Opening Tip: Should STAT start?

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
6:00
AM ET
Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: If you were interim coach Mike Woodson, would you start Amare Stoudemire or have him come off the bench?


Jared Zwerling says you have to start Stoudemire. Ian Begley says you have to bring him off the bench. Here are their arguments:

BEGLEY: OFF THE BENCH

If you look at Amare Stoudemire's resume and his contract, the idea of bringing him off the bench sounds ludicrous.

But the Knicks, as currently constituted, would be better off with Stoudemire in the second unit.

The reasons are two-fold: bringing Stoudemire off the bench keeps him from sharing the floor with Carmelo Anthony -- which, based on the duo's first 77 games together, would seem to benefit both of them.

It would also give the Knicks a boost in the second unit.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think Stoudemire is extremely important for the Knicks' success. I think the Knicks need him more than they need Jeremy Lin right now because he gives them a legitimate scoring threat. If the Knicks are lucky, Stoudemire can give them that secondary threat while sharing the floor with Anhtony. There's a chance that they could figure it out and play well off of one another.

But the numbers indicate that it's unlikely.

Anthony's averaging 20 points per game with Stoudemire on the court and 27 points per game with him on the bench (some of that is due to Anthony's recent run with Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin out.

Last season, when both guys were healthy, Anthony scored 9.6 fewer points per 36 minutes with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire scored 10.8 fewer points when Anthony was on the floor.

That evidence is tough to ignore. The safer play, from a basketball standpoint, is to bring Stoudemire off the bench.


ZWERLING: START HIM UP

Since Carmelo Anthony has gone off since March 26, averaging exactly 30 points per game entering Tuesday, there are those who are concerned that by adding Amare Stoudemire to the starting lineup will disrupt what Melo's been doing.

But Mike Woodson has made it clear that STAT will not come off the bench, and that his immediate role will not cause any disruptions.

"We just want him to get healthy," the coach said. "I don't think there will be adjustments. I am pretty sure he will fit right in. Our biggest thing is for him to get healthy. We will need him down the stretch."

I, for one, believe Woodson is making the right decision. While the stats indicate Anthony and Stoudemire score more when the other is sitting, together they'll benefit the entire offense by putting more pressure on the defense to start games. There's not enough of that consistently right now. Eventually, more double teams (on Anthony and Stoudemire) will lead to better spacing, which will lead to more open shots. Jumping out on leads is always important, and the Knicks will have a better shot at doing that with both them on the court right away.

Stoudemire will not get in the way of what Anthony has been doing. He's a guy who will sacrifice touches for the greater good of the team. In fact, if Anthony passes like he did Tuesday night against the Celtics (10 assists), then Stoudemire will love playing with him. He'll find an ocean of room to shoot his patented midrange jumpshot. Of course, both will have to sacrifice a little for their playing relationship to work, but they've already done that -- and it worked.

From the time Mike Woodson first took over the team on March 14, to the last game Stoudemire played on March 24 before going down with a bulging disk, the Knicks went 6-1. And that was with Anthony and Stoudemire in the starting lineup together, which resulted in standout team production usually surpassing 100 points.

The biggest challenge then offensively was that Anthony wasn't as healthy as Stoudemire. Melo was still dealing with a right wrist injury. Now that he's 100 percent and Stoudemire should be fine when he returns this Friday or Sunday, that will make their combined offense and defense even better, and, as a result, benefit the entire team.

You've heard what we have to say. What do you think? Should Stoudemire start or come off the bench?

Let us know in the comments section below.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
23.7 3.2 0.9 36.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsA. Stoude... 7.4
AssistsJ. Calderon 4.2
StealsP. Prigioni 1.4
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2