NBA Top 50: Amare Stoudemire (No. 7)
FanHouse's Tom Ziller argues his ranking of the top 50 players in the NBA.
For whatever reason, the importance of efficiency has struggled to achieve critical mass among fans and pundits. Study after study shows that at the team level, shooting percentage is the single most important factor in team offensive success. As you'd suspect, shooting is a skill easily attributable to individual players.
We don't want to be simpletons, so you need to account for the fact that a made three is better for a team than a made two and that free throws are a good way to score. Thus, we get a figure dubbed True Shooting percentage: a metric which adjusts for the impact of free throws and threes. It's not as easy as plain old FG% to calculate, but it's not complicated either. (You can find the formula at the previous link.) Basically, with one look at TS% you can tell how efficient a player is with his shots.
Last season, that fellow was Amare Stoudemire, the world's most efficient high-scorer.
Stoudemire's season was unbelievable start to finish, with Marion and Shaq. Much of Amare's production over the life of his career has been attributed to the presence of one Steve Nash. Some of that's fair: Nash is stellar at spoon-feeding his teammates easy buckets. But that's not the whole story with Stoudemire. You don't average 25 points per game on alley-oops (at least not on our planet). Amare works for a lot of his offense, and it really pays off for Phoenix.
The harp back on the importance of efficiency, let's take a look at last season's top five per-game scorers. It's valuable, you'll imagine, to have your high scorer as efficient as possible. He can take a lot of shots, but he needs to get a lot of points out of them. How many points he gets out of his shots goes a long way toward deciding how good the team's offense will be.
So here is a comparison of the points, minutes and shots the top five scorers of '07-08 earned per game.
Allen Iverson scores about a point more than Amare per game ... on roughly three extra shots. Carmelo Anthony scores less than half a point per game more than Amare ... on 2.5 extra shots. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant score a bit more -- five and three points, respectively. But they take a lot more shots to get there. This isn't to diminish the high-falutin' achievements of these wondrous scorers. I just want to add a little perspective to the concept of "points per game" as the sole definition of a scorer.
If Amare played 36-38 minutes per game, he'd challenge for the scoring title. The guy rarely misses shots -- he hit dang near 60% from the floor last season, plus 80% from the line. Basically, for every shot (a field goal attempt or two from the line) Amare takes, the Suns can expect 1.3 points. League average is about 1.06. By comparison, A.I. is at about 1.1 points per shot. Amare's efficiency is simply ridiculous.
Oh, he also happens to rebound like crazy, he has apparently learned how to block a few shots (both those skills happen to affect a team's defensive performance, wild as it sounds) and he's remarkably sure of hand on offense. Yes, he gets lost on defense ... and he might not buy his teammates flowers on Valentine's Day. But look at the entire package, look at the important things. This dude is a constant deluge of beast. Every column on the Summer of 2010 should feature his picture right below LeBron and Wade. If Phoenix won't keep him, someone will be very happy to pay him millions of dollars to produce.