It’s been four years and countless aches and pains since Amar'e Stoudemire made the last of his six All-Star appearances.
This version of Stoudemire certainly isn’t the same dominant force who averaged 28.8 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Phoenix Suns in a playoff series to help dismiss the Dallas Mavericks a decade ago. He no longer has that special spring in his legs, thanks to the severe toll taken on his knees and ankles during his 13-year NBA career.
But the Mavs are optimistic that a relatively healthy Stoudemire can be a significant piece in their postseason rotation.
Dallas, considered a strong front-runner to sign Stoudemire when he reaches a buyout with the New York Knicks, aren’t fooling themselves into thinking that the 32-year-old will suddenly return to All-Star form with a change of scenery. But they do believe he can be a better-rebounding replacement for center Brandan Wright, the high-efficiency backup big man the Mavs have missed since including him in the Rajon Rondo deal, and a candidate for spot duty at power forward.
As bad as the Knicks are, Stoudemire has been productive when on the floor, averaging 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24 minutes a night during his 36 appearances this season. He would unquestionably be a major upgrade over journeyman Greg Smith, rookie second-rounder Dwight Powell and 10-day rental Bernard James, the three centers currently battling for minutes behind Tyson Chandler.
This version of Stoudemire can’t replicate Wright’s ability to catch pretty much any lob pass thrown his way and finish. (Stoudemire has slammed home only three alley-oops all season, per NBA.com’s stats database.) He certainly isn’t going to shoot 74.8 percent from the floor, as Wright did in Dallas before being dealt this season.
But the addition of the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Stoudemire would directly address arguably the Mavs’ biggest flaw: defensive rebounding. Stoudemire has a defensive rebounding percentage of 22.4 this season, while Wright grabbed 12.9 percent with Dallas. Chandler, who desperately needs help on the glass against some of the West bullies, is the only player on the roster who would be a better rebounder than Stoudemire.
And Stoudemire remains a weapon as a roll man, a critical element for a big man in a Dallas offense that emphasizes pick-and-rolls. He has shot 54.3 percent this season for the Knicks despite New York’s lack of creators, with more than two-thirds of his shot attempts coming within five feet of the hoop.
The addition of Stoudemire would greatly benefit backup point guard Devin Harris, providing spacing the second unit has sorely missed since Wright’s departure. Stoudemire would also benefit from playing with the Mavs’ plethora of pick-and-roll initiators, not to mention Dirk Nowitzki, who often joins four bench players on the floor for stretches.
"He would fit in great because we play a lot of pick-and-roll," Chandler, who played with Stoudemire in New York from 2011-12 to 2013-14, said recently. "Coach [Rick Carlisle] does an excellent job understanding scorers and how to get them the ball and putting them in a position to succeed.
“Not only that, we've got the best training staff in the league. That also helps."
That training staff, headed by Team USA’s Casey Smith, likely ranks as one of the primary reasons Stoudemire is expected to pick the Mavs over other suitors that are headed for the playoffs.
The Mavs’ motivation for pursuing Stoudemire is obvious. It’s not because he’s a big name. It’s because he would fill a big void.