Blueprint for Amar'e Stoudemire to Thrive Again with NY Knicks
Amar'e Stoudemire is possibly the only player in the NBA who can simultaneously be called "overpaid" and "underrated." If he follows this blueprint, he'll show the whole league that he still has some dominant basketball left in the tank.
The days of STAT being worth his hefty price tag are over, but we shouldn't let that blind us from the fact that he's still one of the league's premier and efficient offensive power forwards.
It has been a struggle for Stoudemire. Both his health and how he fits with the team have come into question over the past two seasons, but by following the five steps listed in these slides, it won't be long before he's thriving again in Blue and Orange.
Stick to a Strict Minutes Limit
While STAT can still score at a high rate when he's on the court, it's clear to all that his body simple can't handle the grind of a full season spent playing starter's minutes.
In 2012-13, the Knicks experimented with limiting Stoudemire to 30 minutes per game, but with injuries affecting the rest of the frontcourt, they started to deviate from their plan towards the end of March, leading to Stoudemire's second knee injury of the season.
It's no coincidence that he was injured almost immediately after he topped the 30-minute mark for the first time in two games last season. New York would be wise to take that as a warning moving forward. The Knicks have to keep him on a stricter limit.
According to the NY Post, the Knicks are planning to keep him on a 20-minute limit this season, especially with the addition of Andrea Bargnani giving them more than enough depth at power forward. They also plan on keeping Stoudemire out on the second night of back-to-back games.
Although it was no fault of his own, the Knicks actually had a better record without Stoudemire last season, proving that they can survive without him playing major minutes in the regular season.
Where they'll really need him is against more physical opponents like the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, who they'll likely face in the playoffs. If he can go into the 2014 postseason refreshed and ready to go, Stoudemire's presence could fix the Knicks' offense after a disappointing showing in last season's second round of the postseason.
Embrace Lowered Expectations
Mainly because of his contract, Stoudemire seems to have a reputation around the league as a player who is completely past his best days, but that was clearly not true in the 29 games we saw him in 2012-13.
While Stoudemire averaged only 14.2 points for his lowest mark since his rookie season, his per 36 minutes stats were still at an All-Star level. He averaged 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, numbers which were superior to Eastern Conference forwards Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Paul George.
On top of that, Stoudemire also managed to shoot a career-high 58 percent from the field and posted an impressive 22.1 PER, which was just about in line with his career average.
Still, many chose instead to focus on the Knicks' sub-par 16-13 record with Stoudemire in the lineup, ignoring the fact that the real reason they were struggling was due to injuries to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
What that has done, however, is let Stoudemire's efficient play fall under the radar, which will put him in position to really surprise people in 2013-14 if he can keep his level of production up for closer to a full season.
Focus on Fixing Defensive Issues
For his entire career, the biggest knock on Stoudemire's game has been his severe struggles on the defensive end. That will have to change if he's to stay on the court for a team that really needs to improve its defense as a whole.
In January, STAT claimed that he'd never been taught how to play defense, according to via Newsday, but that won't be an excuse after his first full training camp with coach Mike Woodson.
Woodson has worked wonders with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith over the past two seasons, so it won't be a surprise to see Stoudemire turn into at least an average player on that end of the floor. All that it will require is focus and commitment from Stoudemire.
We already know Stoudemire can be an effective shot-blocker, but if he's to play at center off the bench, he'll need to improve his positioning and awareness significantly.
There's no shortage of defensive-minded players on the Knicks who he can learn from. Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Metta World Peace have been three of the league's better defenders over the past decade. Combined with the coaching of Woody, that should be enough for Stoudemire to turn things around.
Build a Strong Partnership with Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih
When Raymond Felton returned to New York last summer, many thought we'd see him and Stoudemire recreate their partnership from the 2010-11 season, but with one starting and the other coming off the bench, it wasn't to be.
Admittedly, it would be nice to see Felton and Stoudemire working together again, but STAT is much better suited to playing off the bench, where he has two perfectly capable pick-and-roll partners in Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih.
Both point guards are good shooters, but Prigioni struggles to find open looks or penetrate without the help of a solid screen, which Stoudemire is known for providing. In turn, as we saw in 2011-12, Stoudemire also struggles without the help of a quality point guard, so they'll need to help each other out.
Combined with J.R. Smith's scoring, a good pick-and-roll partnership will make New York's bench the most dangerous offensive second unit in the NBA with two genuine Sixth Man of the Year candidates and a lot of talent.
Keep Up the Good Work on Offense
Though some may want to blame Stoudemire for the team's 16-13 record with him in the lineup, there was very little wrong with the way that he played on offense.
Stoudemire's shot selection and ability to score in a variety of ways was a huge boost off the bench and something the Knicks could have used had he been healthy in the postseason.
To keep being productive, all that Stoudemire really needs to do is make full use of his offensive repertoire, with his mix of post moves, mid-range jumpers and scoring off the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni and new addition, Beno Udrih.
New York's offense became way too predictable at times last season, but Stoudemire adds another dimension, especially when his jump shot is in rhythm. Over the course of this season, it should start to come into focus just how big a difference he can make.
With J.R. Smith sidelined to start the season, Stoudemire will be relied on to carry the second unit, offensively, as the go-to scorer. The rest of the Knicks will have to take advantage of any double-teams that Stoudemire attracts or space he creates in the pick-and-roll.
Stoudemire has been a fantastic scorer his entire career, and nothing has really changed from that perspective. As long as he's healthy, he can still cause a lot of trouble.