Do you see the guy in the bottom right of this picture? He is not in a member of the Suns anymore. You may remember he was replaced with a hefty older fellow, Shaquille something or other. And the coach who figured out a way to let Phoenix soar up and down the court – shot-clock be damned – is also elsewhere this season.
Gimme 10! Player Profile – Amare Stoudemire
So with Shawn Marion running alongside Dwayne Wade in Miami, and Mike D’Antoni trying to rebuild the hapless Knickerbockers, Phoenix is gambling that a more half-court oriented offense, actually playing defense, and a fully healthy Amare Stoudemire playing his natural PF position will get them farther in the playoffs than last year’s first round exit. Frankly, the only part of that bet that makes any sense to us is Amare.
Trying to get a team of shoot first veterans (plus a less than dominant Shaq) to suddenly begin defending, may be like trying to go off-roading in a Corvette. If it does work, the big reason will be Amare Stoudemire.
Half court teams maximize possessions by forcing their advantage(s). Amare is clearly the Suns player most likely to give opposing coaches fits trying figure out a way to guard him, so we expect the Phoenix offense to run through him more often than not.
But it is not just that he will be the focus of the offense that has Stoudemire poised for an explosive year. Here are three more reasons: 1) he is young – at only 25, he has time physically and mentally to develop his game; 2) he is healthy – the second half of the 07-08 campaign appears to show his knee is fully healed; and 3) he is playing opposite the Big Cactus – diminishing the number of pure centers he will face at both ends, not to mention making it much harder to double team The Man-child.
Amare has two offensive challenges this year: he has to maintain his scoring efficiency despite getting fewer opportunities in transition, and he has be willing to start further from the basket (because Shaq cannot). This will be made harder because in Phoenix’s new scheme, he will actually have to guard somebody. Alas, they will have to guard him as well.
Steve Nash, Grant Hill, even Shaquille O’Neal probably have a little something in the tank. And Phoenix thinks it did particularly well drafting talent to fit its new approach. Still, this team is built to win now, not in the future. With D’Antoni and Marion no longer around, that future has a name. That name is Amare.