TrueHoop: Amare Stoudemire
After five years of using the SCHOENE projection system to predict the upcoming NBA season, I have a pretty good sense of where SCHOENE will differ from conventional wisdom. Still, sometimes the results surprise even me. Such was the case when I saw the initial version of the Knicks projection featured in today's Insider team forecast: 37 wins. Tom Haberstroh did a good job of explaining New York's potential pitfalls in the forecast, but I wanted to take a closer look at some of the statistical factors causing SCHOENE to project such a steep decline.
1. 3-Point Outage
As Tom noted, no team in NBA history has been more dependent on the 3-pointer than last year's Knicks, who made a league-high 891 triples. Over the summer, New York lost its two most accurate 3-point shooters (Steve Novak, 42.5 percent; and Chris Copeland, 42.1 percent) as well as Jason Kidd, who made 114 3s. The newcomers replacing them (Andrea Bargnani, 30.9 percent; Beno Udrih, 33.3 percent; and Metta World Peace, 34.2 percent) combined to make 33.4 percent of their 3s, a rate worse than league average.
Add in regression from the Knicks' holdovers and SCHOENE projects them to make nearly 200 fewer 3-pointers this season. Take away those triples and New York's offense could look a lot more like the 2011-12 incarnation, which finished 19th in the league in offensive rating.
2. Fewer Looks, Makes for Melo
Because the Knicks lost two of their lowest-usage players, Kidd (responsible for 11.7 percent of the team's plays) and Novak (13.1 percent), SCHOENE projects Carmelo Anthony's league-high 35.6 percent usage rate to decline all the way to 30.2 percent. Yet Anthony is also projected to be less efficient because SCHOENE factors in his down 2011-12 season.
As a result, SCHOENE estimates just a 16 percent chance of Anthony playing as well as last season or better. If his improvement last season was a real effect of the improved spacing around him -- and New York can replicate that without its best shooters -- Anthony could easily outperform his projection.
3. The Effects of Age
Anthony isn't the only Knicks player with a pessimistic SCHOENE projection. In fact, of New York's likely rotation, only J.R. Smith saw similar players improve at the same age. Players similar to Amar'e Stoudemire declined by 6.1 percent the following season, while players similar to Tyson Chandler saw a 5.4 percent decline.
Chandler might be the most important factor. If the Knicks are going to score more like they did in 2011-12, they'll have to defend like they did in Mike Woodson's first half-season at the helm, when they finished fifth in defensive rating and Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year honors. If he suffers through another season where injuries limit his productivity, that will be difficult if not impossible.
Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony has played just as well for the Knicks as he did for the Nuggets
Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver
On Wednesday night, Carmelo Anthony makes his first appearance in Denver since being traded to the New York Knicks in a three-team, 13-player blockbuster on February 21, 2011. Anthony is third on the Denver Nuggets all-time scoring list with 13,970 points and is top-10 in a plethora of other categories for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets have visited Madison Square Garden twice since the trade and have split with the Knicks with Anthony averaging 29.5 points on 37 percent shooting.
Impact of the trade
Including the playoffs, the Nuggets have won 14 more games than the Knicks since Anthony’s departure. However, neither team has advanced past the first round in their conference.
Both teams have improved overall since making the trade. Each have been playoff teams and are playing their best basketball this season since the trade.
Diving deeper into the advanced stats, on a per possession basis, both teams have played similarly efficient defense since the trade, each ranking in the middle third of the league.
On offense, each team has ranked in the top third of the NBA, but the Nuggets have been better; their effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the added value of a 3-pointer) beats New York’s 51.9 to 50.1.
Despite similar efficiencies, the two offenses couldn’t be more disparate. The Nuggets lead the NBA in points per game in the paint (57.7) and on the fast break (19.8). The Knicks on the other hand, score an NBA-low 33.5 points per game in the paint and just 8.9 per game on the fast break, second-fewest in the league.
The Nuggets thrive by moving the ball and have averaged an NBA-best 24.2 assists per game since the trade. With 20.0 assists per game, the Knicks have ranked in the bottom five in the league, favoring a more isolation-heavy offense.
Same old Melo
Despite having one his best scoring seasons in years, Anthony has essentially been the same player in New York as he was in Denver in terms of efficiency and usage percentage overall.
Not so dynamic duo
One of the biggest reasons Anthony wanted to come to New York was to play with Amar’e Stoudemire. They have only been able to play 97 of the Knicks 167 games together including the playoffs. Their record when playing together is 46-51.
Nuggets trending up
The glaring difference between the two franchises is age. The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of 32.4 while the Nuggets are the fourth youngest team in the NBA at 25.3 years.
The two teams have been going in opposite directions since the New Year. The Nuggets have the second best record in the NBA at 26-7 while the Knicks have gone 17-14. The Nuggets are 19-2 at home and the Knicks are 7-6 on the road.
William Cohen contributed to this article.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJason Kidd and the Knicks are scratching their heads after losing four of their last five games.
Since then, the Knicks have gone 3-5 and lost four of their last five games. They have dropped to third place in the East, trailing the Pacers by one game and the Heat by seven games.
So what has gone wrong in the Big Apple?
For starters, the Knicks’ offense has been less efficient. It was averaging 109.0 points per 100 possessions through the first 45 games this season, but, since then, is scoring just 104.2 points per 100 possessions.
One reason why the Knicks’ offense has struggled is that they aren’t scoring as efficiently on catch-and-shoot opportunities. During their first 45 games, the Knicks ran catch-and-shoot plays 33 percent the time on offense and scored 1.14 points per play. Since then, the Knicks are spending about the same amount of time in this play type, but scoring only 0.94 points per play.
The drop in production could be due to the fact that teams are guarding the Knicks in this play type more often. The Knicks were unguarded on catch-and-shoot plays 62 percent of the time in their first 45 games but have been unguarded only 57 percent of the time since.
LIVE BY THE THREE…
No team relies on the three-ball more than the Knicks, and it has not been falling like it used to. They lead the league in percentage of points from three-point field goals this season at 32.5 percent. However, over the last eight games, that percentage has dropped about five percentage points.
The breaking point has been 35 percent. On the season, the Knicks are 27-7 when they shoot 35 percent or higher from three-point range as a team, compared to 6-13 when they shoot below 35 percent.
