- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Usually, if you're the highest-paid player on an NBA team, your role is pretty well-defined.
Leader. Top option on offense. Go-to guy in the closing minutes of a tight game.
But that isn't the case with Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire.
Due to factors largely outside of his control (knee injuries, the Knicks' acquisition of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler), Stoudemire's role with the team has been in flux for much of his tenure in New York.
This year is no different. Stoudemire will be on a minutes limit to protect his knees. He likely will play no more than 20 minutes a night. It's unclear, at this point, how the Knicks' coaching staff will use Stoudemire.
Below, we take a look at three different scenarios for Amar'e. Which do you think would work best?
START HIM: Stoudemire last started on a consistent basis in 2011-12. If the Knicks insert him into the starting lineup this season, they'd have to find a way to make the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing work for extended minutes. Carmelo and Amar'e have shown that they can work well together for short stretches. They did so last year when Stoudemire was coming off the bench. When Anthony had the ball in his hands, he was adept at finding Stoudemire cutting through holes in the opponent's front line.
But another issue with starting Stoudemire is this: It robs him of the opportunity to run the pick-and-roll.
Chandler is the Knicks' primary screener in the pick-and-roll. It's difficult to use Stoudemire as the screener on the pick-and-roll when Chandler is on the floor because Chandler is not a great threat from the perimeter. So his defender can sag toward the rim and help take away easy scoring opportunities for the roller.
BRING HIM OFF THE BENCH: To me, this option makes the most sense. Stoudemire had some strong games as a reserve last season before he suffered his second knee injury in early March. He had some success in the post against the opponent's second unit, taking advantage of matchups against weaker post defenders. It's easy to forget now, but Stoudemire scored 14.3 points per game on 57 percent shooting in 29 games before he got hurt. Per 36 minutes, that translates to 21.8 points per game, solid numbers for a reserve. If he can find that form again this season, Stoudemire will be a weapon for the Knicks.
Here's another factor to consider: If Mike Woodson brings Stoudemire off the bench, it'll allow Amar'e to stay on the floor for longer stretches. If Woodson starts Amar'e, he'll have to pull him quickly to keep him eligible to play in the second half.
And, of course, Woodson has to take Stoudemire's defense into account. If he's defending the opponent's second-unit big man, maybe it's easier to hide his defensive lapses?
OUT OF THE ROTATION: Finding minutes for Stoudemire off of the bench, though, could be a challenge for Woodson and his staff. With Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin on the roster, there is a bit of a logjam at forward.
If Woodson elects to start a two-point guard lineup with Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni in the backcourt, that would leave Stoudemire, World Peace, Bargnani and Martin on the bench. You'd have to think one player out of those four would be left out of the regular rotation. One factor to consider: pairing Bargnani and Stoudemire on the floor together would leave the Knicks' frontcourt undermanned on defense, something Woodson has to factor in when trying to find minutes for Amar'e.
I don't see this happening, but Woodson may look at Martin, World Peace and Bargnani and decide that he just doesn't have the minutes for Stoudemire.
QUESTION: If you were Woodson, how would you use Stoudemire this season?
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3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann