How The Knicks Can Effectively Use Amar’e Stoudemire

It’s impossible to avoid the positivity regarding the potential resurgence of Amar’e Stoudemire these days as the New York Knicks get set for the 2014-2015 season.Before their fifth preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night — one in which Stoudemire got his first start of the preseason at center — studio analyst Wally Szczerbiak, filling in for Walt Frazier as MSG’s color commentator, opened up the broadcast discussing what STAT can bring to the team this year.

On October 7th, Amar’e talked about getting back to his “dominant self.” A few weeks, later, on October 20th, he upped the ante, saying, “I feel like I’m 19 again.” He’s talked about playing better defense and how much he can help the roster, and the bulk of the sporting press has gobbled up these tasty, sound bite-ready quotes, typically buttressing them with his at times still-impressive offensive box score numbers.

But it’s not just columnists needing to fill space; the idea that Amar’e is heading for a resurgent year is also coming from the organization itself. Head coach Derek Fisher has indicated (and this is a reminder that it’s not always wise to take pre- and post-game coach-speak as the gospel truth) that STAT will have a big role on the team, and president of basketball operations Phil Jackson had this to stay in a player-by-player scouting report for ESPN.com:

“One of the keys to the season will be the play of Amar’e Stoudemire. Although his tender knee will require his playing time and practice time to be carefully monitored, we hope he’ll be able to play four rotations of eight minutes per game.”

I’m no math wiz(ard), but eight times four is (checks abacus) 32, which is just way too many minutes for this year’s model of Amar’e Stoudemire, sad to say. This is his fifth and most likely final year with the team, but let’s take a gander at his on/off court numbers through the first four:

Snip20141022_12

Soooooo…yeah. That’s what we call “Slightly not good to awful.”

This next chart might be the most damaging to the idea/fantasy that Stoudemire can be an integral cog to this year’s geometric machine. He was barely even a positive during the 54 game, pre-Melo portion of the 10-11 season that has become arguably the most romanticized 28-26 stretch in Knick history.

Snip20141022_13

Yep, you read that correctly. During those 54 games the Knicks were only .1 points better with STAT playing when chants of “MVP, MVP!” were echoing through the upper levels of Madison Square Garden. (As a side note, can we please come up with a better chant? It’s tired and old, even if the receiver of said exhortation is a legit candidate. We can? Thanks.)

Anyway, the reason for this icky data isn’t because Stoudemire isn’t a talented individual offensive player; he is. it’s because he’s extremely hard to construct a quality five-man groups around his particular skill-set.

Take a look at these two man groups from last year:

Snip20141024_15

The way the Knicks are constructed they don’t have enough good defensive players to hide Amar’e especially when Anthony will be on the court for 34 to 36 minutes and the starting point guard is Jose Calderon. That’s two negative defenders you have to cover up for. Adding Stoudemire to the mix is too much bad defense to make it all work.

This is why Stoudemire can’t start and he needs to be limited to 18 to 20 minutes a night at most and truthfully that’s probably even too much. It’s a tough quandary, but here is how I would handle it. He can’t be on the court when Bargs or Hardaway Jr. are playing — that’s completely, 100% off limits if the goal is to win basketball games. Playing Stoudemire at center is a no go. We saw the destruction when he played center with Quincy Acy at power forward during the preseason game against the Bucks, and again last night against the Raptors. The evidence goes back longer than a preseason game or two. Via 82games.com:

Snip20141024_16

Since 2010-2011, lineups involving Stoudemire have been better with him at center versus power forward. In the last three years the Knicks had more success when he was playing PF. This leaves you with three choices of who to play Stoudemire with – Aldrich, Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith. I don’t see Dalembert working. He gets flashy blocks, but he’s an inconsistent, poor positional defender. He’s not going to be able to cover up for STAT’s flaws. You have to play him with either Aldrich or Smith and I learn towards more with Cole because of his rebounding.

No matter whom you play at PG between Calderon, Prigioni or Shane Larkin, you’re not getting strong defense from that position. Since we’re talking about the second unit it will most likely be Prigs and Larkin getting the run with STAT. Shumpert has to be on the court and it makes the most sense to play him with J.R. Smith. In 213 minutes Stoudemire, Shump and J.R. played together last season the Knicks were a +18.4 net rating.

