When the New York Knicks got A'mare Stoudemire back from injury at the beginning of January, they looked to be in pretty fine shape, boasting a 21-9 record with a smaller lineup featuring Carmelo Anthony at the four. Since then, they've basically held steady, going 16-13 with as many good stretches as bad ones.
Considering that, one would imagine they'll be just fine even as Stoudemire misses the next six weeks after undergoing knee surgery, right?
The simple answer is both yes and no.
As the Knicks showed earlier this year, they're a good team even with Stoudemire sidelined, partially because they tend to play better defense when he's not on the floor. Ignoring the Knicks' unsustainable shooting from long range earlier this season, it's safe to say that whatever Amar'e brings to the table happens on the offensive end.
Given how well Stoudemire has played this season — he's averaging 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes — the Knicks will pretty obviously lose something without him. When Carmelo Anthony is able to return from his own knee issues will likely affect just how extreme that loss is.
Earlier this season when Stoudemire was out, the Knicks were able to thrive by sliding Anthony to the power forward spot, playing smaller lineups that crushed teams on the perimeter and limited points at the rim with Tyson Chandler's imposing presence.
However, if Anthony is out or ailing, New York will be forced to give major minutes to the likes of Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas. That probably sounded like a good idea ten years ago, but many of the Knicks' biggest opponents weren't even in college at that point.
When Anthony is back, expect the Knicks to take an approach similar to the one utilized earlier this year, with Melo at the four and Steve Novak getting extra minutes to stretch the floor. However, this team simply isn't shooting like it was in November, and burying Iman Shumpert on the bench to help the offense doesn't seem likely.
Without Stoudemire, whose scoring punch off the bench was "a big boost in recent months," as Posting and Toasting writes, head coach Mike Woodson will need to get creative to keep his team churning on the offensive end.
Can the Knicks survive the next six weeks without A'mare? Sure, but they're going to suffer.