Knicks create softest PF tandem in NBA with Bargnani trade now official
The Knicks were already soft at the position with Amare Stoudemire looking like the team's top power forward. As a Knicks fan, it only took me about a month's worth of Stoudemire's presence on my team for me to grow frustrated with his apparent aversion to physical contact. At the time of my initial frustration (early December of 2010), Stoudemire was in the midst of a ridiculous 9-game streak of consecutive 30-point games, so I figured I'd cut him some slack on the boards and on defense, considering he was relentlessly dominating on the offensive end.
However, Stoudemire has since lost his knock-down mid-range jumper, has struggled to take defenders off the dribble, and has gotten a good percentage of his points on cheap baskets. Yes, he has still shot a high percentage from the field (57.7% last season, 48.3% the season before), but it is a result of taking much higher percentage shots - he now rarely creates shots on his own and has lost the ability to take over a game offensively.
I've gotten a little sidetracked. Offense is not the issue here - regardless of how his offense is, Stoudemire needs to get more physical in both the rebounding and defensive departments. It seems like no one ever taught the guy how to box out and use body position to secure rebounds. Behind Dwight Howard (who led the league in rebounds last season), the league's leading rebounders were Nikola Vucevic, Omer Asik, Zach Randolph, David Lee, and Reggie Evans. None of those players are particularly athletic or are great leapers - they are tough down low and use their bodies to wall off opponents from getting rebounds. Stoudemire needs to take a page from their book and learn to get physical when a shot goes up.
Stoudemire's 5.0 rebounds per game don't tell you the full story about his 2012-13 season because he was on a minutes limit. His per 36 minute average of 7.7, however, can tell you a lot. Players such as Festus Ezeli, Kyle O'Quinn, Udonis Haslem, Lamar Odom, Thomas Robinson, and Greg Smith all averaged 10+ rebounds per 36 minutes in at least 1,000 total minutes over the course of the season (excluding O'Quinn, who logged 638 minutes, 44 less than Stoudemire). You would think that a 6'10'' Stoudemire who had accepted a bench role (which was admittedly commendable) and knew his scoring was no longer what his team needed would be able to contribute an amount of rebounds similar to the aforementioned players.
You can't blame Stoudemire's lack of rebounding on his knee issues, because this is nothing new for the fragile forward. During Stoudemire's three years in New York, his season-high in rebounds per 36 minutes is 8.6, while he boasts a per game high of 8.2.
As for defense, it once again comes down to his aversion to physical contact. Sure, he often gets lost and doesn't know where he should be, and I don't blame him too much for that - he claims no one ever taught him how to play defense. However, effort and toughness don't need to be taught, and those are two traits that can turn any NBA-caliber athlete into a viable defender. Stoudemire likes to play what my man Walt "Clyde" Frazier would refer to as "matador defense" - he moves out of the way when a ball handler comes at him, then tries to swat the shot from behind. It does work sometimes, as Stoudemire has averaged 1.4 blocks per game on his career, but more often than not it results in an uncontested layup. The man simply needs to be more physical.