Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
NBA superstars, as talented as they are, aren’t incredibly adept at adapting. Put someone who has gotten used to dominating the game in the same way for many years in a different situation and growing pains are guaranteed. As a prime example, consider what happened for the first few months of this season when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire had trouble adjusting to playing with each other. Both players operate most effectively atop the elbows and in the pinch post and neither is an invested defender, creating spacing and defensive issues that almost cost them a playoff spot had it not been for Jeremy Lin‘s emergence that bought New York the insurance they are now using to clinch the eighth seed.
While the Knicks appear to saved their post-season with that run, Mike D’Antoni wasn’t so lucky. That said, it’s undeniable New York’s demeanor has changed for the better since Mike Woodson took over the head coaching gig. There are two primary reasons for that: 1) Woodson has diminished the amount of pick-and-roll basketball that the Knicks run and has brought back the ISO-Joe offense from his days as the Hawks’ coach, which plays directly into Melo’s strengths as an offensive player; 2) Amare has missed considerable time with a back injury, giving Melo free reign over the basketball, which has led to the best stretch of basketball in Anthony’s career.
It’s no coincidence that Carmelo has started playing better since New York started running the offense that he was comfortable with in Denver. Instead of trying to adjust to the point forward role, Melo is back in familiar territory, and it looks like he’ll be headed to the post-season for the ninth time in his nine year career.
The only dilemma looming for the Knicks? The re-adjustment period that will come with Stoudemire’s return to the line-up – he’s expected to be back this Friday. The solution to the problem that will undoubtedly present itself? Make Amare the sixth man.
Hit the jump for the rest of Mark’s piece…
Adjusting to sharing the floor with Carmelo for the majority of a game is much tougher than adjusting to the role of a sixth man. The ego may take a hit, especially for someone currently playing out a $100 million contract, but ask Manu Ginobili or Lamar Odom how much they cared about starting when they were helping their teams win titles as key reserves. As the sixth man, Amare could help himself and Carmelo at the same time. Having a bench with a scorer capable of leading an offensive unit by himself takes some of the scoring load Carmelo currently occupies while buying him an extra minute or two of rest and playing with a group of players that feed off of him better than Anthony does allows Stoudemire to maximize his abilities.
Thanks to NBA.com’s StatsCube we can take a look at how Carmelo and Amare perform when they are on the floor together and when they are on the floor without one another.
|Amare On Court||36||913||20.1||18.1||41%||3.8||29%||5.6||6||4.3||-1.2|
|Amare Off Court||52||864||27.7||21.1||45%||4.0||37%||8.8||7.3||3.4||6.0|
As you can see, Carmelo is a +6 per 36 minutes when Amare is not on the floor with him compared to a -1.2 when Amare is on the floor with him. As you would expect, Carmelo is much more aggressive without Stoudemire on the floor with him, as evident by his increase in points, field goal attempts and, most importantly, free throw attempts per 36 minutes with Amare on the bench.
|Carmelo On Court||36||913||18.2||14.2||49%||0.5||17%||5.6||8.4||1.1||-1.2|
|Carmelo Off Court||41||516||20.5||17.1||47%||0.6||33%||5.4||9.1||1.3||-1.2|
For the most part, Amare’s stats stay the same regardless of his floormates – the Knicks as a team score six more points per 100 possessions when Stoudemire is on the bench – but seeing as he had a negative impact on Carmelo specifically, it’s clear that having the two on the floor together is a frivolous waste of talent.
The New York Jets head into their 2012-13 season with ideas of using their two offensive captains (Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow) together but at separate times in order to give the defense different looks and to capitalize on the individual talents of their two quarterbacks. While having two QBs in the NFL can be counterproductive, having two QB-like offensive players (read: players capable of carrying the plurality of the offensive load while they are on the floor) in basketball can be very useful, particularly when they alternate playing intervals, forcing the defense to play against a different style every few minutes. Bringing Amare off the bench makes even more sense if Jeremy Lin is healthy enough to return for the playoffs, as the two acted as a very good pick-and-roll pair in their 592 minutes on the floor together this season.
The Knicks will end up playing Carmelo and Amare in crunchtime regardless of who starts the game, so there will still be times when their skillsets butt heads – that’s one of the side effects of a chain of poor roster moves New York made to assemble their current cast. That being said, Mike Woodson can significantly decrease the amount of time that their games are clashing during the first 40 minutes of the game by putting them in separate line-ups with other players whose complimentary skills better allow these stars to flourish. Adjusting one’s game is an incredibly difficult task, especially for an NBA superstar, so instead of forcing Anthony and Stoudemire to work it out on the floor, they should be allowed to act in their comfort zones, even if it means putting Amare on the bench.