It’s not often that the biggest question mark hanging over a team is a six-time all-star, but in the Knicks’ case that just may be the situation. Amar’e Stoudemire has played only three games this season due to a procedure he had on his left knee right before the season began. In those three games he’s averaging 9 points, 2.3 rebounds, on 40 % shooting, and 18.3 minutes of play off the bench. In each game he has improved his scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage from the one prior. While it’s all well and good that he’s slowly improving for now, people are left wondering what will STAT give the team this season, and more importantly in the playoffs?
Everyone knows the seemingly age old idea that Carmelo and Amar’e can’t play well together on the same floor. We have heard it all. They take up the same place on the floor. They both aren’t great defenders. They need the ball in their hands to be effective. And while it’s true that they have a record below .500 in the games they’ve played together, it’s also true that under Mike Woodson they are 10-3 together.
Woodson wants Stoudemire to be more of a low post presence, which is not the elbows where ‘Melo typically works. STAT worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer specifically to be able to fit into Woodson’s vision, and so far we’ve seen nice moves and footwork, but the ball just hasn’t been falling into the hoop. Another thing Mike Woodson is doing to help the team be successful with both stars is experimenting with Stoudemire in the second unit.
Tyson Chandler has become the main roll man (a position filled by Stoudemire for most of his career), and the easy opportunities contribute to his mind-boggling 70% field goal percentage. With Stoudemire coming off the bench, he should be able to get more rolls to the basket when Tyson is resting. STAT, along with J.R. Smith, can help make the Knicks’ have one of the most potent second units in the league.
Woodson may be able to do wonders with Stoudemire’s defense the same way he changed Carmelo Anthony’s mindset, and that would mean a big boost in minutes for STAT at the center position when Tyson is out. Otherwise, it will be hard for Woodson to leave STAT out on the floor for extended minutes without Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, or eventually Rasheed Wallace due to the need for some rim protection and solid low post defense.
Last season (a down year for Amar’e damaged by injuries and personal losses), he averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 1.0 bpg, while shooting 48% from the field. While these stats don’t jump off the screen, and have taken quite a bit of critique from basketball minds and fans alike, they are still premier in this league. If Stoudemire, who may end up starting, can average about 16 points, 8 rebounds, and shoot a field goal percentage closer to his career average of 53%, then this season would be a major success for him.
This team, as currently constructed, does not need STAT to score 20+ a game. That’s what Carmelo Anthony, who is second in the league in scoring, is for. The other scoring options will be Raymond Felton (15.8 ppg), J.R. Smith (16.7 ppg), and Stoudemire. Now, if Stoudemire, who has been a subpar rebounder for most of his career, can pick up his effort on the glass and pull down more boards, then that would seriously help the team. The Knicks currently rank 27th in the league in rebounding, averaging just below 40 rebounds.
Stoudemire has reason to have a better season than expected. A lot of talk around the league has been negative about him as of late, and he may want to play with a chip on his shoulder similar to the mindset Raymond Felton entered with. “The 100 million dollar man,” as he has been called not so fondly, can shut up a lot of mouths by sacrificing scoring, improving his defense and boards, and leading the team he restored to prominence deep into the playoffs.