Amar’e Stoudemire’s Post Game Has a Role in Mike Woodson’s Offense

Earlier this summer, Amar’e Stoudemire paid a hefty price (approximately $50k) to work on his previously non-existent post game with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Given the history of Stoudemire’s offensive game, devastation as a roll man with a tint of mid-range shooting, there has been almost unanimous sentiment among the the basketball community that Stoudemire’s post game won’t be used much in games. I too felt the same way, until I looked deeper into the matter.

It isn’t that Amar’e is going to become a post up player. He’s not. That has never been his game, and likely won’t ever be the base of his offensive repertoire. However, that doesn’t mean Stoudemire’s post work this offseason can’t help his game. After analyzing Mike Woodson’s offense, I think there will be opportunities for Stoudemire to score in a post up game and in that area of the floor. We know that Woodson’s history indicates that he run a slower, more isolation based type offense. Unlike Mike D’Antoni’s offense, the pick and roll has never been a staple of the Woodson offense. That doesn’t mean pick and rolls will be eliminated, but we’ll likely see less of them next season. That means Amar’e Stoudemire will have to find other ways to score, because he won’t be rolling to the basket every third possession.

Thanks to Synergy Sports, I was able to track both Stoudemire’s shot attempts when rolling to the basket compared to when he was posted up. After Mike Woodson took over on March 14th, Amar’e Stoudemire played in 15 games. In those 15 games, including the playoff series against Miami, Stoudemire had 35 shot attempts rolling to the hoop and 28 shot attempts while posting up. I certainly was surprised by these numbers, as I expected a higher number of attempts as a roll man. From simply watching the games, I didn’t remember Stoudemire posting up so many times. After looking at the film, I realized that the Knicks weren’t utilizing Stoudemire in a post up game like you’d see a normal post up big man, such as LaMarcus Aldridge or Carlos Boozer.

Under Woodson, the Knicks offense ran mostly through Carmelo Anthony. We all know that. But what I noticed was the propensity of the offense to get Stoudemire the ball down in the low post area. But this doesn’t necessarily mean he always had to have his back to the basket in order to get the ball in that area of the floor. With Woodson at the reins, the low post area of the floor became an area where Stoudemire frequented more, even when he wasn’t getting the ball. And there is where I think working with Olajuwon will help Stoudemire. His new repertoire of moves should help him not only on the block, but in that general area of the floor. With more practice and confidence executing offensive moves down closer towards the rim should help not only his post up game, but his face up and driving games as well.

Very rarely did Stoudemire ever have his back to the basket in a post up situation, but that general area of the floor is where he was getting the ball. Here is a picture of one of the part(s) of the floor I’m talking about:

Notice also in these photos, Tyson Chandler who is at the top of the key in the bottom photo and on the side of the key opposite of Stoudemire in the top photo. He doesn’t space the floor greatly, but his position should give Stoudemire the room he needs to operate in a more technical, controlled post up game. With his seemingly decreasing athleticism, Stoudemire has to adjust to not being able to out muscle and blow by defenders whenever he wants. This newly added post up game should tailor both to Woodson’s slower paced system and the seeming decrease of Stoudemire’s athleticism. Stoudemire having the ball in these areas of the floor was a pattern that repeated itself many times when I analyzed the Knicks offense under Woodson. I think Woodson has sort of delegated this spot of the floor as a spot where he can get Stoudemire touches while adequately spacing the floor. So how does his post game relate to this sort of positioning?

Having this sort of positioning on the floor is going to result in many shot attempts varying 3-9 feet from the rim. According to Hoopdata, Stoudemire shot an abysmal 32.4% from that area of the floor last season. I think we can attribute the low % to two factors. A) the fact that he lost some of his athleticism last year and B) he was getting the ball there more in an iso/post up situation rather than rolling, more often than not. Now here is where a post up game will come in handy for him.

As I said earlier, Stoudemire will probably never use the post up as the staple of his offensive game. But I think Stoudemire can add this newly minted post game to his repertoire and use it quite frequently. As shown by the numbers, 28 shot attempts from post ups in 15 games under Woodson, there will be opportunity for him to use his new moves. We all saw Stoudemire’s athleticism decrease last season. Whether you want to blame age or health, the bottom line is that he just wasn’t as athletic last year as he has been in the past. He can’t just bullrush through and jump over guys to score as we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the past decade. But I believe that Stoudemire has the skills necessary to be a solid post player and I think he will be. This will be quite important as it will give him another way to attack opponents other than trying to use his athleticism to overwhelm them, which often resulted in turnovers or charges last season.

