Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are often asked if they can “play together”, with the implication being that Amar’e hasn’t been the same since the trade to bring Carmelo to the Knicks. Now Amar’e has certainly lost a step and some ‘bounce’ since the 2010-2011 season but the biggest reason for Amar’e’s issues, at the offensive end, may be the addition of Tyson Chandler and the spacing issues he creates.
First, it’s important to realize that Stoudemire’s production did not dip significantly following the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks and he continued putting up excellent numbers. In the 25 regular season games following the trade, Stoudemire averaged 23.5 points a game on 49% shooting. This would seem to show that the addition of Anthony did not significantly impact Stoudemire’s offensive game.
While 25 games is a very small sample size, insert Jeremy Lin joke, the statistics from last year show that Carmelo’s presence also did not impact Amar’e game in a significant way, besides shot attempts. That is, it would appear that Amare’s struggles weren’t due to Carmelo “crowding” or “freezing out” Amar’e.
I am of the belief that Amare’s struggles in 2010-2011 were in part due to the addition of Tyson Chandler and the fact that he clogs the paint on offense. Using the NBA’s advanced stats tool, I’ve discovered that when Chandler and Amar’e are both on the court, the effect on Amare’s game has been massive, and not in a good way.
What jumps off the page in analyzing these splits is the fact that Stoudemire’s field goal percentage jumped 12 points with Chandler off the court and in turn Stoudemire’s points per 36 minutes jumped up seven points while only taking .7 of a shot more. This increase in efficiency is further explained by the fact that Stoudemire’s free throw attempts, per 36, increased by nearly three.
Furthermore the shot location data is very telling. From every region on the court STAT’s FG% went way up with Chandler on the bench. In the restricted area, where Stoudemire takes most of his shots, his percentage increased from 62% to 71%. From mid-range he was 12% better. These two areas are crucial to Stoudemire’s offense.
Additionally the frequency at which Amar’e shoots in the restricted area rises from 43% with Chandler on the court to 50% when he is not, and the percentage if his shots in the paint but not in the restricted area falls from 18% to 12%. This would lead me to hypothesize that when Chandler is on the court Amar’e is simply less aggressive attacking the rim, but seeing that Amar’e still took the same percentage of mid-range shots I’m led to hypothesize that this is a spacing issue. When Chandler is on the court It may be that, since he is often around the basket, it proves much more difficult for Amar’e to get to the rim. Chandler clogs the paint and makes it much more difficult to attack for Stoudemire.
Another issue with the Amare-Tyson pairing is that for all of Tyson’s defensive prowess he s an incredibly limited, albeit, efficient offensive player. Chandler gets almost all his points from pick and rolls and offensive put backs. This frequently leads to Chandler replacing Amar’e as the roll man in pick and roll situations while Amar’e just floats around the perimeter. Looking at the stats Amar’e ended possessions as the roll man only 120 times last year compared to 198 in 2010-2011.
It seems apparent that the Tyson-Amare pairing comes with serious spacing issues, but I couldn’t stop here. I think there are several things the Knicks could do to improve Amar’e’s productivity (aside from wishing his jumper comes back), although expecting the same STAT from two years ago is a stretch.
1. Mike Woodson would be smart to add more quick hitting plays that create space on the floor for Amar’e to attack. I believe we saw an example of this against the Raptors in the play below.
While I’m no Sebastian Pruiti, the Knicks appear to run a 1-5 Pick and Roll with Melo and Amare both on the left side of the floor. Melo is in the corner and Amare positioned at the elbow, Ray Felton uses the pick and passes it to Amar’e who passes it to Melo then slips a screen leading to a dunk. This play is exactly the way to free up space for Amar’e to attack.
2. The Knicks would be wise to borrow from Monty Williams, who as Jared Dubin shows in his new venture at hoopchalk.com employed some nice Pick and Roll/Pop schemes with his big men, Jason Smith and Chris Kaman (as shown below). In the first video Jason Smith runs a pick and pop while Kaman cuts in like a roll man would. In the second video the Hornets run a pick and roll and pick and pop one after the other. Inventive pick and roll schemes like the ones below might go a long way to solve the spacing problem and increase Amare’s productivity.
Be sure to click over to http://hoopchalk.com/2012/10/22/the-new-orleans-hornets-and-the-roll-pop-combo/ where Dubin explains it in far more detail.
3. The last and perhaps easiest, basketball wise, but most difficult way politically would be to move Amar’e to the bench where he could run pick and rolls all day with Prigioni. Since Camby can shoot, unlike Chandler, the Knicks wouldn’t run into the same spacing problem they have now.
Hey Melo, the next time they ask you if you can play with Amar’e just respond “it’s Tyson, not me”.