How Much Does Amar’e Stoudemire Help the Dallas Mavericks?
Amar’e Stoudemire is accustomed to playing for winning teams.
Appearing in the playoffs five out of the last seven season will do that to a player. This year is a different story, however, as the New York Knicks are having a dismal season. As of the All-Star break, they have a 10-43 record, dead last in the NBA.
With no hope of making the playoffs and with fellow veteran Carmelo Anthony shutting it down for the season, former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire wanted a chance to play for a contender again. So over the All-Star break, the 32-year-old power forward and the Knicks mutually agreed to a buyout.
After his release, Stoudemire wasted no time and will be taking his talents to North Texas and joining the current five-seed out West, the Dallas Mavericks. Before we can decide how the Stoudemire move helps Dallas, we need to take a look at the current state of the Mavs and STAT’s game.
The State of STAT
After an impressive start to his career with the Phoenix Suns, during which the big man averaged 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and carried a 115 Offensive Rating over eight seasons, Stoudemire signed with the Knicks for five years and $99.7 million. In his first season in New York, the 2010-11 season, Stoudemire started his Knicks tenure off right. He played 78 games, earned his only start in the All-Star game, and averaged a career-high 25.3 points per game (good for fifth in the NBA).
The next three and half seasons, though, were a different story. Stoudemire managed to play in only 63 percent of his final 283 regular season games in New York. Amar’e was hampered by multiple back, knee, ankle, and hand injuries from 2012-2015
Due to the injuries, the Knicks coaching staff had to limit the amount of minutes Stoudemire played. Starting in the 2012-13 season, Amar’e began to come off the bench primarily, starting only 35 of the 130 games he has played. In those games, he only saw 23.4 minutes of floor time per game but the veteran also managed to score 12.4 points and grab 5.5 rebounds per game. He shot 56 percent from the field and held an Offensive Rating of 113 during those 130 games.
Even in his limited time on the court this season, Stoudemire has still proven to be an offensive boost for New York. The Knicks had an Offensive Efficiency Rating of 103.3 while Stoudemire was on the floor and only a 96.8 rating when he was on the bench. In the 22 games that Stoudemire has come off the bench for the Knicks this year, his Offensive Rating is 113.2, nearly 8 points more than in the 14 games in which he started. So it would seem, in the twilight of his career, Stoudemire has transformed himself from an MVP-caliber player into a reliable big-off-the-bench guy. Which is perfect for Dallas because...
Dallas’ Area of Need
Dallas’ title chances rely heavily on the health of their veteran frontcourt duo, center Tyson Chandler and power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Chandler and Nowitzki both rank in the top 20 of our nERD metric, which measures games above or below .500 a team could expect to be with a given player as a starter.
Earlier in the season, Dallas had Brandan Wright, who was playing 18.7 minutes per game while carrying an unheard of 148 Offensive Rating. He was the ideal solution -- and a numberFire favorite-- to give the two aging veterans a rest while not experiencing a big drop in team Offensive Efficiency.
On December 19, the Mavericks decided to acquire the services of Rajon Rondo. The front office saw Rondo as valuable piece that put them not just in the playoffs but in contention for a title. The problem was that the move would cost them their best reserve (Wright). The trade left the already thin frontcourt of the Mavericks short-handed upfront with Greg Smith, rookie Dwight Powell (acquired with Rondo), and Charlie Villanueva as the only power forward and center reserves. Useful pieces, perhaps, but none of them possessed the efficiency or versatility of Wright.
With Wright out of the picture and no truly reliable backups, the Mavericks’ first choice has been to play Chandler more. Since the Rondo-Wright trade, Tyson Chandler has played 33.1 minutes per game, an increase of more than three minutes per game. Those minutes represent the highest average minutes per game Chandler has played since he was with the Hornets seven years ago. That is a lot to ask for from a 14-year veteran. In addition, Chandler has not been the picture of good health in his career, as he has missed 46 games in the past two plus seasons, including three games this season.
Dallas’ desperation for an effective reserve center was apparent, as the Mavs recently brought back Bernard James, a player who was averaging only 7.9 minutes per game during the past two seasons for Dallas. They even were forced to play James 22 minutes in their final game before the All-Star break while Chandler sat with an ankle injury.
Stoudemire’s Fit with Dallas
For Dallas, Stoudemire’s buyout could not have come at a better time. Besides the recent Chandler ankle injury, Dallas had been pursuing 36-year-old Jermaine O’Neal to fill its big man reserve role. Unfortunately for Dallas, O’Neal recently decided to remain out of the NBA this season. O’Neal’s decision makes the addition of Stoudemire a no-brainer to help fill out the frontcourt depth and to replace some of the offensive efficiency they are missing since the Brandan Wright trade. While few reserve players can replace the 7.8 nERD rating that Wright was carrying, Stoudemire does carry a positive rating of 1.1 nERD this season -- better than any of the backup bigs currently on the Mavericks’ roster.
One bonus the veteran forward will bring to the table, which Wright did not, is the ability to post up. Nearly 50 percent of Stoudemire’s touches have come on the block, while Dallas is dead last in the NBA with only 4.8 percent of their plays involving a post up. This is most likely a direct result of coach Rick Carlisle’s utilizing the skill set of his available players, something he has done his entire coaching career. Having Stoudemire down low will give Carlisle more options to exploit potential weaknesses of future opponents.
While saying Amar’e is not strong on the defensive end of court is an understatement, Stoudemire is more than holding his own this season. When defending shots from 10 feet and closer, Stoudemire is holding opponents to 45.6 percent shooting, or 9.5 percentage points lower than expected. He is also averaging 1.4 blocks every 36 minutes and is having the second best season in his career with a 22.4 percent defensive rebound rate. Defending against the second unit, as he will in Dallas, Stoudemire will provide more than enough defensive ability not to torpedo an already soft Dallas bench.
Besides being the primary fill-in for Chandler at center, Stoudemire will also get some run at the four spot to help rest Nowitzki during games. Dirk Nowitzki's Offensive Rating is 119.7 in the 25 games this season in which he has played fewer than 30 minutes. In the 26 games he goes over that total, his rating drops more than 10 points to 109.2. At 36 years old, Nowitzki will need plenty of rest during the final 27 games if he is to be at full strength for a hopefully deep playoff run. So Stoudemire will also provide Dallas with a worthwhile option to start at power forward when they decide to rest Dirk Nowitzki on the second half of a back-to-back, as they have four times this season.
A Good Fit for Both
Stoudemire and the Mavericks could not have found a more perfect scenario for each other.
Stoudemire wanted to play for a contender, and Dallas was in dire need of front court depth. As long as Stoudemire can stay healthy, he can thrive in a sixth-man role, as Dallas plans to use him. He will solidify the Mavs’ bench and give valuable minutes of rest to Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki.
While his impact may not be seen in the regular season standings, it will definitely be seen in the Mavericks’ run for a title. The Mavericks currently hold a 6.6% chance to win it all, per our metrics, the fifth-best odds in the NBA.