It’s not a mystery: Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t good at defense.
STAT’s made his money through his ability to score the basketball rather than stopping other team from doing just that. Not until this season and Mike Woodson’s newfangled philosophy has Stoudemire even been asked to do so. Back in his Phoenix Suns and Mike D’Antoni days, Stoudemire was the team’s offensive focal point. “Get the ball to Amar’e, let him do some weird stuff under the hoop, and hope his knees hold up” was more or less the mantra.
This modus operandi — and it’s not entirely Stoudemire’s fault — is exactly why the 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward is worse for a Mike Woodson-headed New York Knicks than he is good if he returns. His defensive ineptitude and, frankly, obliviousness, put too large a toll on fellow bangers Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin and outweigh his purported offensive help.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, when Stoudemire was on the court this year, opponents’ Offensive Rating — an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions — is two points higher than when he’s off the floor — 108.5 compared to 106.5. Opponents rebound less on both sides of the floor, but induce more turnovers.
With his on/off splits, again: the Knicks turn the ball over at a 2.5 percent higher rate when Stoudemire’s on the floor than when he’s off it.
In easier terms, the Knicks are 16-13 this season — a .551 win percentage — when Stoudemire is available and logging minutes compared to 38-15, or .717, when he’s not.
The defensive numbers aren’t new, but New York’s Offensive Rating is surprisingly down when Stoudemire’s on the floor, too, albeit slight — 111.4 to 110.7.
Though undeniably a reputable scoring talent and decent rebounder when he’s healthy, Stoudemire adds another dead-end into a Knicks offense that too often finds itself stagnant and stuck. When the Knicks are at their best, PGs Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton are moving the ball fluently and finding J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler’s rock to Carmelo Anthony’s roll.
When the Knicks are at their worst, Anthony holds the ball a bit too long and Smith shoots at one of his signature 1-for-14 clips.
The argument for Stoudemire is that New York isn’t winning — they’ve lost three of their last four games. Anthony was shooting hot and New York was playing lockdown defense to start the Boston Celtics series, but now Anthony and Smith are ice-cold and the Indiana Pacers look a little too fast for the Knicks to de-up effectively.
Stoudemire offers a complementary body to bang against David West, Tyler Hansbrough, and Roy Hibbert when their size overpowers Anthony, but a spike in rebounds is the only reasonable expectation.
The Pacers are exceptionally athletic with Paul George and D.J. Augustin — perhaps too athletics for a slow, just-off-injury Stoudemire. The best chance the Knicks have is their small-ball lineup — a system Woodson told CBS New York he continues to endorse.
The answer isn’t another sinkhole who keeps the ball out of playmakers Kidd and Felton’s hands, and it seems Woodson knows that. The numbers and the Knicks’ proven small-ball success make that clear. If the Knicks continue to get outworked and beaten up athletically, though, we might soon see a drastic lineup change.
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