No player represents their struggles more than veteran point guard Jason Kidd. Through February 2, Kidd shot 40.4 percent from three-point range. That percentage has plummeted over the last eight games, as he is shooting just 15.2 percent during that span.
Though Amar'e Stoudemire has looked increasingly effective on the offensive end since returning from his knee injury, he has hurt the Knicks defensively. Over the last eight games, the Knicks have allowed 115.8 points per 100 possessions with Stoudemire on the floor, compared to just 99.3 points per 100 possessions when he is on the bench.
That on-court defensive efficiency of 115.8 would be the most points per 100 possessions allowed by any team this season. His off-court efficiency (99.3) would put the Knicks among the league’s five best.
This trend does not bode well for the Knicks, as they get set to welcome the Golden State Warriors to town Wednesday night (8 ET on ESPN). The Warriors’ high-powered offense averages 104.1 points per 100 possessions this season, good enough for ninth in the league.
Paul Cunningham/USA TODAY Sports
Amar'e Stoudemire said his post game would be good this season.
During this offseason, much was made of Amar’e Stoudemire’s two weeks of training with Hakeem Olajuwon. By and large, Stoudemire has been underwhelming this season. But that's not to say he hasn't been pretty darned good in limited post touches.
So far, the returns on Stoudemire’s fortnight in Texas (and undoubtedly much more training alone and with the Knicks staff) are very promising.
In his first month back with the Knicks, Stoudemire is posting up far more than in previous seasons and scoring like crazy from the box, at least when he doesn't turn it over. Synergy reports that last season, Stoudemire used just 10.4 percent of his possessions in post-up situations. This year, that number has climbed to 30.7 percent. And Stoudemire is making good on those touches, shooting a ridiculous 62.1 percent compared to just 40.5 percent last year.
It certainly helps that, because he now comes off the bench, the majority of Stoudemire’s post possessions come against second-tier defenders. But the tape also reveals that Stoudemire has a much clearer plan of attack this season. Whereas his post-ups tended to just sort of happen last season, this year plays are being run specifically to feed Stoudemire below the elbow, especially on the left side.
When he catches there, he immediately looks to attack middle -- a fundamental tenet of good post play. Whereas starting baseline causes players to lose sight of the help defense in the middle of the court, driving middle first allows Stoudemire to use his quick feet to counter and spin back to the baseline, away from the defense.
That’s when he looks best: when he faces up, takes one hard dribble to the middle then spins hard to his left hand. Though he’ll occasionally go for the speed move on the baseline, especially when he’s on the right side -- he’s just more comfortable going to his strong hand -- by and large he follows Tim Duncan’s example and tries the middle first.
Stoudemire’s touch remains good, even when the shot is awkward. Which is not to say his post game is refined. Al Jefferson he is not. If he doesn’t take the face-up jumper -- and he seems to be settling for that shot a bit less this year -- he pretty much goes for the bull rush. That tactic has allowed him to draw a lot of fouls, but has also resulted in Stoudemire turning the ball over on about one in five post possessions.
Lineups featuring Stoudemire alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler performed poorly last year. This season, however, the Knicks with those three are outscoring opponents by an outstanding 12 points per 100 possessions. That's probably not because of Stoudemire's one-on-one post game. Rather, it seems to be more a result of the Knicks' improved ball movement and spacing, along with Stoudemire and Chandler's effectiveness when it comes to drawing fouls and hitting the offensive glass.
In sum, Stoudemire’s hard work to develop his post game didn’t make him the most dynamic post player in the league. But it certainly equipped him with a plan and the confidence to execute it with conviction. That’s a nice boon for the Knicks’ second unit, not to mention impressive growth from a player in his 11th NBA season.
ESPN Stats & Information
The Knicks were nearly nine points worse per 48 minutes with Stoudemire on the court last season. They were significantly worse on both ends of the court with Amar'e. The biggest difference came in the turnover department, where the Knicks committed one more turnover and forced three fewer turnovers per 48 minutes with him on the floor.
Their four worst defensive lineups (in terms of points allowed per 48 minutes) that played at least 15 minutes together last season included Stoudemire. The worst lineup also included Mike Bibby, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and Bill Walker, and was outscored 42-29 in 16 minutes. That also happened to be the Knicks' worst lineup overall (in terms of plus-minus per 48 minutes).
Overall, Stoudemire was a part of the Knicks' three worst lineups.
The Knicks have often been exposed defending isolation plays this season. They've allowed the most isolation points in the league.
Amar'e isn't known as a one-on-one defensive stopper. Last season, he ranked 120th in points per isolation play allowed of the 184 players to defend at least 50 isolation plays.
One area in which the Knicks are struggling this season is rebounding. They're the 6th-worst rebounding team, grabbing just 48 percent of available boards. They've only outrebounded eight of their 30 opponents -- only the Boston Celtics have outrebounded fewer opponents (6) this season.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Stoudemire -- a 6-foot-11 athletic power forward who averages nearly nine boards per game for his career -- will help the Knicks in the rebounding department.
But that may not be the case.
Stoudemire only made the Knicks a slightly better rebounding team when he was on the court last season, as they grabbed 50.4 percent of available rebounds when he was on the court compared to 49.5 percent when he was on the bench.
Last season, Amar'e grabbed 13.7 percent of available rebounds, an improvement from the 2010-11 season. This season, the Knicks have added assets like Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace that have helped on the glass. Each of them, along with Chandler, have a rebound percentage higher than 13.7 this season.
With Chandler, Thomas, Camby and Wallace (when healthy) all sharing frontcourt minutes, Stoudemire's presence may not help the Knicks much on the glass.
Different offensive game plan
The aspect in which the Knicks really change with Amar'e is their shot selection. When he was on the court last season, 50 percent of the Knicks' shot attempts came in the paint and only 22 percent of their attempts were 3-pointers. But when Stoudemire was off the court, only 42 percent of their shot attempts came in the paint and 35 percent of their attempts were from beyond the arc.
That trend has continued this season without Stoudemire, as 35 percent of their attempts are 3-pointers and only 38 percent of their shots are in the paint.
Adding Amar’e to the rotation could disrupt a Knicks offense that currently ranks second in offensive efficiency and is on pace to be the Knicks’ most efficient offense in the last 40 seasons.
Getty ImagesWorking on Christmas: Deron Williams, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
A third of the NBA will be in action on Christmas Day, as fans will be treated to 14 consecutive hours of basketball featuring the league's top four teams and seven leading scorers. For those who make the Christmas quintupleheader their first real look at the NBA season, here's a handy guide to some of the league's more compelling storylines:
Can Deron Williams lead Brooklyn where it wants to go?
Deron Williams isn’t wrong when he says that the Brooklyn Nets run nothing as fluid as the flex offense he guided as the Jazz’s point guard. But Brooklyn’s roster isn’t endowed with the collective skill set those Utah teams had, and the absence of an orderly system doesn’t explain why Williams has taken 241 shots outside the paint, for a terrible 40.7 effective field goal percentage.
Williams might argue that a good number of those attempts are hand grenades he finds himself with at the end of wayward possessions, but if he truly wants the Nets to improve upon their 11th-ranked offense, Williams will have to create his own flow. With some prompting from Williams, Gerald Wallace could make some devastating flex cuts, and Joe Johnson can space, post and pass better than any wing Williams ever had in Salt Lake City.
Williams has real assets in Brooklyn, and a point guard with his talent shouldn’t need an orthodox system to play systematic basketball.
Can the Boston Celtics re-establish their defensive bite?
Boston hasn’t had a top-10 offense since 2008-09, but its elite defense has kept it in the conversation every spring. The Celtics are still loading up on the ball handler while zoning up the weak side. And they’re still stymieing high ball screens at the point of attack while asking rotating defenders to take away everything but sketchy corner passes and long 2-pointers for guys who have no business shooting them.
This season, offenses are having an easier time generating open looks. When you watch the film, the incriminating evidence isn’t glaring. This is still a comparatively efficient defense (11th overall) practicing those same principles, and the familiar cycle of movements is there, but point guards whom the Celtics used to send to remote outposts on the floor are finding their way to the middle. That old Celtics swarm doesn’t cause the same disruption it once did, which means offenses have more available options on the floor.
Defensive systems take time to master, and it’s possible everyone will achieve the level of fluency necessary. The Celtics should hope so, because the team’s margin for improvement probably lies on that end of the floor.
Are the New York Knicks for real?
This is the single biggest conversation starter heading into Christmas Day for casual NBA fans, League Pass junkies, NBA players, coaches and execs alike -- and trying to solve the mystery will trigger a whole series of associated questions:
Has Anthony’s game undergone a profound evolution at the power forward slot, or is the uptick in production largely attributable to eight weeks of hot, but unsustainable shooting? How do you integrate Amar’e Stoudemire back into the rotation after the team forged a strong identity without him? And if your plan is to confine him to a much smaller role, how exactly do you break that to him without the risk of killing the good vibe around the team? Is the defense (ranked 17th) strong enough around Tyson Chandler for the Knicks to have championship expectations?
When the Knicks were horrendous, there was a school of opinion that said the NBA would be much more interesting if New York had a relevant NBA team. Those in that camp were correct.
How close are the Los Angeles Lakers to a breakthrough?
The Lakers now have their four stars on the floor together for the first time since October. Let's say they hold their home court against the Knicks on Tuesday. And let’s say Dwight Howard continues to build strength, as does the defense. And the offense, already ranked fifth in efficiency, starts operating as the lethal machine it was designed to be. And the wins start to pile up.
That’s an entirely conceivable chain of events, but it’s no lock, either. The Lakers still feature a core of players who like to work with the basketball operating in a system that prefers they pass or shoot instantly. Success will require some compromise, but any offensive philosophical differences will likely resolve themselves -- there’s too much talent. The Lakers’ prospects hinge primarily on a willingness to play defense. Howard didn’t have any perimeter stoppers in front of him in Orlando, but anchored a top defensive unit. The Lakers can play that brand of defense if Howard is up to the task, the other starters and the coaching staff apply their wits, and the second unit makes guarding opponents its mission.
If those scenarios shake out and the Lakers are playing some of the best basketball in the league headed into the All-Star break, does the early-season turmoil get summarily dismissed as old news?
How many different ways can Kevin Durant score?
It’s unlikely this Oklahoma City Thunder team will ever develop a brand-name offense, but when Kevin Durant is as dialed in as he has been this season, structure seems almost quaint.
High-usage wing players like Durant are not supposed to post true shooting percentages in the 65 range. Michael Jordan exceeded 60 percent four times and Larry Bird topped the 60 percent mark twice, but both maxed out around 61 percent. And LeBron James’ career-high mark of 60.5 percent came last season.
Durant this season? 65.4 percent.
He quietly has become one of the most brutal post assignments in the game from either side of the floor. He’s getting more separation than ever on curls and pin-downs, working in some sneaky misdirection like a wide receiver running a route. When he’s off the ball, he’s looking more than ever to slip beneath the defense for easy feeds at the rim. And he’s drawing more contact than ever off the dribble.
Durant has never displayed anything but maximum effort on the floor, but did close proximity to a title this past June ignite something more visceral in his game?
Do the Miami Heat have anything serious to be concerned about?
Size up front? As NBA worries go, that’s so retrograde. Nobody cares anymore if the heaviest guy in the rotation is 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, least of all the Heat, who won a title in June flouting convention.
The defense was another story as recently as a few weeks ago, when narcolepsy was the Heat’s preferred defensive strategy in the half court. Were the issues systemic or did Erik Spoelstra just need to shuffle the rotation?
Shane Battier returned from injury and Joel Anthony returned from exile just as the Heat were being embarrassed on their home floor by the Knicks. In the seven games since -- the only seven games both Battier and Anthony logged double-digit minutes -- the Heat have posted a defensive efficiency rating of 96.0. Only Indiana’s top-ranked defense has been better over the course of the season (95.7).
There are other factors at work, of course. The Heat are a high-risk, high-reward defensive outfit with a license to gamble, but guys were abusing the privilege and calculating risk without care. Now, James and Dwyane Wade are locked in, and that string the Heat are so fond of referencing as the connective tissue of their defense is taut once again.
Are the Houston Rockets figuring things out?
So this is what it’s like to have a pure playmaker at the top of the floor who can get a shot off against constant pressure anywhere between the rim and 26 feet?
How strong has James Harden been in this regard? Of the Rockets’ top eight in minutes played, he’s the only one whose player efficiency rating is above league average, yet the Rockets come into Christmas Day with the league’s seventh-ranked offense.
