Amare Stoudemire is an advanced stats conundrum.
On one hand, he’s is an efficiency monster on the offensive end yet on the other hand his +/- numbers look nothing like they should for a player seeking a maximum contract.
So as teams like the Knicks and Heat ponder what kind of offer to send to Amare the day after the Suns essentially dropped out of the running for his services, here’s a deeper look at what teams will be getting with Amare than what you would see in a traditional box score.
First the good news: Amare is an amazingly efficient scorer, the kind of guy who can score 44 on 16 shots and then put up 37 on 15 attempts two games later. That assertion is backed up by his scorching true shooting percentage numbers (which accounts for a player’s free throws and threes).
Even with his injured 2005-06, STAT has finished first among power forwards twice in true shooting percentage, second twice and third once. In 2007-08 only Andrew Bynum recorded a better true shooting percentage than Amare.
In terms of PER, Stoudemire has finished once, second, fourth and sixth (twice) among power forwards in his past five healthy years. PER is one of the better ways to evaluate a player’s efficiency, and clearly Amare has been an elite player in terms of that metric the past few years.
However, Amare also finished 31st in the league among power forwards in rebound rate last season, 41st in 2008-09, 20th in 2007-08, 11th in 2006-07 and 37th in 2004-05.
Basketball Prospectus’ Kevin Pelton, one of the leaders in the advanced stats field, used his updated SCHOENE projection system to project the free agent class, and he sees Amare as the sixth-best player on the board, ahead of Carlos Boozer and David Lee. I asked him in an e-mail if that means he thinks STAT is worth a max deal.
“By the end of a five-year contract, probably not,” Pelton said. “No question such a deal would be a major risk. At the same time, unless the Suns have an awfully good plan for replacing Stoudemire I can’t see letting him walk being a good thing. He is such a unique talent and so critical to Phoenix’s success that I think the Suns have to try to re-sign him and live with a potentially ugly back end of the deal. After all, as long asis still around Phoenix’s window to contend is right now.”
Pelton, of course, wrote that before the Suns let Stoudemire walk when they couldn’t find common ground on a long-term deal, but his analysis further reinforces the fact that this was probably a smart long-term play but a dicey short-term proposition considering Nash’s window is closing.
Moving on, things get ugly with Amare when turning to the +/- metric. This of course is not a perfect metric, but the thinking goes that a team should be much better with one of its best players on the floor than when he’s off the floor when adjusting for the impact of other players on the court.
There’s a reason that the top seven guys in two-year adjusted +/-, according to Basketball Value, are Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Except for perhaps Allen, you would expect that, right?
According to Basketball Value, Amare’s adjusted +/- for 2009-10 is -6.06 points per 100 possession, for 2008-09 it’s -1.22 and 2007-08 — when he was so efficient shooting the ball — just -2.23. In the playoffs this year Amare recorded a team-worst -13.37 adjusted +/- and he put up a -0.84 in the 2008 playoffs. That means over the past few years by this metric the Suns have been better off when Amare sits on the bench.
By contrast, the Suns’ leader in adjusted +/- in every one of those time periods referenced was exactly who you would expect it to be: Steve Nash. Oftentimes it wasn’t even close either.
According to Wayne Winston‘s numbers, Amare’s adjusted +/- the last three years has been -.47 in 2007-08, .55 in 2008-09 and -.56 in 2009-10. His impact factor (which basically measures how a player changes his team’s chances of winning) was -6.8 percent this year 3.12 percent the year before and 2.32 percent the year before that.
That led Winston to conclude in an e-mail, “I do not think other teams should give him a max because a lot of his good play may be due to being with Nash.”
There are flaws with +/- analysis, but that data would say that the Suns are a better team without Amare Stoudemire. Such an analysis fails the common sense test, but it certainly backs up the assertion that the Suns were smart not to offer the max.
Amare comes in eighth on the list (considering Yao isn’t opting out), accruing an average of 9.61 wins the last three years and an average WP48 of 0.185. For all that, they put his value at $16.41 mil per year (by contrast, LeBron is $41.37, Wade $25.17 and Bosh $16.88).
(Quick aside: this table likes the Warrick signing, saying the Suns are getting him for $2.19 million a year less than what he’s worth, but hates the Frye deal, saying he’s worth about $5 million less a year at just over a $1 mil.)
The WOW Journal also takes a look at the Amare to the Knicks for five years, $100 million rumor. This analysis determines that Amare offers quite less than the top free agents, is relatively old and is projected to decline to the extent that he will only produce 32.4 wins throughout the length of the contract:
“It doesn’t look like Amare is going to produce enough to justify his contract. So the Knicks will be paying $100 million for an above average player, but not a player who is going to substantially change the team’s outcomes. And that means fans of the Knicks might be disappointed.”
Depending on what advanced metrics you choose to focus on, Amare is either a ruthlessly efficient big man who can score at will or an overhyped superstar who does not make his team better when he’s on the floor and does not do the things that lead to wins at a superstar level.
This examination does shed some light on why the Suns were not willing to offer Stoudemire a guaranteed max deal for five years and why a team like the Knicks that offers such a contract might be getting less than they’re bargaining for.