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Marveling At the League's Most Explosive Big Man

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It is hard to think of too many NBA players I would rather watch right now than Amare Stoudemire.  I can't think of a single big man in the game who looks more put together offensively.

Sure, we've praised his progress in the past, but the guy nicknamed STAT (the abbreviation for Standing Tall and Talented) is playing at another level right now.  The numbers two weeks into the young season are incredible enough.  Stoudemire is averaging just a shade less than 26 points per game (to go with his 9.3 boards per), shooting 64.3 percent from the field and putting up a true shooting mark better than 70 percent.  But more than the mere statistical production, it is the combination of versatility and explosiveness in his offensive game that stands unmatched on front lines across the league.

This is a 6-foot-10-inch big man who at 25 years old can do everything offensively.  He can put his back to the basket and post up, making baby hooks in the paint and power moves for dunks.  He has a quickness that belies his 249-pound frame, and he can explode past defenders who come out to play him outside, victimizing them with thunderous dunks (granted, the officials seem to give this guy a lot of leeway on walking en route to finishing those dunks, but it's hard to blame him if they let him get away with it). 

But the days of being able to sit back defensively to take that explosion to the rim away from Stoudemire are gone.  That's because he has worked hard at his shooting, and he is now highly effective from virtually anywhere inside the three-point line, particularly on mid-range wing and elbow jumpers.

In a similar vein, trying to stop STAT by whacking him to send him fifteen from the basket unguarded isn't a great idea either.  His free throw shooting percentages for each of his full seasons read as follows (we discount 2005-06 because he took just nine free throws in three games for the whole of an injury-plagued season, hitting eight):  66.1, 71.3, 73.3, 78.1, 80.5.  Such a steep progression over a five-year period doesn't happen by accident.  This guy has put the work into becoming a better free throw shooter, and he is using it to make opponents pay.  Stoudemire went to the line 7.1 times per game in 2006-07 and 8.7 times per game last year.  Seven games into the new season, he is shooting 87 percent from the line and making an average of 11 trips per game to the charity stripe. 

Just in case all that wasn't enough, Stoudemire is also the best screen-and-roll big the game has to offer right now.  His high screens for Steve Nash have become the Suns' bread and butter.  He can roll to the basket for bounce pass feeds or lobs for ferocious dunks, or he can smoothly pop right out to the elbow for a 15-footer that is all but a gimme for him when he is left open these days.

In his third season in the league, Amare Stoudemire averaged 26 points per game on 61.7 percent true shooting.  The next year, he had microfracture surgery, causing him to miss all but three games and observers to wonder if he would ever be the same.  The ensuing season, he was good, playing fewer minutes and averaging 20.4 points on an increased true shooting of 63.7 percent.  A year later, he was great, pushing his scoring average back to 26 points per game and leading the league in true shooting at 65.6 percent.

Now, he is on another planet altogether.

He can beat you with his strength.  Or with his speed.  Or with his touch.  Or with his leaping ability.  Or with any combination thereof.

The initial message came through last year, but it bears repeating: Amare Stoudemire has arrived, and he won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

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