There’s little magic to the Rockets’ offensive formula. The priorities, in descending order, are as follows: (1-2-3) transition; (4) quick-hitters for Harden if he can find a modicum of space off a drag screen, or for others if Harden can leverage the attention of the defense; (5) a more deliberate high pick-and-roll for Jeremy Lin, and by deliberate we mean with 15 seconds on the shot clock rather than 19; (6) fast, easy ways to free up shooters -- flare screens courtesy of Omer Asik, or pin-downs set by little guys for big guys who can shoot.
Next item on the agenda: Protecting the basket area and picking up shooters early -- two hazards of playing at a breakneck pace the Rockets haven’t yet figured out.
Can the Chicago Bulls manufacture enough offense?
When discussing how the Bulls try to score without Derrick Rose, manufacture is more descriptive than metaphoric. It’s a laborious process being managed by diligent guys with limited skills but strong work ethics. But as a viewer, it’s like watching the factory floor at a cannery.
Try as Tom Thibodeau might to create open space in the half court with cuts and constant motion, he simply has nobody on the floor who can find an easy shot in isolation or pressure a defense by bursting off a screen (let alone, driving away from one the way Rose does more artfully than anyone). Defenses never have to make any tough decisions when the ball is in the hands of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli or Jimmy Butler, and that makes every possession a grind.
On the bright side, the Bulls make life similarly difficult for everyone else, which is how a team wins nine out of 13 with the parking break on. That’s the beautiful thing about an air-tight defensive system: The principles work irrespective of personnel. So if the Bulls can hang on in the meantime, and Rose can return as Rose, Chicago is going to be a nightmarish spring matchup for an Eastern Conference foe.
Will the Denver Nuggets ever have a homestand?
The most consecutive games they’ve played at home this season is two -- and the Nuggets have done that only once through 28 games. Are their white jerseys on back order? Is the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver undergoing chemical fumigation? Are they finally installing reliable Internet in that building, a process that requires a complete rewiring of the place?
Whatever the case, the Nuggets find themselves on someone else’s floor on Christmas night. Their 15-13 record might suggest the league made a programming error, but when you consider the home-road split, the Nuggets just might be the sleeping giants in the West. When the calendar turns on New Year’s Day, the Nuggets will play 15 of their next 18 games at home, where they’re 8-1.
With the defense showing signs of life, Andre Iguodala gradually adapting to his more open living space and the Nuggets gobbling up their own misses at unseemly rates, this team could quietly vault itself into the upper ranks of the West simply by playing quality basketball at home.
Is Vinny Del Negro smarter than everyone?
Junkies will continue to scratch their heads when Willie Green is announced as the Clippers’ starting shooting guard, and the playbook might never be put behind a glass display in Springfield, Mass., but you think the 21-6 Los Angeles Clippers care?
Del Negro’s approach has been simple: a few very basic offensive precepts, plenty of freedom for Chris Paul, trust in a second unit that could probably win 48 games as a starting five and a few tried-and-true sets that maximize Blake Griffin on the left block and Paul as a prober. Most of all: manage expectations and let Paul be the guy. If that means letting him sculpt the offense or playing Green to start the first and third because Paul wants it that way, so be it. Del Negro believes that leading is often a task in deference, and he isn’t about to muck things up with a heavy hand when a light touch will do.
If the defense were mushy and the Clippers were still dropping games they shouldn’t, the discussion might be different. But the Clippers have established some simple coverages the young bigs have mastered, and they’re rarely finding themselves in the sort of end-of-game chess matches that challenge a team’s tactical prowess. The day will come when a Gregg Popovich is strolling the opposing sideline, and that will be the true test. In the interim, keep things light.
Harry How/NBAE/Getty Images
Pau Gasol is calling for the ball in the post. Will Mike D'Antoni answer?
Last Friday in Memphis, two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol found himself banished to the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Gasol was struggling to find good looks at the basket (and wasn't successful at hitting those he found), and at the moment down the stretch when he would've normally trotted over to the scorer's table to check in for reserve Antawn Jamison, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni never called Gasol's number.
After the game, Gasol expressed his frustration, not so much with D'Antoni's decision to stick with Jamison, who was playing well on the offensive end. Gasol was disheartened by the lack of touches he was getting in the post, where he's most comfortable operating:
All my looks are jump shots ... I would like to see something closer to the basket and not just rolling, especially when Dwight is there. But we'll see. We'll figure it out. We're just starting, pretty much.
... I'm not a pure jump-shooter ... I can stretch the defense out and make a couple jumpers. But how I get going is by getting in the paint and creating off the post, things like that. That's historically how I've been really successful and made a really good name for myself and earned my contracts. But hopefully I'll find a way and we'll find a way to get me a few opportunities there and get myself going in that way and be more effective.
Gasol's claim is correct: He is seeing fewer post-up opportunities this season. According to ESPN Stats & Analysis, only 15.3 percent of Gasol's possessions under D'Antoni can be classified as post-ups. During the four seasons of the Phil Jackson era, Gasol was used in the post on 38 percent of his plays.
There are several explanations for this, most prominently the introduction of Dwight Howard to the Lakers' offense. Gasol is also battling tendinitis in his knee, and that makes the physical nature of battling NBA post defenders much hairier.
All that aside, there's a primary factor dictating why Gasol is spending less time on the block, and that's D'Antoni's devotion to a system that doesn't take kindly to traditional post play.
Gasol isn't the first player to find that his perceived strengths don't have a rightful place in D'Antoni's strategy. In "Seven Seconds or Less," Jack McCallum's entertaining and insightful chronicle of the Phoenix Suns' 2005-06 campaign, Shawn Marion frequently finds himself grappling with his role in D'Antoni's system:
Marion desperately wants to be known as a "3," a small forward, generally the most athletic player on a team, rather than a “4,” a power forward, generally a bigger and slower player. What the coaches want to communicate to Marion is that going against bigger players, filling the power forward spot, is precisely what has made him an All-Star. He can use his speed, quickness, and leaping ability to leave other fours in the dust, whereas, against the typical small forward, some of his athleticism would be negated.
Marion's beef and Gasol's are dissimilar on the surface. While Marion had a problem with his position (though positions tend to be somewhat irrelevant in a D'Antoni offense), Gasol is more concerned about where he's being situated on the floor and the kinds of shots that materialize for him within the flow of the offense. But on a macro level, Marion then and Gasol now are lodging the same complaint: They're not being used in ways they're accustomed to, and that's hampering their game.
