During a season in which many Mavs were new, none were newer than Amar’e Stoudemire, who joined the club during the All-Star break and would make just 23 appearances for Dallas. Still, that was enough time for Stoudemire to make an impact on the offense, as his post-up ability represented one easy, reliable way for the Mavs to attack defenses.
It was Stoudemire’s scoring off the bench that replaced what the Mavs had been missing following the December trade of Brandan Wright for Rajon Rondo. Upon his arrival, the second unit immediately became an offensive machine again, which propelled Dallas to several wins down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
Most of his work came in the post this season, an unusual thing for a Dirk Nowitzki team. The German has never really played with a center who can work off the low block; players like Michael Finley and Jerry Stackhouse worked from the post on occasion, but that has a different effect on the defense than a center acting as an anchor from the block. STAT rarely ever shared the floor with Tyson Chandler, almost always sharing the floor either with Nowitzki or Charlie Villanueva.
The floor became so spaced, both on the outside and inside, with Stoudemire in the post that it usually freed up an easy scoring opportunity somewhere, either for STAT himself or for a jump shooter after a ball reversal. Today’s NBA is all about the pick-and-roll and it’s becoming more of an outside-in league, but there’s still an advantage to having a big man who can create shots for himself at the rim. First, it’s an efficient way to score points, and no big man in the NBA was more efficient than Stoudemire, whose 1.1 points per possession on post-ups led all 80 players in the league with at least 80 attempts — yes, he was even more efficient than Nowitzki himself.
But second, it gives everyone else essentially a play off, and that can pay dividends throughout a long season. There’s something to be said about a player whose post proficiency gives you the freedom to just work through him during an otherwise rough offensive spell. Instead of forcing the issue elsewhere when things simply aren’t clicking for whatever reason, the Mavs could just breathe a sigh of relief and go, “OK, everyone clear out. We’re going inside.” And, more often than not, it would result in two points.
In an April 1 road win against the Thunder, Stoudemire scored a smooth 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes. He was relentless all game long, scoring the bulk of his points from the low block, where he generated most of his offense this season with the Mavs. The play above is a really good display of some of his best post moves, and that he was able to combine them all in combination so quickly goes a long way toward explaining just how good he is.
First, he rips through as he faces up against Enes Kanter, which is how Stoudemire begins just about every post-up. It’s an interesting move and something we don’t see very often in the NBA. Dirk, for example, faces up nowadays, but even he’d keep his back to the basket most of the time in his prime. What makes Stoudemire so dangerous out of a face-up, though, is that he has the ball-handling ability and quickness for a big man to beat his guy off the bounce both to his left and right, which keeps his opponent off-balance.
Then, he takes two hard bounces to his left-hand side. Kanter can’t do much to stop him, even though he has both the height and weight advantage over the smaller Stoudemire. At this point, Stoudmemire has gotten “inside” Kanter, making it impossible for the OKC big man to play great defense. Once STAT secured that position — creating physical contact himself and putting Kanter on his heels — any hand or body movement by Kanter will result in a foul. The center can only stay vertical and hope Stoudemire screws up, but he doesn’t.
Finally, Stoudemire spins to the inside with a beautiful move and immediately leaves his feet to release a hook shot. Although injuries have affected his ability to get into the air, he’s still got the foot speed and control to execute a quick spin move like that, something most NBA centers simply cannot do. And the fact that Stoudemire was able to perform all of those moves in combination with one another rather easily, and was able to do it again and again throughout the season, says a lot. The guy can really play.
Stoudemire is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He said during his exit interview that he’s not necessarily going to be looking for a big payday come July; he’s made more money than most active players in the league, so at this point all that matters to him is putting himself in position to compete for a championship. There are plenty of contenders who could use Stoudemire’s services off the bench, the Mavs included. His list of suitors will not be short.
STAT will turn 33 shortly after the beginning of next season, his 15th in the NBA. Although he hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season since the 2010-11 campaign due to injury, he’s still a very effective player, particularly in the post. As a small-ball center, he’s able to take on bigger guys on the offensive end with relative ease.
His athleticism and explosiveness certainly helped him earlier in his career, but don’t let that fool you: He’s got plenty of craft in the post, mixing in hook shots and face-up jumpers with power moves. Those aren’t things that necessarily fade with time, much like a perimeter player’s jump shot. Just 306 points away from becoming the 103rd player in league history to score 16,000 points, it’s easy to see that he’s already accomplished a lot, but he’s still got plenty to give in the right situation.
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