Based on statistics and accolades alone, Amare Stoudemire should earn an easy A for his eight seasons as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
But there is so much more that goes into grading a player’s tenure than just points per game.
How was Amare as a teammate? Was he likable to the fans? How did he adapt to change or obstacles? How did he carry himself off of the court?
Evaluating all of those elements of being a professional basketball player, along with the on-the-court production, is the perfect formula for grading Amare Stoudemire’s eight-year tenure in Phoenix.
How many NBA players can score 44 points on 16 shot attempts, and then go out and explode for 37 on 15 shots? There’s no question you can count them on one hand.
Stoudemire is an offensive juggernaut and arguably the most efficient offensive power forward in the league.
Averaging 20-plus in six of his seven seasons (if you throw away 2005-06 when he played three games) is quite a feat, and winning Rookie of the Year the one sub-20-point season isn’t too bad either.
STAT gave the Suns a low-post presence they had been yearning for after suffering through guys like Jake Tsakalidis, Daniel Santiago and Jake Voskuhl for so long.
One of the few elements of Stoudemire’s game that he has yet to figure out — defense. STAT has been ripped publicly for his defense seemingly since he broke into the league. As Michael Schwartz proved with advanced stats, Stoudemire is an atrocious defender, who didn’t help his team very much from a plus-minus standpoint.
He showed improvement in the defensive department last season, but there’s always been an on/off switch with his on-the-court desire, which usually shows on the defensive end. He only averaged more than two blocks per game in one of his eight seasons and has never been able to put it together defensively — which definitely won’t change under Mike D’Antoni in NY.
If we’re going to call his defense flaw No. 1, then Stoudemire’s rebounding is a unanimous No. 1a.
A player should be judged by how they perform based on what they have to work with. Amare has six feet, 10 inches, 250 pounds and freakish athleticism to work with, yet he has never averaged double-digit rebounds in his career.
He’s always lacked that desire to hit the glass, but has never been short of excuses. He would say his rebounds are stolen by his teammates, or that he is too busy keeping other guys off the glass to grab them. But really, STAT is just an atrocious rebounder.
He relies only on his athleticism and has no technique, which is why he was so inconsistent on the boards, grabbing 20 one game and two the next. Watching so much size and athleticism fail to translate into rebounds was painful to watch. Needless to say, STAT’s rebounding is one thing Suns fans will not miss when he’s in The Big Apple.
It’s tough to say how Amare was as a teammate without exactly being behind closed doors. But for the first half of his career or so, he was pegged as the type of guy you wouldn’t want to befriend. It was always about Amare Stoudemire, and it showed when he butted heads with a stubborn D’Antoni and Shawn Marion.
But STAT seemingly changed his ways when Alvin Gentry took over as coach. He was praised for being a better teammate and leader last season, and it showed in the team’s unbelievable chemistry. He was just one of the guys and would even pick up team dinners or go to football games with his fellow Suns.
Because of that change in maturity and leadership it’s difficult to grade STAT on the type of teammate he was, but it’s also hard to forget his clash with D’Antoni and Marion.
Off the court
For a kid coming fresh out of high school with a questionable background, Stoudemire sure kept a clean image. After attending six high schools in four years and growing up with no father figure and his mother in and out of jail, it would have been easy for Amare to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the NBA.
But STAT always remained focused on the task at hand. You can never question his work ethic and Stoudemire did a phenomenal job staying out of trouble during his time with the Suns.
Amare was thrown some career-threatening injuries his way in Phoenix, but bounced back remarkably. Not many players, in fact no players, can say that they’ve overcome microfracture surgery and a detached retina surgery to go on and become a five-time NBA All-Star.
STAT re-invented his game however he needed to and became a dual threat as a lethal mid-range shooter and even more explosive attacking the hoop. But it wasn’t just the injuries Amare overcame.
He was dominant amidst whirling trade rumors that would seemingly never end. He was supposed to be on a new team almost every day, but went from almost dealt to dominant, all without saying a word.
Likability amongst the fans
Despite his no-filter mouth and lack of defense and rebounding, STAT truly was a fan-favorite in Phoenix. Right when he broke into the league as a rookie, he was the one player you never took your eyes off because you knew he could posterize anyone at any time.
He became the definition of explosive and the fans grew to love him. He did however carry that swagger about him that said “I’m better than everyone else” (see black Jesus tattoo), but that’s to be expected from an NBA star. Amare didn’t exactly leave on a good note by jetting to NY, but he filled seats and got the fans out of their seats with highlight dunks, which is a job well done.
And after netting the Suns a $16.5 million trade exception, it’s hard to say too many bad things about STAT.
Final grade: B+
The Amare Stoudemire era in Phoenix is officially over and we can finally move forward to talking about the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns. But STAT definitely won’t be forgotten, and with all things considered, was an extremely valuable player to have in Phoenix.