A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Knicks had one of the NBA’s deepest frontcourts. Obviously, whether or not they would be able to live up to their potential depended on whether or not they would be able to stay healthy.
Because of Hurricane Sandy, as I write this, the Knicks are one of the NBA’s seven teams who are yet to play a game.
We know that Amar’e Stoudemire is going to be out for the foreseeable future. He’s expected to miss at least six weeks after undergoing a left knee debridement.
That poses an interesting dilemma for the Knicks, but not necessarily for the reason that most people think. The Knicks will be fine without Stoudemire.
It’s what they do with him when he’s able to return that should concern Knicks fans.
When Mike Woodson took over as interim coach on March 14, the Knicks had lost six games in a row and were 18-24.
Under Woodson, they won 18 of their final 24 games and finished a respectable 36-30.
With both Stoudemire and Anthony in the lineup, Woodson’s Knicks were 9-2. Without Stoudemire, they were 9-4. With Stoudemire, the two losses came at Toronto and at Cleveland, while the four losses without him were at Atlanta, at Chicago, at Indiana and vs. Miami.
Without Stoudemire, Anthony played a lot of power forward for the Knicks and flourished – earning NBA Player of the Month for April.
Without Stoudemire, we have seen Anthony be an effective and efficient scorer. And without both Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin (who was nursing his own injury), Anthony led the Knicks to wins through a very tough stretch. He did that despite his team needing heavy minutes from Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Landry Fields and Jared Jeffries.
This season, Anthony’s supporting cast is much improved, so it’s reasonable to think that without Stoudemire, he should have similar success. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd should allow Anthony to play off of the ball a bit more, and the defense should be improved with the additions of Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Camby.
If Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Chris Copeland can provide the Knicks with semi-reliable mid-range shooting and solid rebounding, they should be able to approach 50 wins – without Stoudemire.
But what about with him?
The timetable for Stoudemire’s return has been set at six to eight weeks. On the low end, the Knicks will have played 20 games without him. On the high end, the number would be closer to 30.
With nine new faces, it could take the Knicks that long to gel. And if through 20 games, they managed to go 14-6, what do you do when Stoudemire returns? Through 30 games, what if they are 23-7? It’s highly improbable, but if they are successful with Anthony playing the power forward position, do you blow that up as soon as Stoudemire is ready to return?