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Why Amar’e Matters

Posted By Howard Megdal On December 10, 2012 @ 10:18 am In Roster construction | Comments Disabled

I’ve been perplexed by the number of people either worried that Amar’e Stoudemire will struggle to fit into this New York Knicks roster, or stranger still, that he might ruin the team’s 15-5 start somehow.
It’s tortured logic, requiring a direct comparison between last season’s team and this one that ignores all other changes other than the presence/absence of Stoudemire. It’s the same reason why the idea that the Knicks are magically better with Raymond Felton than Jeremy Lin means ignoring, for instance, the presence of Jason Kidd next to only Felton, or a more efficient Anthony playing at both ends, etc.
This is a different Knicks team. And not only would almost any team improve by having an offensive player with Stoudemire’s skills, this particularly Knicks team has needs that require a presence like Stoudemire to maximize what it can do.
Consider what we saw this past weekend. Without Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks had exactly no one who creates offense alone. No, Felton taking 30 shots does not count as creating offense, not when so many of them were essentially bailing out of a possession with a contested jumper. That’s not his fault, really: there weren’t any viable options without Anthony.
This problem isn’t as glaring when Anthony is around. After all, he plays 35 minutes per game. But that still leaves a vast portion of the game with the Knicks in need of another offensive focal point, not to mention all the times when Anthony faces foul trouble, or injury, or just needs more rest to stay fresh for the playoffs.
That’s plenty of opportunity right there.
Then there’s the fact that Rasheed Wallace has been getting plenty of high-usage minutes at the power forward spot. He’s usually been getting them with Anthony out. And he’s not shooting particularly well, certainly well under what Stoudemire managed throughout his career.
When Wallace is around, Stoudemire still provides a vastly better offensive option. And let’s not forget, Wallace is two years removed from his last NBA season. Injuries (like the left foot injury that kept him out against the Nuggets) and fatigue will play a part here, too; it is distinctly possible that his performance will decline from this sub-40 percent shooting point.
Now there’s a different point to the Stoudemire questions, and good ones, in my opinion: whether the Knicks will give back much of their offensive improvement this season by pushing Stoudemire into the starting lineup, and Anthony back to small forward. That is justified, and a concern.
But even this feels overblown, at least in terms of certainty. Simply, Anthony and Stoudemire have never spent time co-existing with a stable point guard and system for any length of time. Figuring out a way to get the two of them complementing each other for about 10-15 minutes per game is far from impossible. It might not be ideal, especially at first; but having two elite offensive talents on the floor at the same time doesn’t automatically benefit the defense, you know.
Seeing Stoudemire move closer to a return while the Knicks struggle for offense, especially with Anthony off the floor, ought to be cause for celebration. That some fans are anticipating it with dread has more to do with the dysfunction of the past few seasons than the legitimate needs of this far more promising one.

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