We are now 12 games into Amar’e Stoudemire’s 2012-13 season. With each passing game, there’s more reason to be optimistic about what he can give the Knicks over the final half of the year. But let’s start with what he’s done, collectively, in these 12 games.
So far, Amar’e is shooting 52.1 percent from the field. That’s a better number than he put up last year (48.7 percent), which shouldn’t come as any great surprise. But it is also better than the 50.5 percent he shot in 2010-11.
Now, to a certain extent, that makes sense: Stoudemire was the focal point of opposing defenses for much of the 2010-11 season. He’s putting up these numbers against the opposition’s second unit, much of the time. But he doesn’t need to be 2010-11 Stoudemire for these Knicks; he needs to be an effective offensive weapon off the bench, and clearly he is.
Something that warms my heart is not just his accuracy, but that he’s doing so with a usage rate of 24.1 percent, a bit below career norms of 26.7, but still quite voluminous. Also, brought down by his first few games; in last five games, he’s been at 27.2 percent usage.
This means precisely what the Knicks were hoping Stoudemire to be, he is: the Amar’e of old, playing as the offensive focal point of the second unit. Oh, and here’s something: Stoudemire was essentially doing this without any pick-and-roll. Those opportunities, which will be more plentiful with an actual point guard back for the Knicks, aren’t going to drive his field goal percentage, or usage, down any.
And there’s another development over the past five games that makes Stoudemire a more important member of the Knicks: his rebounding. In his first seven games back, his rebound percentage was 7.7 percent, roughly half his career rate of 14.4 percent, and just terrible for a power forward/center. Over the last five, it is up to a robust 15.7 percent.
Realistically, he’s still going to need to play more center until Rasheed Wallace/Marcus Camby return to health. (If neither can, the Knicks need a backup for Tyson Chandler by the trading deadline, by the way, but that’s a different question.)
But Stoudemire’s return to the rates of his better recent seasons bode quite well for him, and for the Knicks. And I further applaud Mike Woodson for seeing Stoudemire’s great work in his bench role as something to embrace, not as a reason to thrust him into the starting lineup and move Carmelo Anthony out of position. I’m not in love with every one of Woodson’s decisions (how Iman Shumpert wasn’t deployed on George Teague last night, I’ll never understand), but this is a good one.