D'Antoni has conceded that Gasol isn't a natural fit in the system, but he recently told ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd that much of the onus is on him to solve this riddle:
I just don't see how a player as smart as he is, as talented as he is, as big as he is, doesn't fit into anybody's scheme. Then I've got to re-examine myself and think, 'I can't play with Pau Gasol?' C'mon. He's won two championships. I gotta rethink what I'm doing.
Although D'Antoni might never admit it, running a 3-2 half-court offense, stationing two big men near the basket, then dumping the ball into one of them is heresy. That violates everything D'Antoni's offense is about: finding early shot opportunities, keeping the middle open for drivers and cutters, stretching the defense to the margins of the floor and running to spots before the defense can get set. D'Antoni needs players who abide by this philosophy and trust the spacing, and those who don't are often marginalized.
If Gasol wants more than 18-foot jumpers, he'll need to be the first guy to run out on defensive stops, just as Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw (!) did in Phoenix. That's how you create a mismatch against a guard who is back to stop the ball. Gasol will have to set early drag screens, then dive like hell to the rim. D'Antoni will also need to find ways to compromise that don't violate the integrity of his system. That means employing more misdirection by using Howard or Bryant to sneak Gasol inside, and designing a couple of sets that allow Gasol to cut, post and go in the first 10 seconds of the possession before the offense stagnates in the half court
It's not going to be easy, either for D'Antoni or for Gasol. D'Antoni is more of an abstract artist than an architect. The latter can make adjustments to the blueprint with a pink eraser, but an artist working off feel doesn't always have easy solutions within his reach. "Rethinking," a process D'Antoni has pledged to undertake, is tough when you've built success on orthodoxy.
Why they will: The Lakers played 981 minutes without Kobe on the floor last season and saw a five-point swing in the wrong direction per 48 minutes while he was on the bench.
Why they won’t: Bryant has missed 103 regular-season games in his career. The Lakers have a .621 win percentage in those games, including 5-3 last season.
Why they will: Last season, with Rose in the lineup, the Bulls went 32-7. They scored 100.4 points per 48 minutes with Rose on the court compared to just 92.2 with him off the floor.
Why they won’t: Chicago went 18-9 (.667 win pct) in games Rose missed during the 2011-12 regular season. Excluding the Bulls, the Heat were the only team in the Eastern Conference that had a better win percentage than .667 last season.
Why they will: The Timberwolves are 5-38 without Love since he entered the league, including 2-18 in the last two seasons.
Why they won’t: They will. Last season per 48 minutes, the Timberwolves scored more points, shot better, had a better assist-to-turnover ratio, and had a +9.0 swing in rebound margin with Love on the court than they did with him off the court.
Why they will: Last season, the Mavs outscored opponents by 6.0 points per 48 minutes with Dirk on the court but were outscored by 8.4 points per 48 minutes with him off the court.
Why they won’t: The two key returning Mavs players, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, both averaged more points per game in the four games Nowitzki missed last season than they did in the games he played.
Why they will: In 2010-11, Stoudemire averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and two assists per game with a 50 field-goal percentage, something that has been done 68 times in history. Assuming Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal will be Hall of Famers, 66 of the other 67 seasons were by Hall of Famers.
Why they won’t: The Knicks were 14-5 in games without Stoudemire last season but just 22-25 with him. They scored more points and allowed fewer points per game without Stoudemire.
Why they will: Andrew Bynum averaged more than 18 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. The 76ers haven't had a player with those averages in a season since Charles Barkley more than 20 years ago.
Why they won’t: Each of the 76ers' first 12 games are against teams that won fewer than 40 games last season. Seven of those games are against teams that finished below .500 last season.
Why they will: When Ricky Rubio tore his ACL on March 9, the Timberwolves were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with a 21-20 record. But after he went down, the Timberwolves lost 20 of their final 25 games and finished 12th in the West.
Why they won’t: Rubio was very inefficient creating his own offense last season. He averaged just 0.74 points per play, the fewest among the 176 players with at least 500 plays.
Why they will: John Wall is one of three players in history to average at least 16 points, eight assists and four rebounds per game in each of his first two seasons. The others? Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire.
Why they won’t: Wall was not efficient as a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season. Among the 41 players to run at least 200 pick-and-roll plays, Wall averaged the fewest points per play (0.69).
Why they will: The Spurs went 28-6 (.824 win pct) and averaged 108.3 points per game with Ginobili in the lineup last season. Without him, their win percentage dropped to .688 and they averaged nearly 10 fewer points per game.
Why they won’t: The Spurs outscored opponents by 9.7 points per 48 minutes last postseason with Ginobili on the bench. With him on the court, that margin shrunk to +3.2.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony and Stephen Curry: Gridlock or glory?
Think about your favorite team then ask yourself, "What are things going to look like for the next three to five seasons?"
A degree of uncertainty will find its way into every situation, but smart teams have plans. They might be in championship-or-bust mode like Miami, Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Lakers. They might be straight-up rebuilding like Detroit or New Orleans.
Some teams pursue a more targeted plan. The Clippers want to perform well enough to maintain Chris Paul's faith in the organization, lock him up on July 1, 2013, then keep building from there. Others, like Phoenix, lost the flash drive with the PowerPoint on the way to the presentation.
Then there are those NBA teams standing at the junction, examining the map and looking at the routes. Do they stay on course? Take the scenic route, or the practical one? Get cute and try a shortcut? Slow down and move more deliberately and keep their options open?
Such is the challenge for several NBA teams entering the 2012-13 season, with some facing a better set of options than others.
New York Knicks
The Knicks' crossroads are grander and better paved than most teams in their predicament, by virtue of playing in one of the league's two premier markets. It certainly ain't the cooking in the front office, which has prepared a roster slated for another quick April ouster from the postseason.
Let's rewind: Two years ago, New Yorkers were giddy and comparatively patient. The Knicks didn't bag LeBron James in 2010, but it wasn't for a lack of trying or bad bookkeeping. They signed Amare Stoudemire and, that winter, the Garden was alive for the first time in ages. The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony midseason signaled the Knicks' official return to relevance (even if the team was playing well prior to his arrival and forked over a king's ransom to get him). Aware that the 22nd-ranked team defense would be a train wreck, the Knicks anchored the middle with Tyson Chandler in the summer of 2011.
