Miami Heat: What To Expect From Amar’e Stoudemire

Apr 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Amar
Apr 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Amar /

The Miami Heat have had a free-agency pattern for many years, specifically to build a team with star players and then fill the roster with aging veterans and cast-offs. It’s worked in the past, namely because there were superstars like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and, of course, LeBron James to lead the way.

Some of that top-level talent still remains and so the pattern continues with this year’s addition of Amar’e Stoudemire.

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The Heat’s starting five (Goran Dragic/Wade/Luol Deng/Bosh/Hassan Whiteside) represents the core of the team and likely the bulk of their production. But while the group seems capable of putting Miami among contending teams in the Eastern Conference, their ability to make a deep playoff run will depend on occasional and timely support from their reserves.

Stoudemire fits the aforementioned pattern perfectly: he’s a recognizable name, a still-talented player and, unfortunately, no longer in his prime. Nagging injuries have limited a man that once seemed to destined for the Basketball Hall-of-Fame. Now he wants only to collect a championship before retiring into relative anonymity.

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Last season, Stoudemire split time with the New York Knicks and, following a contract buyout, the Dallas Mavericks. It’s hard to gauge what he can contribute to Miami based on his time in New York, a failed four-year experiment that saw him reach All-Star levels before having fans cheering for his dismissal.

Instead, we’ll focus on the 23 games he played as a member of the Mavs.

Averaging 16.5 minutes per game during that stint, Stoudemire was indeed productive as a backup center (although he did start one game). His 10.5 points per game was his second-lowest average but, per 36 minutes, there’s a significant jump to 23.5 PPG. Surprisingly, that would be the third-highest average over the course of his 13 seasons.

Stoudemire shot an impressive 58.1 percent while in Dallas, punctuated by shooting a ridiculous 68.1 percent at the rim (on 94 attempts). The percentage drops to 65.7 percent just away from the basket and, finally 34.7 percent on 49 shots outside the painted area.

Amar’e greatly benefited from Dallas’ pick-and-roll offense, slipping away from defenders that sagged on to guards Rajon Rondo or Devin Harris, before corralling a timely pass and finishing strongly at the rim.

Stoudemire lacks the explosiveness from his time with the Phoenix Suns but still knows how to use space and timing to effectively get off a shot. He’s got good hands, only averaging more than three turnovers per game during one season. He can’t fly with above-average rim protectors but he might be able to use his size and length to stretch over ground-bound defenders.

In other words, he’s a limited but decent scorer that will help a Miami group of reserves that ranked 28th in the NBA last season.

His rebounding is suspect, with a total rebound percentage of 12.1 percent, the lowest of his career. Compare to this to new teammate Hassan Whiteside, who finished with a 25.4 rebounding percentage and you can see there’ll be a significant drop off. This is where Stoudemire will be most exposed.

He figures to replace Whiteside on the floor, probably playing alongside Bosh in most situations or, conceivably, Josh McRoberts.

While Stoudemire’s weaknesses would be masked by a defensive-minded power forward, both Bosh and McRoberts are most effective from the perimeter or high post at this point in their respective careers. Stoudemire will be alone on a rebounding island, with nary a hope of escape.

This is what makes Chris Andersen‘s expected trade a difficult one for the Heat. While limited by injury, Andersen was still a solid rebounder. But his scoring ability was limited in recent years and the spark that he once provided for Miami was no longer evident.

In that regard, Stoudemire is a clear upgrade.

As for his defensive abilities, Stoudemire still tries to keep up with opponents but his days as a solid rim protector are long gone. He’s better suited for 1-on-1 matchups where he can use his strength and experience to establish himself on the block. Should the battle become an airborne one, Amar’e will be served best by staying on the ground and hoping for a rebound.

There’s no mistaking why Stoudemire was signed by Miami. He’s still a capable scorer and will mesh well with a cast of veterans and youth that is, at least in their eyes, capable of contending. He’ll likely play spot minutes off the bench and might be able to start in place of Whiteside, although switching Bosh to center is a tested option that has worked well for the Heat.

At worst, Stoudemire’s age will have finally caught up with him and he’ll look slower than ever on defense and unable to find the scoring touch that made him such a statistical force in his youth.

At best? You can always hope that he’ll find the connection with Dragic, a Steve Nash protege, that once led to highlights like these:

That might be unrealistic but it’s the reason why the Heat have pursued free agents like Stoudemire in the past.

If they’re hungry enough to win (and that’s never been doubted of Stoudemire), perhaps they can turn back the clock just enough to end their careers on the highest of notes.

Next: Is Hassan Whiteside Really Miami's Future?

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