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Can Stoudemire and Shaq work in Cleveland?

Feb 16, 2010, 8:47 AM EST

stoudemire.jpgIf you are the Cavaliers — the best team in basketball through 50 games and the frontrunner for the NBA title — making a move to shake things up is a risk. Any move. Even if it does make LeBron James happy.

The ongoing efforts to bring Amare Stoudemire to Cleveland raise the question of if Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal can mesh together in Mike Brown’s offense. Well, LeBron’s offense, really. Amare thinks so and tweeted as much.

I play very well
w/Shaq. I averaged more pts last year WITH him & played better D.
You guys can stop saying we don’t play well together.

ESPN’s JA Adande backed him up with statistics.

A little revision is in order. It’s not that Stoudemire couldn’t play well next to O’Neal; he didn’t play as well next to O’Neal under Terry Porter’s system.

Stoudemire did just fine with Shaq in the house while the Suns were running Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Since Shaq didn’t start playing for the Suns until the first game after the All-Star break in 2008 it’s very easy to look at life with and without the Diesel. Before the break Stoudemire averaged 23.2 points on 59% shooting. After the break, playing alongside O’Neal, Stoudemire upped his scoring average to 28 points per game while maintaining that 59% field goal percentage.

Adande goes on to say that both Nash and Stoudemire struggled in Porter’s “feed the post first” system with Shaq, but when the Suns abandoned Steve Kerr’s experiment, put Alvin Gentry in as coach and started running again Shaq and Amare were just fine.

Adande is right about that. But he leaves out a couple not-so-little details.

First, the Cavaliers don’t play Mike D’Antoni’s system, either. The Cavaliers are a slow-it-down team, playing at the 25th fastest pace in the league right now. They do not run Porter’s offense (although the Cavs do feed Shaq in the post plenty if they like the matchup), but this is a half-court team and that is where Amare struggled was finding room with Shaq. That will be an adjustment again.

Second, it’s the other side of the court that may be the bigger concern. While the Suns offense was fine with Amare and Shaq, their defense (both shooting percentage allowed and points per possession allowed) got worse. How did Orlando defeat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals last year? Pick-and-rolled them to death. If this trade goes through the Cavaliers have two of the worst pick-and-roll defending bigs in the game. Both Boston with Rajon Rondo and Orlando with Jameer Nelson will run that play every time down until Cleveland figures out how to stop it.

Stoudemire and Shaq may work together in Cleveland, ensuring a title for a title-starved city. But it is a risk. And don’t assume the offensive stats under D’Antoni tell the entire story.

  1. BA - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    Very, very good points. Your first one is entirely accurate and although I do not believe that there would be ANY chemistry issues the Cavs obviously run a half court offense. My honest opinion is simply that Amare’s points and rebounds per game remain very similar, but most likely increase slightly and that includes defensive rebounding. As for your other point, the cavs haven’t had a problem defending the pick n roll this season yet. I say that mainly because JJ plays terrible, chicken with his head cut off defense most of the time. With Stoudemire’s athleticism there is no way his defense is worse than Hickson’s…not even a slim chance.

  2. Brent - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I’ll just second that point- worse pick-and-roll D than Hickson?

  3. brooklyn kid - Feb 16, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Lakers would love this trade to go thru, see you in the finals, if you get there KIng of NO RING.

  4. Drew - Feb 16, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    I think another problem Cleveland had last year was the inability of their frontcourt to make open shots. Amare solves that problem. I think Amare fits in well with Shaq or would work great in a small lineup with Varejao. Shaq is only playing 20-25 minutes a night anyway. Honestly, this is Lebron’s team. The offense runs through him. I don’t think chemistry is going to be an issue.

  5. john - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Cleveland will win this year! The Lakers don’t have a chance, maybe Boston or orlando! The west is dead! Kobe is history! Go Cavs!! Long live The king… u haters!

  6. Richard - Feb 17, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    What is really depressing is the amazing transparency concerning the lack of or Representation in the NBA among Caucasian Americans!!
    It’s to P.C of an issue for weak willed and weak minded sports people to ever take up!!!No wonder why the NBA’s viewership continues to fall every year!!In a country where white people(anglos or latinos)make up the OVERWHELMING majority of the populous it is very discouraging and also very suspicious to have such LOW % of either of the groups I belong to!
    Think about it Whitey!
    Richard Ruiz

  7. davidly - Feb 17, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Whether or not the two play well together is one thing, but as pointed out – yet inexplicably not taken to its logical conclusion – it depends on the system; and the most important factor is the effect this has on the team as a whole.
    What are you gonna do, change the starting line-up with twenty games left when you already have the best record in the league and are in the middle of the season’s longest winning streak? That’d be plain stupid.

  8. ds - Feb 17, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    First thing I said when I heard this proposed trade was what about the defense, but there’s another whole side to this not mentioned in the article. Cavs other problem vs. Orlando last year was no one except LeBron was finishing late in games and he finally wore down.
    Amare is a big time finisher at the basket and Shaq is still a load down there. I’m sure LeBron would have loved making the pass last year and having guys who actually finished the play instead of making the great pass to someone who just flubbed the finish.
    Yes, it’s risky, but if it works Cleveland just could be a much scarier team.

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