Monday, October 29, 2012
10/29/2012 07:00:00 AM | Posted by Quentin Haynes | Edit Post
Last season was a nightmare for the New York Knicks. First, the Knicks underachieved finishing with the 7th seed in the East. That wasn't the worst part. The Knicks were plagued by the injury bug. In the shorten season Carmelo Anthony missed 11 games and Amar'e Stoudemire missed 19 games. Even Jeremy Lin missed the majority of the second half the season. What was the result of these injuries? Bill Walker (8 starts), Toney Douglas (9 starts), and Baron Davis (14 starts) all saw big minutes. The roulette in the backcourt, combined with a terrible start to the season, forced the Knicks to play catchup. They were knocked out in round one of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
This offseason the Knicks went under a philosophical change. With a new head coach in town, Mike Woodson, the Knicks went heavy on defensive talents in free agency. The Knicks added a ton of depth in the post, and upgraded the point guard position from Lin, Davis, and Douglas to Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks made an effort to improve the defensive side of the ball, and because of this, they will be going into the 2012-2013 season with a very questionable offense. An offense that will be run by Raymond Felton. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will be asked to lead the charge.
While many formed their own opinions on Carmelo Anthony (overrated/underrated depending on who you're talking to), the opinion of Amar'e Stoudemire has been tough to form. He's a stud on offense when working pick and roll, but boy is he terrible on the offensive end. In his first season in New York, with the green light to run amuck, Stoudemire averaged 25.3 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, and claimed a spot on the All-NBA second team. How was his second season in New York? Tough. Stoudemire dealt with injuries (that damn knee) and family issues that pushed his return from injury back some more. Issues gelling with Carmelo Anthony on the offensive end caused New York to struggle offensively. In the end, Stoudemire's numbers took a slight dip to 17.5 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Now entering his third season with New York, here's what we know going into this upcoming season: The Knicks thrived last season with Carmelo Anthony at his best. What's best for New York is to play Anthony big minutes at the power forward position. The Knicks have shown in the preseason that when Anthony is off the court, they struggle to get easy baskets. The Knicks do not have their amnesty clause to potentially use on Stoudemire, as it was used on Chauncy Billups to create cap space for the defensive savior, Tyson Chandler, last season. Amar'e Stoudemire has three years on his contract, worth an estimated 64 million dollars. Amar'e Stoudemire will miss the first two to three weeks with a ruptured cyst in his knee.
Since Stoudemire will be out the first couple of weeks with that injured knee, the Knicks will turn to Anthony at power forward, where he thrived in the last 20 games of the season. Thanks to 82games.com, we can take a look at how good Anthony was at the four:
With Carmelo Anthony at power forward, his PER jumped from 17.4 to an astounding 29.5. His opponent's PER, field goal percentage, and their rebounding totals all went up slightly, and his PER48 production also increased. The biggest stat to pay attention to is his player floor time stats by position. At small forward, where Anthony played 53% of the time, the Knicks had an average record, and the difference between offensive and defensive rating was minuscule. Once Anthony moved to power forward, the Knicks exploded on offense, jumping from 96.5 to 103.2, and the defense numbers took a step down from 96.0 to 94.9. While I understand Anthony's displeasure of playing power forward for most of his time on the court, the Knicks should carve out a large amount of power forward playing time for Carmelo Anthony.
The problem? It's a simple guess...
It's Amar'e Stoudemire. The 100 million dollar man. The first man to start this Knicks rebirth. After Amar'e committed to New York in the summer of 2010, leading the charge for an upstart Knicks team (Miss you, Gallinari!), grabbing the title of "leader" by the horns, making a large defensive commitment (underrated feat Amar'e did. The Knicks used to run Felton-Fields-Gallinari-Chandler-Amar'e), leading the team in scoring, becoming the first Knicks all-star since Patrick Ewing, and becoming the first All-NBA selection since Ewing, coming off the bench was probably one of the last things on his mind. In fact, I'm sure Stoudemire never even pondered for a single second about coming off the bench. Now, the Knicks need to reconsider if the having Amar'e in the starting rotation is the best thing for the team moving forward.
After much success in the past decade, I can understand Amar'e's hesitation to sit on the bench. Again, Stoudemire led the league in scoring in the second half of the 2009-2010 season, and then went on to average 25-8 in his first season in New York, so moving him from the starting lineup, to the bench will be a tough sell. Stoudemire will decline the move to the bench, mainly because of the idea of a decline in playing time. However, I don't think the numbers will truly reflect much of a drop. Last season, Stoudemire averaged 32.8 minutes per game, and the season prior, Stoudemire averaged 36.8 minutes per game. Here's what six of the top seven men averaged last season(thanks to basketball-reference.com of course):
The fear of minutes declining for Stoudemire would indeed become a reality, but not as much as one would think. The Knicks could in theory, take Stoudemire from the starting lineup, and move him into a sixth man role for 29.6 minutes per game. The starting lineup would switch to a small, but effective defensive lineup of Felton-Brewer-Novak-Anthony-Chandler. The second unit would be spearheaded by Stoudemire. Of the six men listed above, only one didn't receive double-digit shot attempts. Stoudemire could command between 11-15 shots per game, and that would be keeping him as a main fixture in the Knicks offensive plans. Joining him off the bench is Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith. The Knicks have a plethora of options in the front-court options (Camby, Wallace, Thomas) to flank next to Amar'e in the front court.
Outside of Amar'e moving for offensive support in the second unit, the Knicks need to consider this move because the front-court simply doesn't fit. It's not the Carmelo-Amar'e dynamic, but the Amar'e-Chandler tandem. You would think the Chandler-Stoudemire dynamic would mesh, a scoring power forward who stuggles on defensive, but has the ability to shoot a bit and do work in the pick and roll, gets flanked by the same man who block shots, doesn't command much on the offensive end, and helped change the culture in Dallas the season prior. In the short season, the numbers proved that not only do they not mesh together but they should probably never play together for long stretches at a time. Check out Stoudemire's numbers with Tyson Chandler on the court (these numbers come from nba.com/stats):
As you can see, Stoudemire's numbers took a small decline in the scoring department, as well as a full attempt drop in the free throw department. Now let's see how Stoudemire did with Chandler on the bench:
Before you ponder whether or not 542 minutes is a small sample size: it's not. It's actually the equivalent of 17 games. Would Stoudemire be averaging 23.7 points off the bench? Nope, but it supports the "Amar'e should move to the bench" crowd. Stoudemire's numbers jumped from 44% shooting to 56%. His three-point shooting percentage jumped from 14% to 43% (probably an anomaly), but more importantly, Stoudemire got close to three more free throw attempts per game, and his rebounding numbers went up as well. As crazy as this sounds, the Knicks should not only resist playing Carmelo and Amar'e, but Amar'e and Chandler as well.
The Knicks have two or three weeks before Amar'e comes back, but the season starts in five days. In the Knicks first two week of games they play against eight projected playoff teams (including division rivals Brooklyn and Philadelphia twice). The Knicks will either find themselves staying afloat, or slowly sinking. Once Amar'e returns, the Knicks have a move to make, and hopefully, they'll make the right one. The move should be crafting a Carmelo Anthony starting lineup with Stoudemire coming off the bench in the second unit. No one said the Knicks couldn't play the Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler at spurts. Heck, the Knicks could play that lineup in the last four minutes of the game (With Felton-Brewer of course), but for now, the numbers are staggeringly against this current starting lineup, and something needs to be changed.
Hopefully, Amare takes the adjusted role for the betterment of the team.