Despite the defensive improvement last season, the Knicks couldn't score and the old dysfunction returned, pausing for only a seven-week hiatus when Jeremy Lin single-handedly thawed winter.
That brings us to the 2012-13 season. Lin is in Houston, Stoudemire is sidelined and the Knicks are indisputably Anthony's team, which was always the design in New York. If nothing else, perhaps Stoudemire's injury coupled with the success Anthony had as a power forward in Olympic competition will finally convince Melo that he's a new-wave 4. Improving the Knicks will require some innovation, because Anthony, Chandler and a band of reclamation projects, post-prime players and question marks in the backcourt won't make much noise in the playoffs. If they fail to play into May, the Knicks would begin to look a lot like Mike Woodson's Atlanta Hawks -- a team with discernible talent, but no championship aspirations.
What happens then?
The Knicks could resign themselves to a nice house in the East's upper-middle class district or, much like the Lakers did in sheer defiance of what was thought possible, they could trade on the allure of their market and coax a game-changer to New York. It won't be easy. They'd either have to part with Chandler, convince a team with cap room to absorb Stoudemire's outsized salary along with a few goodies, get a superstar approaching free agency to hold his existing team hostage in exchange for a ticket to New York -- and probably some combination of the above.
The Knicks wanted superstars to elevate their brand and incite championship aspirations among their beleaguered fans. Now it's time to manage those expectations and find an acceptable alternative should the team fall short of them.
Golden State Warriors
The new regime in the Bay is committed to a serious rebranding campaign. It's not just the smart new threads and the Sn°hetta-designed jewel box slated for downtown San Francisco. The Warriors finally seem primed to be more than the NBA's novelty act. They're practicing defense again in Oakland, using analytics for the first time to make personnel decisions and, aside from a hiccup or two on the cap-management side, forging something that looks like a future.
The Warriors traded roboshooter Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, one of the five best defensive big men in the game ... when he can move on two feet. Stephen Curry has proven he's far more than a spot-up shooter ... when he can move on two feet. Add a little seasoning to Golden State's young wing tandem of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and you can pencil them in for the opener across the bay. David Lee makes a mint, but he contributes consistently and the Warriors have virtually nothing else on the books in two years, so why worry?
But that's the thing about cap flexibility -- it's a luxury that can lure smart people into iffy decisions. When you're a front office strapped for cash, you have to be selective in your decision-making. But when you have clean books, you can be tempted to populate the ledger with all kinds of stuff that isn't good for you.
The biggest decision facing the Warriors over the next week is whether to extend Curry. If not for his wonky ankle, this is a no-brainer for Golden State and even with all the concern, still is. But the cap can be unforgiving, and paying max or near-max money to a chronically-injured player can be devastating to a team's long-term ambitions. Bogut, the team's highest-paid player, has a bum left ankle and there's no timetable for his return.
The Warriors don't have to make a contractual call on Bogut for two more seasons, but it's hard for a team to forge a path without a vision of its future core. And, practically, it's difficult to achieve goals if there's $30 million worth of stars in street clothes -- just ask the Houston Rockets.
That's the gamble for the Warriors: Do they construct a team for the foreseeable future around the inside-out threat of Curry and Bogut, knowing it's very possible their two best players might not share a court for weeks, maybe seasons, on end?
Do the Warriors commit to Curry, then wait and see on Bogut once they have a clearer prognosis on his health, knowing they'll likely have some money to find an alternate big man? Do they look at their promising young wings as the guys who will usher in the new era, a Klay Thompson-Harrison Barnes ticket rather than Curry-Bogut? Can Golden State craft a clever contingency plan whereby there's some insurance in the backcourt should Curry's ankle be an indefinite concern?
Or do the Warriors act without prejudice, knowing that the revenue they'll generate in the most state-of-the-art arena in North America (with some of the most expensive seats in sports) can compensate for a lot of dead payroll?
Portland Trail Blazers
The rug was pulled from the Rose Garden floor some time ago. What was once the most tantalizing roster in the league has been stripped of its jewels, with Brandon Roy's retirement and relocation and Greg Oden's injuries.
Beyond those bad beats, the Trail Blazers no longer play the flavor of deliberate, possession-focused basketball they did under Nate McMillan, for better or worse. Last season, the Trail Blazers were adrift. They no longer controlled the rim -- on either end -- and many of those familiar patterns that were solidified during the Age of Promise went missing.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a refined, reliable power forward -- probably a Top 15 player -- but is he truly the centerpiece of a contending team? What if the best blueprint of the team going forward has him at center in a more agile offense? Is he flexible and resolute enough to not only tolerate that adjustment, but embrace it?
The first question is a difficult one, though one that can be answered more optimistically if Damian Lillard can evolve into a lead guard who can simplify the game for Aldridge. The Trail Blazers' big man has spoken glowingly about how easy the game came to him after being paired with Andre Miller in Portland. It's unfair to expect Lillard to find that kind of command before he gets a couple of years of NBA basketball under his belt -- and right now he's more of a pick-and-roll scorer than a manager or distributor -- but Aldridge can screen-and-pop with the best shooting big men in the game and should be able to make ample use of Lillard's talent.
The Trail Blazers also re-upped Nicolas Batum long term, defensible given the spreadsheet. Throw in Wes Matthews -- probably a better third guard than a fixture at the 2, but the team's third or fourth best player -- a raw rookie center, and a couple of imports. Is that a foundation that can grow into legitimate power in the West? If you're a Trail Blazers fan or executive, how many teams would you happily exchange futures with? Three years ago, that number was minuscule. Today, you're making a lot of outgoing calls.
A creative Terry Stotts will work hard to develop the Lillard-Aldridge tandem to its full potential, and it could be something special. But if the chemistry doesn't translate into a winning combination, and Aldridge grows uncomfortable as Banana No. 1, do you reshuffle the deck? And, if so, is Aldridge an asset you'd discard if the right offer came along? Could you afford not to?
The Trail Blazers don't figure to win much in 2012-13, and will likely have another high pick in June to add more young talent -- as well as some money to throw around -- but it's going to be a painstaking process.
Entering the offseason, the Sixers' crossroads looked something like a busy London roundabout. The team could take any number of routes, and there was an intelligent case to be made for each of them.
