You would think with the accomplishments Amare Stoudemire has accumulated over the course of his ongoing 11-year career that there would be a clearer, definitive idea of the type of player he has been.
The list is extensive: Six-Time All-Star, Rookie of The Year, All-NBA first team, All-NBA second team four times, top-10 in field goal percentage five times, top-10 P.E.R. three times, top-10 true shooting percentage five times and top-10 in Win Shares three times.
Stoudemire was one of the centerpieces of a Phoenix Suns squad that made the playoffs six times in eight years, including three Western Conference Finals appearances and one Western Conference Semifinals appearance.
These are undeniable facts of productivity.
There is a statistic, one that does an excellent job showing a player’s worth to his team with the appropriate sample size, which gives a different story to Stoudemire’s career, though.
According to basketball-reference, in 22,109 minutes on the court, Stoudemire’s team’s Offensive Rating was 112.1, while the Defensive Rating was 108.4. In 18,216 minutes off the court, his team’s ORtg was 109 and DRtg 105.3. Going by those numbers, Amare’s net worth to his team’s was 0, it’s dead even, as the team was a +3.7 with him on the court, and a +3.7 with him on the court, which would equate to a net of zero.
For those who don’t know what offensive rating and defensive rating really are, they measure a team’s offensive and defensive output over 100 possessions, which creates an even statistic to compare teams with.
Here is a chart that breaks down Stoudemire’ On/Off court numbers throughout his entire career.
In 2002-03 and 2003-04, it needs to be remembered that Amare was an extremely raw 20 and 21-year-old kid, respectively, who came to the NBA directly out of high school. The fact that he was able to earn Rookie of the Year in his first year and put up 20-points and nine rebound averages in his second year is quite impressive.
After those two seasons, Steve Nash came to Phoenix, and the Suns’ window of elite status was suddenly opened. In 2004-05, the Suns were clearly a better team when Amare played. The team’s offensive ration was at such a high level with him on the court (117.8) verses him off (104.8), it completely hid the below average defense – 107.8 wit him on the court, 103.8 with him off.
Stoudemire only played 50 minutes in ‘05-‘06 and was replaced in the line-up with Boris Diaw. Despite this, Phoenix managed to get to the Western Conference Finals. Diaw’s on/off court net worth during this season was 10.2, a higher net rating than any year of Stoudemire’s career.
Between ‘06-‘07 and ‘10-‘11 Amare’s impact, positively or negatively, was minimal for four of the five seasons. In 07-08, Stoudemire had the second best net positive mark of his career, but in 09-10, a Suns team that got to the Western Conference Finals, was actually better when Stoudemire didn’t play.
Another way to put STAT’s career in Phoenix into context is to contrast his on/off court numbers to Steve Nash’s. The years to concentrate on are ‘04-‘05 through ‘09-‘10, excluding the Diaw year. This is when Phoenix had the most team success. During that time, Stoudemire’s average net worth was +2.98, while Steve Nash’s net worth was +10.98.
In addition to looking at the numbers, I want to incorporate the thoughts of someone who had seen the Suns and been around them on a regular basis. This is what Suns beat writer for the Arizona Republic, Paul Coro, who covered the team for Amare’s entire career, had to say when I posed the question, “During Stoudemire’s time with the Suns, is it conceivable that they were better when he was off the court than when he was on the court?”
Here is Coro’s answer (also, follow him on twitter, as he is one of the best beat writers in the N.B.A.)
There are damning examples that argue the Suns could not only survive, but even thrive without Stoudemire. When he missed 2005-06 after the microfracture, the Suns went to the Western Conference finals by sliding Boris Diaw, a perimeter player in Atlanta, to Stoudemire’s frontcourt spot. The Suns were an underachieving 26-21 team in 2009-10 when the 28-7 turnaround began with Alvin Gentry benching Stoudemire for an entire fourth quarter against Dallas because they needed to be better defensively. But on the whole, the Suns were better with Stoudemire on the court when his legs had their pop and the team had other strong leaders because of his unique combination of skills. He was an efficient mid-range shooter with incredible hands and the power to finish on pick-and-rolls. Those qualities brought the best out in Steve Nash. For most of their time together, that was enough to compensate for what the Suns sacrificed defensively with them.
