Amare Stoudamire (PHX)
6-10, 249 lbs | 6 years pro
Head-to-head in ’07-’08, Record 1-1
AS: 23 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 bpg, 5 fpg
YM: 21.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1 bpg, 3.5 fpg
DIAGNOSIS: No player has more consistently given Yao fits since they both entered the league in ’02. Amare certainly has benefited from a creative and effective Suns scheme that included heavy doses of running and Shawn Marion but those days are gone.
Now, Amare has Shaq, which in theory should give the Suns a solid defense against Yao (Shaq was no. 5 after all), but Amare’s best defense against Yao is his offense. He’s added the 15-footer to his repertoire off the pick & roll, he still attacks the basket as well as any big man in the league and as long as he has Steve Nash looking for him, he’ll be almost impossible to stop. Which usually spells foul trouble for Yao.
It’s almost as if Phoenix was built to stop Houston. But no, the Suns were thinking about the Lakers and their front-court of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. And now all three of these Western Conference powerhouses, and in some respects the Utah Jazz, are looking awful traditional in the new NBA.
PROGNOSIS: With Scola, Landry, Hayes, Joey Dorsey and surely at some point, Ron Artest, available to fill in at the PF position, Yao won’t have to guard Stoudamire. But count on Shaq playing less minutes than Yao and if Stoudamire finds success against the scrappy but undersized Rockets forwards, Yao may have to switch back in spurts and Stoudamire has no fear of guarding Yao even if he never has quite slowed Yao in single-coverage.
And when Nash inevitably goes back to the pick & roll, the Rockets’ backside help defense should be that much better with Artest and Battier available to drop down in the paint. The benefits of adding a third dynamic player of Artest’s class keeping popping up everywhere.