A lot of the numbers here are small sample sizes, yet despite the extremes, there’s a basic logic at play that makes sense. Giving Amar’e a strong wing defender to help cut off dribble penetration and a basket protector to cover up his poor team defense is what’s needed to help minimize the damage.

So, Stoudemire’s time on the court should always Aldrich/Smith at center, STAT at PF, J.R. and Shump at the wings and Larkin or Prigs at point guard. Now, that’s a very limited scope, probably not more than 15-20 mpg. But honestly, that’s fine. There’s enough evidence to suggest that the team didn’t need a “second scorer” i.e., someone that’s not Melo in order to succeed. What they needed was a balanced lineup, and when they had one, the points somehow, someway managed to arrive. Shocker, right?

It’s all fine and good for Fisher to talk about putting an emphasis on defense, but if his rotations and lineup choices don’t reflect those words… well, then it’s just talk. Amar’e is going to be the biggest early test of Fisher’s stated credo. Because if he is playing center surrounded by equally poor defenders for long stretches, then Fish’s blather doesn’t really have much value than when Woodson said it, or every other coach in the NBA says it. Not to throw STAT under the bus/kick him to the curb, but if he is going to be a big part of what we do/a piece of the puzzle, at the end of the day, less is more.

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bgibberman

Representing all Knicks fans of Arizona. This is unfortunate for all of them. Unabashed lover of J.R. Smith.

44 thoughts to “How The Knicks Can Effectively Use Amar’e Stoudemire”

  1. Stoudemire may be worth keeping past his contract. Of course he has to be willing to take a much lower salary. Always good to have offense coming off the bench

  2. Good article. Almost any article that talks about how terrible Stoudemire is at defense starts with a leg up, but this was incrementally well done. One minor criticism. It’s very tempting to cheat by pairing a meaningless statistic with a rational sample size disclaimer, but it’s still cheating. Stoudemire, Shump and JR doing a plus 18 in 213 minutes is just not information, even if happens to conveniently fit a larger, sensible theory. Stat, JR and Tyson, to use a random illustration, went from a +16.5 in 290 minutes in 12-13 to a -6.6 last year. When you try to smuggle irrelevance into an otherwise good story, it plays into the misconception that plus-minus and lineup data are entirely worthless due to high volatility.

    Still, I think your larger point was effectively made. Unfortunately, as much as it’s obvious that Stoudemire should at a minimum be paired with Shumpert and Aldrich at all times, on this team it is sadly akin to suggesting that anyone jumping off their roof wear a helmet. We don’t even know much about what kind of a defender Cole is or will be, only that he’s surely better than the alternative. More important, the Knicks are constructed with multiple Stoudemires. TH2, Bargs, Calderon and Stoudemire may all be among the bottom 10 defenders in the entire league. JR is below average, and Melo is average at best (i.e. is not average). Our emergency center and no offense two guard are going to struggle to break the fall.

  3. Well i for one am not looking forward to the Jason Smith experiment. Might as well start Amare or beardo, they are both better, despite their flaws.
    Also, we’ve got to trade either JR or Jr. soon. We just don’t need both those chuckers.

  4. twitter is suggesting we are going to waive Travis Outlaw (and eat his $3MM contract) to keep Travis Wear on the roster. that is great.

    I think we can already see this regime is different.

  5. Any waived players we want to look at? Jordan Hamilton, Jason Kapono and James McAdoo all have to be better than some of our dreck.

  6. We’d have to dump someone. If we dump Outlaw and Wear, I guess that would free up a roster spot. I’m wondering if there is any “trade machine” reason to keep Outlaw. Phil might be thinking that injury problems for other teams might make, say, Amare or Bargnani a valuable asset pre-deadline.

    But I’d be OK with cutting Outlaw and Ware and looking for the next Jeremy Lin or Steve Novak on the waiver wire.

  7. Hey why not just trade our whole team for players whose sole purpose is to make Amare better. Seriously, what are Amare fans seeing if and when they watch Knicks games. Since Amare has arrived in NY, what is the Knicks record when Amare plays one minute or more vs. when he plays zero minutes.

