Stoudemire’s been in a really nice groove lately, averaging 16.4 points on a healthy 70% from the field over his last five games, so you could certainly make an argument it’s time for him to get in the game even earlier.
Now for some, the argument shouldn’t go any further than not taking Anthony away from the power forward spot, but I’m not as absolutist as some on that particular bit of strategery, so here’s the rest of it.
For one, the minutes limitation sort of makes it an impossibility. If you’re going to keep him under 30 minutes a game, and you want them to have the most impact, you’re obviously going to have to save him somewhat in the first quarter, though I still don’t think that warrants giving said minutes to James White in some apparent act of kindness for flaming out in the dunk contest, or whatever the rationale for that may be. Also, it should be pointed out that given the injury history, continuing the minutes limit is a really good idea. We may not even need to go much further than that, but let’s try.
Bringing Stoudmire off the bench still gives them some flexibility as they try to figure out exactly how to play with Tyson, Melo and STAT at the same time. In the limited time they’ve played together this year, they’ve actually been impressive on the offensive end, posting an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 115.5 according to NBA.com, which is good, at least it’s a number that says this has been good. And I think that’s true.
(Honestly, my favorite thing about the advanced stats movement may be the ability to assign numbers to things. I wish I could do that in my regular life, like that chicken parm was a 107.5, though the sauce was only a 97.3, which would give the mozzarella a net rating of 10.2. All right, I just talked myself into this. This is a thing now. Although, now that I think about it, I sort of remember that Nate Silver tried to do this with burritos. Damn you Silver!)
Either way, we’ve seen a number of pretty plays featuring Amar’e and Melo working off of each other, and also a lot of nice feeds from Melo to Stoudemire along the baseline for easy dunks, so I think it’s safe to say they’ve actually functioned pretty well on that end of the floor. It’s worked much better than a season ago, which makes some intuitive sense given last season’s dysfunction at the point for so much of the year.
Defensively, it’s been something else. I actually think Stoudemire’s been a little better of late, but the combination hasn’t really gelled on the defense — am I being kind? Yes, I usually am, I’m a kind person — and it’s one of the reasons you’ve seen Woody so reluctant to play all three down the stretch of close games. Not getting stops at the end of games is frustrating to say the least.
What I also still like about Amar’e off the bench is it allows the Knicks to not have to force feed the three together. They can find a little space to play with Stoudemire as the focus of the offense, perhaps alongside a Camby or Martin, or play him at the center alongside Melo, or at power forward alongside Tyson. At some point, the three will absolutely have to figure out how to function together or this thing just really isn’t going to work, but by continuing to bring him off the bench, I think you’re able to get the benefit of Stoudemire’s offense without disrupting the apple cart too much, since the last thing any of us wants is a sub-optimal barrel of apples. I’d like them to be a 115.5.