As would be expected, the above paragraph does a great job encapsulating Stoudemire’s career with the Phoenix Suns. It was difficult to judge, as there were times that you could see they were a good team without him, but there is no denying, when completely healthy, that Stoudemire did bring positives to the table.
Next up, Stoudemire moved onto the Knicks. He was hailed as a savior and serenaded with M.V.P. chants throughout the ‘10-‘11 season. New York had a tremendous 12-1 stretch, but during STAT’s time as the focal point of the team, they were 28-26 overall.
This fact seems to get skipped over when this season gets discussed; the Knicks were nothing special with Amare as the best player on the team. According to the on/off court numbers, he was actually a negative net worth.
2011-2012 gets tossed away for me, since it was a lockout-shortened season with no training camp. Carmelo Anthony, when Stoudemire was healthy playing with him, was in the midst of playing some of the worst basketball of his career. Melo, Stoudemire and Chandler had problems meshing and it lead to some awful numbers, in part because Amare really was bad, but also in part to some unusual circumstances.
For more context surrounding Stoudemire’s career, it’s appropriate to compare him with some other power forwards from his era.
The two preeminent ones, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, have on/off numbers that clearly show their higher worth.
Garnett has a career net worth of +9.7, with impressive numbers such as a +23.6 in ‘02-‘03 and 20.8 in ‘03-’04, while Duncan’s career net is +11.8. He had a positive rating of 14.8 in ‘02-‘03 and 17.8 in ‘04-’05, two notable years in Duncan’s career, in terms of his team’s offensive/defensive rating, at least.
Clearly, Amare Stoudemire does not belong on a level with those two.
I asked Tommy Dee from TheKnicksBlog.com to give me five power forwards he would think to compare Stoudemire to. The list he came up with was Chris Webber, Chris Bosh, Kenyon Martin, Al Horford and David Lee, in no particular order.
Here are those five players’ career net +/-, when looking at on/off court numbers.
- Chris Webber: +0.9
- Al Horford: +1.5
- Kenyon Martin: +1.1
- David Lee: +3.6
- Chris Bosh: +6.1
Stoudemire has the lowest net number, compared to those five players.
Webber was the closest player to Stoudemire’s net number, which is interesting; a player, who in his peak years was apart of a team that’s biggest strength was a high efficiency offense, just like the case was with Stoudemire, finished closest to Stoudemire in net rating. Horford/Martin, were a little bit lower than Stoudemire’s peak years (’04-’05 to ’09-’10) and David Lee’s team stunk (those years were rough), which allowed him to be the knight in shining armor, but they were better when he was on the court. Chris Bosh is head and shoulders better, which I don’t think anyone would debate.
During his career, Stoudemire has often canceled out his productivity on offense by bringing his team’s defense down. We’re at the point where it is a legitimate question to whether he brings enough to the table on offense to be worthy of playing 25+ minutes a night. It’s a debate that has gone back and forth. In his first two games back, especially the second game against the Spurs, the impact he could potentially have on the second unit was seen.
In a limited sample size (eight minutes) against the San Antonio Spurs, the trio of Stoudemire, Melo and Chandler showed signs of being able to function, as they put up an offensive rating of 140 and a defensive rating of 87.5, for a net rating of… 52.5.
Just to recap, Stoudemire has racked up some amazing accolades, but year-over-year, his net offensive/defensive rating when on/off court is not in the field with guys like Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Stoudemire isn’t known as a defender, which leads his teams to rely on out-scoring the opponent. In the past, Stoudemire’s explosiveness and shot-making ability has helped his team’s offense more than his hinderance on defense has limited it, which leads to a positive net number.
With the Knicks, though, this year and moving forward, Stoudemire’s legs have aged and shot-making seems to have vanished (well, last year at least). The question now becomes whether or not Stoudemire can contribute enough on the offensive end to outweigh his defensive mishaps, or will he change as a player and play defense under coach Woodson, making up for a let-down on offense?
My guess is that at the end of the season, the impact of Stoudemire’s on/off court numbers, positively or negatively, will be minimal, just as it has been for most of ‘06-‘07 through ‘10-‘11, which should be good enough to allow the Knicks to get deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs!