Is Amare such a bad defender and rebounder?

Is Amare as bad of a rebounder as you may think? (AP/Duane Burleson)

Amare Stoudemire possesses a vast offensive repertoire, complete with an inside power game boosted by his off-the-charts athleticism and a developing outside jumper he hits on a consistent basis.

But many people believe the reason Amare is on the trading block is because of the defense and rebounding he gets such a bad rap for.

Listening to the way the average Suns fan talks about Amare’s defense and rebounding you would sometimes think he’s the worst defender and rebounder on the planet.

We all know his effort wavers at times on the boards and his help defense certainly leaves something to be desired, but I wanted to know what objective statistical analysis had to say about the man known as STAT.

For that I entrusted the help of stat guru Brett Hainline, who runs the TrueHoop Network’s Bobcats blog, Queen City Hoops.

Hainline built a program that takes box scores from every game this season (in this case through Sunday’s Detroit contest) to figure out who the player in question was probably guarding based on the height, weight and positions of the players on the floor. (See chart, below)

The numbers show the player Amare guards averages 0.4 points per 40 minutes less than usual based on the weighted average of his season stats, including 0.9 less when Amare is at power forward and 0.6 more when he’s at center.

Amare’s guy scores just 18 percent of his team’s points, shoots 45.5 percent from the floor and grabs 0.2 more offensive rebounds per 40 than expected but 0.6 less defensive rebounds per 40.

Amare, meanwhile, scores 22.5 points per 40 minutes, which is seven more per 40 than he gives up due to his stellar 61.1 percent true shooting percentage.

Granted, this kind of analysis does not take into account help defense, which we all know isn’t a Stoudemire strong suit by watching him play, but in terms of pure one-on-one defense he might not be as bad as we all think.

Plus, you have to contemplate how much his offense outweighs his defense, and seven points per 40 minutes is no small margin.

According to, that ties Leandro Barbosa of all people for the best mark on the Suns and puts him 20th overall in the league. Last year Amare led the Suns by creating 9.5 more points than he gave up and the year before he ranked second behind Steve Nash at 7.6.

As we move on to the rebounding portion of the program, I’d like to take a moment to point out Amare’s career rebounding numbers.

This year he ranks tied for 20th in the NBA averaging 8.2 boards per contest. He ranked 18th at 9.1 last year, ninth at 9.6 in 06-07, 17th with 8.9 in 04-05, 18th with 9.0 if he had qualified in 03-04 and 13th with 8.8 as a rookie in 02-03.

They may not be elite or up to Amare’s potential, but they certainly aren’t terrible numbers.

I think the biggest issue the Suns have with Amare’s rebounding is the inconsistency of it. He has a game of 20, two of 15 and two of 14 this season, but he also went 10 consecutive games in January without a double-digit board game.

The fact that before Friday he had not boarded in double digits in a game he didn’t score at least 20 in shows when he’s active in the offense he’s more likely to be active on the boards.

And then there’s that nugget he said after Friday’s game about him and Shaq deciding that the Shaqtus would clean up the boards on some days so Amare can get out and run. You can look at that as searching for an excuse, but I believe there’s some truth to that, and in any case we know Shaq has taken away from some of STAT’s boarding potential this season.

The stats say Amare grabs 6.6 defensive boards per 40 minutes and 2.3 offensive rebounds. That is 0.8 defensive rebounds more per 40 than the guy he is guarding and 0.8 less offensive boards.

Amare secures 18.2 percent of the available defensive rebounds and 7.2 percent of the available offensive boards.

What all these numbers mean is that even in a down year Amare is one of the better players in the league at scoring more points than he gives up, and although he’s a pretty poor help defender he’s not terrible playing defense one-on-one.

Also, although his rebounding numbers aren’t as high as they should be for a 6-foot-10 freak of nature and he sometimes seems disinterested on the glass, it’s inaccurate to call him a terrible rebounder, statistically speaking.

A word of caution to the Amare bashers out there, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

A breakdown of Amare's stats through Sunday's Detroit game courtesy of Brett Hainline/Queen City Hoops. (Click to enlarge)

A breakdown of Amare's stats through play Sunday courtesy of Brett Hainline from Queen City Hoops. (Click to enlarge)

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • Justin Adler

    Let's get this petition some press.

  • Scott

    So Amare's defense on a guy is the reason for that player's 'poor' performance?

    Or is it that because of Amare's poor defense he is given the task of guarding an inconsequential player on the other team?

  • Sondhi

    I'm a Lake-show fan, but like everybody who loves the NBA am grateful for the Suns of recent vintage, and have watched a ton of games.

    So i'll say what seems obvious—Stoudemire is guilty of being an egoist. I'll tell you what though, that's not a bad thing. Kobe is egoist.

    Like Kobe he played a role on a championship contender for a few years, but once that window closes, you build around your best player. And there aren't 5 guys in the league who can score like Amare.

    He hasn't been shown that love though, and he has responded poorly to it as far effort and intensity. While not what you hope for, I also can understand it. Yes he has deficiencies in defense and perhaps rebounding, but his recovery from surgery and the wrinkles he added to his offensive game show that he has work ethic and an ability to improve.

    How do you challenge him to do that? not through poor coaching and having a fat shaq interfere with the few sublime things he does do (i.e. put the ball in the hoop), but by giving him responsibility. I understand why he is a funk, and this fire-sale confirms it. Faith uplifts and at the same time pressures one to improve. The Wade's, and LeBron's and Bosh's were given that opportunity early on to lead their team, and it meant a few mediocre seasons. But when it becomes clear that your team's success directly hinges on you and your ability, then you have no excuses. Remember LeBron didn't defend like he does now early on. Kobe was a ballhog who couldn't make teammates better.

    I don't understand this. Have fun following this team for the next 10 years if you trade Amare.

    >>The Blazers trade is the best deal, but I have seen LaMarcus play maybe 40 or 50 games and he will not be an All-Star. His best move is a turn-around J, and he rebounds less than Amare.

  • Mike Curry

    Amar’e’s on-court/off-court numbers are the ones that bother me. The Suns are only one point better per 100 possessions with him on the court than they are when Amar’e is on the bench.

    Stoudemire is undoubtedly a supreme talent, I’m just not sure he’s really helping his team win games.

  • Sam Cohen

    If you look at Hollinger’s rebound rate statistics, Amare isn’t in the top 20 power forwards for defensive, offensive, or combined rebound rate this season.

    His offensive skills might still make him a very good player, but it’s hard to defend him based on rebounding numbers.

  • Hersey

    Amare’s rebounding gets a bit more criticism than it should for a great who plays with a huge center who rebounds well. A lot of casual fans are picking at Amare’s game now that he’s in the trade spotlight. Most of the league’s top rebounders are one dimensional players and 4 of the top 5 are centers on awful defensive teams. Lots of rebounds to be had in games with a fast pace and lots of missed shots. But I digress…

    Most Suns fans would agree that his help defense principles are by far the worst part of his game. Some of it is desire, some of it is coaching. He’s not a cancer in the locker room, he’s just annoyingly vocal about his scoring role when he has the ability to dominate other aspects of the game when teammates have the hot hand. Amare doesn’t appear to be that type of big though, which reveals what his most maddening deficiency is- basketball IQ.

  • Michael Schwartz

    Agreed, but to discuss something like that you need to look at more data. Here’s the Suns plus-minus when Amare is on/off the court the last couple years:
    07-08: +6.4
    06-07: +0.6
    05-06: Injury
    04-05: +8.9
    I’m not a math major, but those numbers make no sense. Every other year the difference between Amare being on the floor or not makes a huge difference and on the off year it’s almost negligible. Very weird that those stats would hold up for a whole season. That makes it hard to quantify how much better the Suns are when Amare is out there.

  • Jordan

    Interesting stuff, and your last line is definitely sage advice, but looking at your numbers from a different perspective, how many elite power forwards/centers has Amare guarded this year? For that matter, how many elite power forwards/centers are there in the league? Not many on both accounts. That needs to be taken into account. I haven’t followed too many Suns games this year (not fun stuff to watch at all anymore) but last season, Amare was getting pummeled by any and every power forward/Center he faced. He gave up 40 or something to Jefferson. Even Erick Dampier took him to school. And, rebounding totals don’t really mean too much when you’re getting 35-40 minutes a night. It’s rebound rate that matters, and Amare, as noted by Sam Cohen, is HORRIBLE.