Hard-bitten realists argued it was time to blow up a core that was unlikely to finish higher than a Hawkish No. 4 or 5 seed. Romantics felt that the Sixers' young talent had finally cracked the code on Doug Collins' safety-first system. If the versatile roster could come back largely intact in 2012-13 and buy in for a full season, they could take what was already a Top 3 defense, win the Atlantic then, come spring, play with the elite.
Instead, the Sixers made a lateral move in trading Andre Iguodala, their best defender and ball-mover, for a true inside threat in Andrew Bynum. They also lost Lou Williams, one of their few creators outside of Iguodala.
So who are the Sixers now and what can we reasonably expect them to become, especially with Bynum playing out the final year of his contract?
Performance will dictate everything. With Bynum anchoring the post, Philadelphia will no longer need a cab to get to the rim. For a team that relied on an unhealthy diet of midrange jumpers, that's no small thing. But indispensable defenders like Iguodala don't come around every day. Systems matter, but you can't just plug Evan Turner into the small forward slot and expect the same results. Bynum is not exactly Collins' idea of a big-man defender. On pick-and-roll coverage, Bynum is a chronic dropper (in fairness, that has generally been the scheme employed by the Lakers), and he'll be pressed rather persistently by Collins to put some more bite into his defensive game.
Let's say the Sixers drop a few of spots defensively, rise a few offensively and their final tally looks a lot like previous seasons. What then? You probably try to lock up Bynum long-term, but is there anyone else on the roster who you'd automatically wave through the door? Do you punt on Turner? What do you need to see from Jrue Holiday to warrant handing him the reins for the next five years? Does all that add up to contention?
Philadelphia will have plenty of flexibility going forward, but cap room isn't an end unto itself. At some point, the Sixers need to figure out what the plan is along the perimeter, and whether their existing platoon of curios and vets can do the job around Bynum.
Head coach Dwane Casey got the hard work out of the way in Season 1, taking a team ranked dead last in team defense and catapulting it to 12th by installing some conservative principles and demanding full effort from the entire roster.
There were other bright spots, with more on the way. When Andrea Bargnani was healthy, he played some of the best basketball of his career. Once Jonas Valanciunas gets a feel for the NBA game, he'll demand attention down low. New acquisition Kyle Lowry can generate instant offense, which should also help.
There's a lot to like here, but still a ton of work to do to improve upon a 25th-ranked offense. The Raptors desperately need to open up some space in the half court to prevent the rigor mortis that bogged them down last season. Bargnani, when he's out there, helps inordinately, and Lowry can hit a shot from the perimeter and break down defenses off the bounce. But the Raptors simply can't build the kind of offense they want with their current supply of wings -- and that sober reality starts and ends with DeMar DeRozan, who enters the final guaranteed year of his rookie deal.
DeRozan, the Raptors' leader in minutes played each of the past two seasons, has never posted a player efficiency rating (PER) above the league average and it's not as if he's making up for it as a defender. He's not a proficient outside shooter, makes iffy reads on the pick-and-roll and is a ball-stopper in isolation with a less-than-stellar track record of converting those opportunities into anything -- a creator without much creativity.
To put it bluntly, there are very few things DeRozan is doing to help the Toronto Raptors win basketball games and it's hard to imagine an efficient offense that relies on him for a significant chunk of possessions.
The Raptors raised eyebrows by selecting Terrence Ross with the No. 8 pick in June. While Ross is no polished product on the offensive end, he's a Casey type of player, with quick feet on defense and a heady awareness of what's happening on the floor. Ross could watch tape of Tony Allen and craft a career as a stopper with a few offensive tricks. He'd be a natural replacement for DeRozan, provided he can find his shot or, at the very least, recognize his limitations and minimize mistakes. That would be an easier proposition if there was another wing on the floor who could create.
If the Raptors let DeRozan walk, they'd have some dough to find someone -- anyone -- who can score efficiently at the wing. Once that happens, the ball will start to move again in Toronto, this time with a stalwart defense to complement it.
The winless stretch is the second-longest in Knicks franchise history, succeeded only by a 15-season span from 1954-68.
Sunday's win only seemed to temporarily stave off the inevitable. It was a series almost entirely dominated by the Heat.
In their four losses, the Knicks lost each by double digits and were outscored by a combined 70 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the negative 14-point average scoring margin is New York's second worst in a best-of-7 playoff series in postseason history.
The Knicks struggled to move the ball in Game 5, recording just 13 assists on 36 made field goals (36.1 percent), their worst team assist percentage this season.
They struggled to get easy baskets all series, with three of the games ranking among their worst assist percentage games of the season.
Additionally, the Carmelo Anthony/Amare Stoudemire project continues to produce mixed results.
In the past 2 seasons, including the playoffs, the Knicks have gone just 31-40 with both Anthony and Stoudemire in the lineup, including 1-7 in the postseason. When it's just been Stoudemire, the Knicks are a .500 team; they're 13-7 in games where just Anthony has been in the lineup.
Helping expedite the Knicks' playoff exit was LeBron James, who led the Heat with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Game 5. James improved to 7-0 all-time in first-round playoff series.
James inched his scoring average in potential series clinchers up to 28.3, the fifth-best mark in NBA history (minimum 10 games).
Awaiting the Heat are the Indiana Pacers, against whom the Heat had success, taking three of four regular-season meetings. Indiana struggled offensively in those games, averaging 92.3 points in the four games, shooting 40.4 percent from the field.
The Heat and Pacers have met just one other time in the playoffs: the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which the Pacers won in six games.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
Derrick Favors is a big part of the Utah Jazz's a high flying future.
Tiago Splitter is rolling to the right side of the rim, wide open -- but only for a moment -- because here comes Jazz big man Derrick Favors flying across the court.
The ball moves, but so does Favors. In an instant later, he is all the way on the left side of the key, where Gary Neal starts to turn the corner off a pick-and-roll. Favors glides into position, his quick feet wide and balanced, his long arms waving to obscure Neal's vision and deter any thought of driving.
There's a reason the Spurs finished the season with the best offense in the NBA, though. They find good shots. With Favors on the left, the ball goes back to Splitter on the right. Somehow, Favors recovers once more, this time meeting the Brazilian at the summit of his rim attack for a clean block.
It was only one play in a first-round series that deserves to be remembered only for its lopsidedness. The Spurs are, by far, the better team. But Jazz fans have plenty to like, and through the four straight losses, Favors still managed to show eye-popping potential.