  8. @9
    They probably see a player who puts up a .600 TS% on 25% usage over his last 2,000 NBA minutes. When Amare is healthy he still has an incredible talent for putting the ball in the basket.

  9. OK Stat man. So….since Amare has arrived what exactly is the Knicks record when he plays 1 MINUTE OR MORE vs NOT PLAYING AT ALL.

  10. This is hopelessly noisy, but since you asked: The Knicks are 103-106 in regular season games Stoudemire has played and 66-37 in games he has not. In the playoffs, they are 2-10 with Stoudemire and 5-4 without him.

  11. Thanks for the data ptmilo. I’m just really eager to see the Knicks play hard and compete on both ends of the court this year.

  12. twitter is suggesting we are going to waive Travis Outlaw (and eat his $3MM contract) to keep Travis Wear on the roster. that is great.

    I think we can already see this regime is different.

    Awesome. I was hoping that they’d do just that. Outlaw is just no longer an NBA player.

  13. No worries B. His individual statistics look great. Trots back on defense then loses sight of the ball and his man while he points out defensive assignments for his teammates. (Payton Manning impersonation). Has some nice moments on offense while the plus/minus takes a nose dive. Unlike previous years, Phil & Fish will not sacrifice wins for Amares ego.

  14. I think we can already see this regime is different.

    Eating contracts of unserviceable players is not exactly new to the Dolan repertoire.

    (Speaking of Dolan, I went to a concert at the Great Western Forum last night and in the entryway was a six foot tall mural of James Dolan playing the guitar. The other pictures were of Freddy Mercury, Van Halen, and Eric Clapton. So weird.)

  15. (Speaking of Dolan, I went to a concert at the Great Western Forum last night and in the entryway was a six foot tall mural of James Dolan playing the guitar. The other pictures were of Freddy Mercury, Van Halen, and Eric Clapton. So weird.)

    >>>BN

    This is just begging for an IMUS in the morning, Cardinal O’Connor “which doesn’t belong, and why?”

  16. Eating contracts of unserviceable players is not exactly new to the Dolan repertoire.

    Yeah, that’s one of the things that has always stayed true for the Knicks. Hell, we owe the Knicks’ willingness to eat salary for David Lee. They got the pick that became David Lee (as well as the pick that became Mardy Collins) by trading for the (slightly) walking carcass of Malik Rose (who was due to make $7 million a year for the next four seasons when they acquired him).

  17. ptmilo
    October 25, 2014 at 9:15 pm
    This is hopelessly noisy, but since you asked: The Knicks are 103-106 in regular season games Stoudemire has played and 66-37 in games he has not. In the playoffs, they are 2-10 with Stoudemire and 5-4 without him.

    I could be wrong, but I think you have incorrect stats. What’s your source?

  18. @Dred

    DRed
    October 25, 2014 at 11:02 am
    Nah

    Now, that the season is about to start, let’s get real.
    For all you Cole freaks, I’m pulling down the curtain. I won’t go as far as to say Cole Aldrich sucks (I’m a knicks fan), but he comes pretty damn close.
    The notion that he’s better than Amare is nothing short of absurd. Amare is a beastly scorer around the rim and has a reliable short range jumper. He’s still capable of being amongst the best scorers in the league.
    Cole has trouble putting the ball in the basket when he’s right under it. He showed up to camp about 15-20 pounds overweight, and even as he’s trimming down, is still slow and sluggish.
    Maybe it’s fun to root for Cole, but he’s an end of the bench guy. We’ll see it D. Fisher agrees.

  19. @ mtndoc

    I was being sarcastic. That’s a terrible way to evaluate an individual player. It also doesn’t take into account the huge difference in wins of the last two seasons. I’d bet his wins would lineup quite well with the season winning percentage if you broke it down year by year, at least within random chance. Amare just happened to play more the year the Knicks had bargs instead of kidd and Novak.