I’m going to analyze two plays from last year that are indicative of what I’m talking about.

Here is the video of the first play:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjEpWh9uE0c]

This play starts out as a pick and roll featuring JR Smith as the ball handler and Amar’e Stoudemire as the roll man. Tyson Chandler is absent from this play, but that is not really important here. On the play, Tracy McGrady and Ivan Johnson collapse on Stoudemire the roll man, forcing Smith to swing the ball to Landry Fields (remember him?) on the wing rather than feed the ball to Stoudemire rolling towards the basket. When he doesn’t get the ball, Stoudemire posts up 6’8 Ivan Johnson and receives the ball from Fields. Once he gets the ball, you can tell that Stoudemire has no idea what he’s doing. He has decent post position on the shorter Johnson, but he decides to face him up despite the fact that he’s about 5 feet away from the rim. Stoudemire makes a move towards the middle of the paint. Johnson gets a hand on the ball and the McGrady collapses on Stoudemire causing him to throw up a wild shot. This is a situation where if he had a go to post up move, or two, he’d have a better opportunity to score. Rather than facing up a shorter defender 5 feet from the rim, Stoudemire’s post game should give him the ability to create a better look for himself.

Here is video of the second play:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txD365Cr2PA]

This play begins as an inbounds play that gets Carmelo Anthony the ball along the wing, guarded by LeBron James. Udonis Haslem is assigned to Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire sets Anthony a pick, but James and Haslem trap Anthony while Chris Bosh rolls off Tyson Chandler to pick up Stoudemire. It is an excellent defensive rotation by the Heat. This play also showcases how Chandler’s inability to stretch the floor hurts Amar’e Stoudemire. Bosh is guarding to Chandler on the play, but is able to temporarily roll off of him to pick up Stoudemire on the roll due to the fact that Chandler doesn’t have the ability to shoot the mid-range shot or put the ball on the floor, were he to receive the ball. After Miami’s trap, Anthony is forced to kick the ball out to Baron Davis near mid-court and the Knicks have to reset. The ball then swings back to Anthony and then to Stoudemire, who has the entire low post area to himself, as shown in this photo:

Stoudemire then drives wildly on the smaller Udonis Haslem. Haslem does a really excellent job of cutting Stoudemire off from the rim, forcing him to either shoot over him, pass the ball or shoot from the center of the paint. Given the fact that Bosh crashes hard into the paint, passing the ball out probably is the best solution here as Baron Davis and JR Smith are left wide open. But that is more of a LeBron kind of play, that isn’t Stoudemire’s game. New York’s $100 million man is looking to score, which is fine except that Stoudemire takes a horrid shot. When Haslem cuts Stoudemire off, the Knick forward spins out of control into the paint and shoots an air ball. This is a situation where more offensive moves in the 3-9 foot area would benefit Stoudemire greatly. Obviously we don’t know what moves exactly Stoudemire has been taught, but there are probably 100 better ways for him to handle Haslem on this play. Whether its one or two back down dribbles and a hook shot, or a more controlled fade away shot, Stoudemire should be more adept this season to handle this kind of situation.

Again, learning post up moves from Hakeem Olajuwon doesn’t make Amar’e Stoudemire a post up maestro. But it doesn’t really have to. The strength of Stoudemire’s game is still getting to the rim off pick and rolls and finishing at the rim, but his new moves should make him all the more devastating. His learning of a post up game is about improving his chances of scoring off shots 3-9 feet from the rim, where he shot 32.4% on 105 shots in just 47 games, good for 17th in the league among forwards. From film study, I believe Mike Woodson has designated the low post area as a spot to get Amar’e Stoudemire the ball with room to operate, even with Chandler and Anthony on the floor. That doesn’t mean Stoudemire has to post up every time he gets the ball there, but that now he has the option to. I think there is a role in this offense for Stoudemire to excel in the low post area and hopefully this new and improved post up game helps him get there.

Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino

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