In fact, on court/off court ratings from NBA.com suggest the Jazz rarely had success scoring or defending against the Spurs when Favors wasn’t on the court, because even mighty San Antonio has little in the way of answers for Favors' rare combination of size and athleticism.
The ability to make the play described above is unique amongst Jazz big men and exceedingly rare in the NBA. It’s the very kind of recognition, effort and athleticism that made Tyson Chandler, who combines stalwart rim-protection with astute pick-and-roll defense, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year.
And even though Favors defines “raw” on offense, his potential remains high. He has the ability to reliably catch the ball 15 feet from the hoop, and use one power dribble to finish with power. Most players never become the next Amare Stoudemire, obviously, but Favors is on the short list with the tools to even try.
Even though fellow Jazz forwards Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are dynamite inside players, neither can reach the (literal) heights that Favors does as the dive-man in a pick-and-roll. It may seem basic, but precious few big men in the NBA can catch and finish anything on dives to the rim -- the list includes Josh Smith, Blake Griffin, Kenneth Faried and very few others.
Already, Favors distorts defenses. When he moves through the lane, teams go to great lengths to keep him from catching the ball, knowing that when he gets it, his dominance of the airspace will come to bear. This draws defenders his way, creating opportunities for teammates. A Tyson Chandler lob or cut presented a similar threat and was a big part of the Mavericks offense last season, though even Chandler doesn't have Favors' quick first step.
Meanwhile the Nets, the team that drafted Favors third overall then traded him before the end of his rookie season, are desperately hoping to get a top pick again this season. If they do, they will likely draft someone like Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson -- a player who will rebound, finish above the rim and offer much needed resistance against drives into their paint.
A player like that can anchor a franchise.
A player like the one Derrick Favors is becoming in Utah.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesAmare Stoudemire is hardly the first athlete to suffer self-inflicted wounds.
Amare Stoudemire may be the first athlete to have a confrontation with a fire extinguisher, but he is certainly not the first player to injure himself in an act of frustration. Here's a list of players who have hurt themselves by taking out their frustrations on inanimate objects.
Amare Stoudemire: After the Knicks lost to the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference opening round playoffs, a frustrated Amare Stoudemire punched the glass casing surrounding a fire extinguisher, causing lacerations on his left hand which required stitches.
Ryan Madson: In 2010, Phillies closer Ryan Madson broke his big toe following an incident where he kicked a metal folding chair in frustration after blowing a save against the Giants. The broken toe sent Madson to the DL for more than a month.
Kevin Brown: Frustrated by an injury-filled season in 2004, Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown made it worse when he broke his non-pitching hand by punching a clubhouse wall during the sixth inning of New York's 3-1 loss to the Orioles.
Jason Isringhausen: The pitcher bruised his hand punching a trash can in 1996, a few weeks after he stabbed himself opening a package.
John Tudor: Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, Cardinals pitcher John Tudor punched an electrical fan with his pitching hand after being pulled from the game. TV viewers were initially confused when the announcers reported that Tudor had "punched a fan in the clubhouse."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: During the 1974 preseason, Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand after punching the basket support stanchion following a hard foul. On the play, Abdul-Jabbar scratched his eye and he would wear protective goggles for the rest of his playing career. The broken hand sidelined Abdul-Jabbar for the first 16 games of the 1974-75 season. With Oscar Robertson retired, the Bucks went 38-44 and missed the playoffs for the first time since Abdul-Jabbar was drafted.
The Knicks had just 15 assists on their 38 field goals, a rate of 39.5 percent. That's their second-lowest assist percentage in a game this season, behind only 36.8 percent on April 3 at the Indiana Pacers.
The Heat made the same number of field goals on Monday, but assisted on 28 of them (73.7 percent).
Meanwhile, LeBron James was 6-6 and Dwyane Wade was 7-9 when shooting inside 5 feet of the basket in Game 2 against the Knicks. As a team the Heat shot 80 percent from such distances, tying their second-best rate of the season.
For the series, the Knicks have actually taken 15 more field goal attempts than the Heat inside 5 feet of the basket. But the Knicks are shooting just 55.3 percent on such attempts while the Heat are shooting 71.9 percent.
After a slow start in Game 1, Carmelo Anthony got off to a hotter start but that wasn't enough to change his team's finish. Anthony made his first two field goal attempts of Game 2, both within the first three minutes of the game. In Game 1, Anthony didn't make his first field goal until 2:06 of the second quarter - and didn't make his second until 7:46 of the third quarter.
He finished with 30 points, the 15th time in his playoff career that Anthony scored at least 30 points. But his team has a 6-9 record in those games.
One thing to keep an eye on in this series is the free throw discrepency. Through the first seven quarters of the Knicks-Heat series, LeBron James had taken 21 free throws. The entire Knicks team had taken 23. In that span, the Heat took 33 more free throws than the Knicks.
The Knicks averaged 24.8 free throw attempts per game in the regular season, but are averaging just 15 in the first two games against the Heat. Just three players have gotten to the line, and all but one free throw was attempted by either Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire. Tyson Chandler (and his one free--throw attempt) is the only other Knicks player to shoot a free throw.
The Heat have taken twice as many free throws in the series, with eight players attempting at least one free throw.
In the seven games Stoudemire has missed opponents have scored 89.4 points per game and shot 40.7 percent from the floor.
In the 43 games Stoudemire has played, the Knicks are five games under .500 (19-24). Opponents average more than 95 points per game and shoot better than 44 percent from the floor.
Stoudemire's plus-minus rating this season is -47. The only player on the Knicks with a worse plus-minus is Mike Bibby at -77.
Although the numbers show the Knicks are better defensively when Stoudemire's off the court, they have played much better defense since Mike Woodson took over. Since March 14, Woodson's first game as interim head coach, the Knicks are allowing a league-low 86.0 points per game.
The Knicks got back to .500 (25-25) with Monday's win, and currently are eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Still, AccuScore projections have the Knicks' playoff hopes taking a significant hit with Stoudemire's absence.
AccuScore gives the Knicks a 64.4 percent chance of making the postseason with Stoudemire. Without him, that percentage drops to 54.3.
This has been one of the least-productive seasons of Stoudemire's 10-year career. He's averaging 17.6 points, the fewest since his rookie season (13.5 PPG) and a career-low 8.0 rebounds. Stoudemire also is shooting less than 50 percent from the floor (47.7), something he hasn't done for an entire season since his second year in the league, 2003-04.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.