  20. Also, rebounding is stupid, and we have guys who “do more important things than rebound.”

    #Bargs4Eva

  21. Nice article!

    A part of me really wants to watch Calderon and Amare in the PnR and PnPop. Calderon and Nash have very similar games so who knows. Cole might clog up the middle so maybe Dalembert could provide some spacing. Calderon/Shump/JR/Amare/Dalembert.

    Our defense will put a cap on how far we’ll be able to go in the playoffs (if we make it). For that reason, I would really like Cole/Larkin/Early to get plenty of minutes. Even if Prigs is better than Larkin, I would rather Phil focus on developing Larkin (as well as Cole and Early and maybe Ware).

  22. I get it EB, Amares statistics look wonderful on paper. No disagreement. On the court, his beastly spin move and mid range jumper are heart warming and positive contributions. But maybe it’s me but I also see terrible individual / team defense, poor ball handling skillls, very little movement without the basketball. But as a knick fan I hope you’re assessment is correct and Phil and fish can utilize Amares attributes to the benefit of teams short and long term goals.

  23. According to Isiah Thomas the problem with the NBA today is teams only want to get dunks/layups, ft’s and 3pters while ignoring the mid-range game. I cant imagine why he hasnt gotten another coaching job in the NBA, although if Byron Scott can get one with his biggest emphasis being eliminating 3pters from his offense I guess Isiah could easily be hired by a team again.

  24. Isiah also probably thinks the problem with the NFL is that so many teams play the West Coast offense now, with all these quarterbacks racking up massive quarterback ratings, and nobody is doing “three yards and a cloud of dust” anymore.

  25. Hey, um “terrible” news, everybody. Former #1 overall pick and floor spacer extraordinaire Andrea Bargnani is going to miss the first week of the season with a hamstring injury. Between Bargs’ hamstring and his bum elbows, we may be seeing a lot of him on the bench in a suit.

    Bring on the “emergency center”!

  26. Larkin looks very limited to me. I’d rather cut him and bring in Barea.
    Wear had pretty good college stats. I hope he gets some burn. He’s got something like 5 inches on Acy.
    I still can’t believe “starting power forward, Jason Smith” smh. Better than Bargs I guess, but not by much.
    I guess I don’t have much positive to say. Bring on the season!

  27. JJ “one of the worst players in the NBA last season” Barea? JJ “I put up a 47 TS% last year” Barea? I’m not in love with Larkin by any stretch, but if you’re going to cut him you’d have to do it to pick up a different young player.

  28. Yeah, I don’t get the logic. Why would we want another no-d pg at a higher price tag? Besides, I think Larkin has some potential for development.

  29. I imagine Barea is definitely going back to Dallas. The interesting thing is that Dallas, then, would have to cut someone. They have some interesting players on the margins of their roster. Gal Mekel would be an interesting name. So while I think Wear is probably the best bet to take Outlaw’s roster spot, I wouldn’t mind them holding off for a little bit to see if any other interesting names become available. Mekel might have more of an upside than Wear.

  30. Klay Thompson’s camp is pissed off that the Warriors are not offering him a max extension. Well, good thing you locked that one down, Golden State!

  31. Shane Larkin just needs to go on a pilgrimage to Pablo Prigioni’s home in the Argentine highlands this summer and be his pupil. He must learn from Master Pablo if he hopes to have a long NBA and successful NBA career. I just want Shane Larkin to focus on becoming Pablo, even if it means he actually forgets he’s Shane Larkin and only answers to Pablo for a portion of his life.

  32. right now it seems as if shumpert is going to start at the 2. if amare (who i guess won’t be a starter) should be combined with aldrich, shumpert and jr where does that leave hardaway? i don’t see a likely scenario where hardaway and amare come off the bench and are not playing in the same unit.

  33. I just want to point out that the second-highest salaried player in the whole league happens to be a Knick, and he’s not even a starter.

    #justknicksthings

  34. I think we’re going to see a lot of conflict over salaries because all the players are realizing that salaries will go up a lot when the new TV contract kicks in. They don’t want to sign a low priced contract just before that happens.

  35. Now this is depressing…

    Durant’s tweet on possibility of playing for hometown Wiz: Just Wait on It

    So Knicks landing KD was a long shot but now LBJ and him in the EC? Blech future NYK.

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