  • merl

    07-08: +6.4
    06-07: +0.6
    05-06: Injury
    04-05: +8.9

    Michael, those plus minus fugures are affected by the quality of the player that comes in for him.

    In 07 Boris Diaw was the ‘third’ big (if you consider the Marion/Shaq tandem to occupy one position)
    In 06 Kurt Thomas was the third guy (and Diaw 4th)
    In 05 it doesn’t matter, cause he was injured
    In 04 they had Stephen Hunter as the third big man.

    So the ‘abberation’ of Amare’s plus-minus being so flat in 06/06 is I think a sign that Kurt Thomas was a much higher quality player than they have had in other seasons, so that the big-man dropoff isn’t so steep when Amare goes to the bench.

  • inside trader

    i agree that amare, as a scorer, is a very valuable asset to the suns. the team should not trade him just to make a deal. it would be a waste.

    that said, the suns have to trade amare if they want a chip. it’s unfortunate no one in phoenix realized this before now, when his numbers don’t make him so desirable to the rest of the league.

    amare is an albatross. he is the kind of player that lights up the scoreboard and sells tickets, but he also demands a max contract and doesn’t play team ball or defense.

    because of his contract and his constant need to be recognized as the best player on his team, he will do more harm than good on any team he plays for.

    to me, one play from a game this week sums up amare’s defense and willingness to be accountable for his mistakes:

    i don’t remember which game it was, but amare inbounded the ball at the suns baseline, and his pass was promptly stolen by the man in front of him. instead of bodying up and blocking an easy path to the basket, he stood in one spot as the opposing player merely dribbled past him for a layup.

    sure, he stuck a hand out, and that probably means something to him. he is an uncoachable prima donna who will never, ever, bring his team a ring.

  • Suns fan in Portland

    Dear Steve ‘worst GM ever’ Kerr and Robert ‘cheapskate bean counter’ Sarver. If you are intent on trading away our best young player and trashing the Suns, please trade him to the Blazers!!!
    Not just because I’m also a Blazers fan, but because I often see Lamarcus Aldridge play in person, and he’s by far the best power forward I’ve seen discussed in a trade for Amare. (Today CBS sports reported the Blazers offered Lamarcus and Jerred Bayles along with Lafrenzes golden ticket expiring contract.)
    Please take this trade! It’s the only trade I’ve seen mentioned where the Suns would get a good deal, while still saving cheapskate Sarver a bunch of money!!! You’ll get an awesome young power forward and a point guard of the future!!!

    As a side note, Sarver is possibly the worst owner in the NBA. Kerr may be the worst GM, but it’s hard to tell, because Sarver could have been the one pushing these trades. One year ago the Suns had the best record in the league, now they’re about to be in rebuilding mode while having one of the oldest rosters in the NBA. Of course the logical thing to do is trade away our best young player…

  • Michael Schwartz

    Wow, I almost don’t believe that could have been offered because I can’t imagine the Suns having to think for more than a second about such a deal. That’s the perfect trade for Phoenix. They get a very good young power forward who makes them competitive now and is a piece you can build around for the future. You get your cap relief and don’t even have to pay most of the guy’s salary this year. And you get an heir apparent to Nash who’s a local guy who can also boost the bench this year. If such a deal was offered, that’s a no-brainer.

  • Baguete (Sao Paulo – Brazil)

    I am not much of a stats guy, especially discussing defense, a very subtle subject like that.

    The problem with his defense or rebounding is not that they are low in absolut terms, the problem is that Amare is UNDERACHIVING in these matters.

    He could rebound more and he could defend better, but he doesn’t, simply because of his ego or his pose. And I wouldn’t pay big money for a guy who doesn’t do more than one thing well on the court. If he scores a 60 ppg, that would be ok, but, of course this is not the case.

    Once again: I think he’s not a good defender, not a good passer, not a good rebounder, not a leader, not a clutch player and not a franchise player. He is an awesome ofensive player and a huge athlete. But doesn’t matter what are your weapons if you are not willing to use them.

  • magenta

    The issue is not with Amare. It's with us fans:

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