Reports have started to trickle in that Amar’e Stoudemire is nearing a return around Christmas time. The beat guys have seen him working out at the practice facility and the reality of Stoudemire joining the Knicks’ nightly rotation isn’t far away… unless he suffers a setback.
Head coach Mike Woodson has said he isn’t really thinking much about Amar’e rejoining the team. I’m going to chalk that up as “coach speak”. Figuring out the rotations and how Stoudemire is going to fit in is something that needs to be thought through and planned. I highly doubt Woody isn’t planning it out and discussing with his assistants and players.
Theoretically, Amar’e should fit back into the rotation smoothly.
The Knicks are the most efficient offensive team in the NBA, according to Hollinger’s offensive efficiency stats, and rank 11th in defensive efficiency. That’s somewhat similar to efficiency rankings of the Suns in Phoenix when he was with them. That is the type of system Stoudemire should, and did, thrive in.
Too bad these types of situations don’t play out in theories because it’s not as easy as it seems.
Whether Stoudemire starts or comes off the bench, Woodson has the task of finding line-up combinations that work, as well as enough minutes to keep everyone happy.
The one obvious way for Amar’e to fit in is as the offensive anchor of the second unit. According to NBA.com, the Knicks have played approximately 46 minutes this season when both Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony aren’t on the court. Immediately plug Stoudemire into all of those line ups, coach.
The reality of the situation is for the Knicks to continue to have sustained success, Woodson needs to be able to figure out ways for Amar’e to play with Chandler, Amar’e to play with Melo and Amar’e to play with Chandler and Melo at the same time.
With each of these three players’ skill-sets, despite all the evidence that shows the opposite from last year, if employed correctly, I do think it can work.
The player who is going to need to make the biggest sacrifice when Stoudemire, Tyson and Anthony are on the court together is Amar’e. Tyson is going to be your main pick-and-roll man and Melo is going to keep doing what Melo does. If used in the right manner, Amar’e can play off of both of them.
In lineups with Felton, Kidd or J.R. Smith with the above three, I see Stoudemire playing a Ronnie Brewer-on-steroids offensive role. According to Synergy Sports, 51.8% of Brewer’s offensive plays have come in spot up situations and 22.3% on cuts.
When you look at his shot chart you see that his shots are mainly concentrated in the corners and at the rim.
Stoudemire’s shots will have a bigger variety with more on the wings, but it shouldn’t diversify too much from this.
Looking at the data from Synergy over the last five years, Stoudemire has shot approximately 66% from the field on cuts. Take away last season’s outlier of 26.5% on un-guarded catch-and-shoot opportunities, STAT has shot 48% in those situations over the same timeframe.
I do believe the Woodson and the Knicks’ organization made strategical era this summer – Amar’e in the post doesn’t really make much sense. It clogs up the middle for pick-and-rolls involving Chandler and will hurt the team’s ball movement because Stoudemire is not a great passer.
The corner three is right on the edge of the range I am comfortable with Amar’e shooting from. From 2007 to 2011, STAT shot 45.6% between 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata.com. He is right on cusp of having legitimate three point shooting from the corner. If the Knicks asked him to work on being able to shoot 35% on corner threes instead of spending time on his post game, I think it would have fit better within the context of what New York needs, in order to function offensively.
Having Amar’e fit back in isn’t going to be easy, but it also isn’t impossible. I don’t believe him coming back means the Knicks are going to start losing more games than they win. This team is too good, too deep, and too talented to not find a way to make it work.