not literally approved by him. And while ‘Melo may be the go-to player in the Knicks’ franchise, and the man most likely to have the ball in his hands during the game, he may (arguably) not be the most important player in the offense. That man may (arguably) be the star who started it all in New York: Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Knicks’ start power forward was in Manhattan last Monday, signing copies of his children’s book, and he opened up to the media. Stoudemire called last season his toughest season, and claimed his time spent with Hakeem Olajuwon working on post moves will improve his overall game. Stoudemire’s sudden regression this previous season was alarming, and furthermore, it hurt the team. As Jared Dubin noted in his Knicks offseason analysis, the Knicks have been outscored 2.21 points per 100 possessions when Stoudemire and Anthony were on the floor together. And while Anthony demonstrated the ability to carry a team on offense for stretches of time (see: ‘Melo’s torrid final month of the 2011-12 season), the Knicks brought him to the team to form one of the league’s most dynamic offenses with Stoudemire. Thus, the Knicks need Stoudemire to regain form in the 2012-13 season.
Injuries, lineup inconsistencies, and personal tragedies all played an integral part in Stoudemire’s struggles last year and they threw off his rhythm. This was most noticeable in his midrange jumpshot, which has played such a vital role in his game in recent years. According to Hoopdata, Stoudemire saw a drastic decrease in his field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, and it was likely because of his inaccuracy from midrange.
In his first season with the Knicks, Stoudemire shot 45% from 3-9 feet, 38% from 10-15 feet, and 44% from 16-23 feet. Even before the 2010-11 season, when Stoudemire was with the Phoenix Suns, he generally shot in the upper 40s to low 50s from 3-9 feet, anywhere from the upper 30s to low 50s from 10-15 feet, and around the mid 40s from 16-23 feet. However, last season those numbers dropped to 32%, 31%, and 35% from those respective ranges.
For as much has been made about Stoudemire’s declining athleticism, he was still able to finish at the rim at nearly 70% – his best mark since 2008 with the Suns. His increased field goal percentage at the rim suggests that he had no trouble finishing his looks when he was at the rim, still able to elevate and detonate over defenders. However, from there on out, he put up brutal shooting numbers. Simply said, Stoudemire just didn’t have his rhythm shooting his jumper, probably from a combination of the muscle he added over the offseason, and his unhealthy back. With a jumper that lacked respect from defenders, opponents were able to clog the paint and make life difficult for Stoudemire, as evidenced by his struggles from 3-9 feet.
But that midrange jumper might be the key to the Knicks offense. With a jumper as accurate as Stoudemire displayed in the 2010-11 season, defenders will have to respect him from further out on the perimeter and attempt to close his airspace. Here, Stoudemire can use his quickness and athleticism to blow by defenders and get to the rim.
Similarly, it would be a big boost to the Knicks offense if Stoudemire can efficiently utilize his newly-acquired post game. Not only would it open up another scoring option for the Knicks, but if Stoudemire’s post game is something defenses have to respect, then it would open up more opportunities for other scorers on the team. It would, for instance, allow guys like Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert to slash the lanes off the ball, allow for kick-outs to guys like Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, allow Carmelo Anthony to work on the elbows with less defensive attention, and let Tyson Chandler roam the paint freely to score easy baskets.
By Stoudemire regaining his usual form, it puts far less attention on Carmelo Anthony and gives the Knicks one of the best two-pronged offensive attacks in the NBA. Even if Anthony and Stoudemire can’t find a way to necessarily play off of one another (a move that would better the team multiply), if they can both coexist in an offense and each individually display their offensive prowess, then the Knicks could be one of the top powers in the East. The Knicks know what they’ll get from Anthony, but they need Amar’e Stoudemire to dominate like he’s capable of doing.