The Reinvention of Amare Stoudemire?

Many people, stat geek or otherwise, would agree with the sentiment that Amare Stoudemire has one of the worst contracts in the NBA.  According to Wins Produced, Amare was overrated to begin with, while Win Shares is kinder but only has him tallying three seasons of being twice as productive as the average player.  (For comparison, the oft-underrated Chauncey Billups has five such seasons, which is the same ratio of seasons as Amare’s.)  However, both statistics will agree that Steve Nash’s former running mate has suffered a bit of a decline ever since he signed that max deal with the Knicks and that Amare hasn’t truly been  a truly elite player in about five years.

However, both statistics can agree that Amare has had a bit of a revival ever since he came back from injury this season.  This season, Amare has produced at a .159 clip according to Wins Produced and at a .219 rate according to Win Shares.  I alsso like referencing EzPM, which I cannot find for previous seasons, and using a generic pace adjustment of 92 possessions per team per game, Amare produces only .095 Wins Per 48, but this is largely because of his famously poor defense and a slight penalty for Usage; remove the Usage penalty and his win rate increases to .107.  This is notable because the previous statistic lists Stoudemire as having been a below-average player each of the last four seasons, while Amare  also has not eclipsed the .2 Win Shares Per 48 plateau in that time.

So why has Amare’s numbers improved so dramatically?  Well, I can tell you for one thing that it’s certainly not his rebounding.  Never known for being an outstanding rebounder, Amare is doing far worse in that category than at any other time in his career; he’s currently avering 9.5 rebounds Per 48, which is about 2.5 rebounds below his career average and over 1 rebound less than his worst season to date.  (The average power forward picks up 11.3 every game length, while the average center collects 12.7.  Amare’s career average rate is 12.2)  He’s also fouling almost 25% more frequently than in any other season, and it’s been a couple of years since Stoudemire has been an above-average shot blocker.  His passing has also been particularly anemic; for the first time in his career, he is averaging less than one assist per 48 minutes, which is 40% worse his sophomore season.  While his turnovers are not awful, they are below-average, as is steal rate.

That leaves one thing: his shooting efficiency.  Amare has a 65.1% True Shooting Percentage thus far and is averaging 1.63 Points Per Shot, both of which would be his best since 2007-08, which was only a minute margin higher.  He is shooting 58.4% from inside the arc and 80.8% from the line, neither of which are entirely unprecedented, but they also have not been rivaled since the big man’s peak.  Unlike his prime years though, his Usage Rate is only 24.9%, the third-lowest of his career; in 2007-08, home of most of those efficiency highs, his usage rate was 28.2%.  However, there has been work done by both the Wages of Wins and Alex Konkel at http://sportskeptic.wordpress.com debunking the Usage Curve.  Of course, there must be a reason for Amare’s improvement.  There is; he’s gotten closer to the basket again.

To date, Stoudemire has taken 137 field goal attempts, all from two-point range.  (Note that all shot chart data is taken from www.basketball-reference.com.)    73 of those (53.3%) have been at the rim.  Last year, he only took 42.5% of his shots at the rim, while in 2007-08 he took 48.9% from that area.  In all three seasons, he has shot between 70 and 75% from that area, which is noticeably above-average; Ian Levy at www.hickory-high.com has done work saying that the average shot from the restricted area should yield 1.183 points, which would imply a shooting percentage of about 59.2%.

Amare’s efficiency falls off precipitously from other areas of the court.  He shoots 50% from the 3-9 foot range, but from beyond that, he has only hit it 34.6% of the time.  Of course, he’s only taken 26 shots from 9 feet out or further, and these only account for 19% of his total attempts.  Last year, he couldn’t shoot better than 37.6% from any range beyond 3 feet, and he took 27.2% of his shots from 16-23 feet, which are probably the worst shots in the game.  (Ironically, that was the area from where he shot the 37.6%.)  Part of what made Amare so good was that he could hit those shots decently well, but that he knew that he still had to take about half of his shots at the rim because he was only making them in the mid-forty range.  In 2008-09 and when Amare got to New York, he stopped taking as many shots at the rim, and last year, he stopped making the mid-range shots.  Lately, Amare has reinvented himself as an at-the-basket role scorer who can play well for about half of the game, but who you would not necessarily want playing the whole game.  (To some degree, it also helps his efficiency that Amare has moved back to power forward, a position he has occasionally frequent which is also his “natural” position.)

What I still find strange is how anemic his rebounding is-I’ll reiterate that it is 9.5 per 48 minutes, which is only 84.1% of the rate of the average power forward.  His overall rebounding percentage is only 11.5%; I may not have a reference point to compare him against other 4’s, but that is the only lowest of Amare’s career and a far cry from his career average of 14.4%.  However, both by percentages and sheer totals, his offensive rebounding numbers have been fairly consistent over the last seven seasons.  His defensive rebounding has really struggled; it’s only 15% for this season, which is 16% lower than his previous career low from 2004-05.  Furthermore, his total defensive rebound per 48 are only 6, which is more than 30% lower than the average power forward’s and 21.7% lower than his own career low from two years ago.

I honestly cannot explain this.  I can’t blame it on Tyson Chandler because this is their second season together and he only plays 34.6% of his minutes with the monster rebounder.  His game appears to have drifted closer to the basket, although I may not be able to truly verify this as I am not a Synergy subscriber.  I could chalk it up to sample size, but I have never seen the Knicks play either.  (In fact, I’ve only watched four or five NBA games all season, if I remember correctly!)  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why Amare Stoudemire is not getting boards.  If any of my readers have an explanation, I would be delighted if you posted it in the comments section.

Amare Stoudemire still has an epically terrible contract.  It was obvious that he did not deserve it at the time-especially according to Wins Produced-and he was dangerously near to the ever-ominous age of thirty.  The Knicks have certainly paid the price for their grievous error.  However, Amare Stoudemire is not a worthless player.  I believe that for about twenty minutes per game, Amare will maintain some semblance of his current productivity.  By no means would I ever willingly pay $19,948,799 (which is his current salary) for his services, and there is a boatload of players who I would consider before him.  However, I do not believe that I would be too far off my rocker to suggest that he is worth perhaps $5-6 million a year, as he has recomitted himself to scoring around the basket.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

 

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