New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire has been one of the league’s most explosive players since being drafted out of high school in 2002. Numerous injuries have taken a toll on Stoudemire though who was noticeably slower and far less explosive last season.
But Stoudemire isn’t accepting that he is past his prime although he will turn 30 this season. Instead he enlisted the aid of former Houston Rockets’ center Hakeem Olajuwon to help him further develop his post game in hopes of getting his scoring average back above 20 points-per-game.
Offensively this may be a good move for Stoudemire. Stoudemire is a player who has spent much of his time in the post playing above the rim but no player can play that way forever. Olajuwon was able to play productively for 18 years in the league with a style that consisted of a series of head fakes, misdirection, spin moves and counter-moves.
Most of these moves were made without Olajuwon even leaving his feet and that is great news for a player like Stoudemire who has to play under the rim and is not very bulky.
But Stoudemire isn’t the only player who should have been seeking out Olajuwon’s help this offseason. Here is my list of the five players who could most benefit from Olajuwon’s tutelage:
Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz
Favors is the Jazz’s most athletic player but he is extremely raw offensively. He does seem to play well on the defensive side of the ball and has shown improvement in his low post scoring but a couple sessions with Olajuwon may help shorten the learning curb and allow him to win a starting spot in Utah.
Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers
Hibbert made the All-Star team last season but mostly because of his defense. At 7’2” he is one of the league’s best shot blockers but his scoring has only improved by one point over the past three years. If he were to improve his low post scoring he could start to close the gap with the league’s two best centers: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
Serge Ibaka – Oklahoma City Thunder
Ibaka is an athletic defender who can block shots all over the floor. Playing him and Kendrick Perkins together though is a liability for the Thunder offensively as the Miami Heat showed during the NBA Finals. Unlike Perkins though, Ibaka does have a fairly reliable jumpshot. If he could add a more potent low post game to his repertoire, then the Thunder could see a lot more Finals appearances in their future.
Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
After trading away Joe Johnson, general manager Danny Ferry has essentially given the team over to Smith. While Smith has always been the team’s defensive leader with his ability to rebound, block shots and play lockdown defense, he is still inconsistent offensively.
His jumpshot has never developed and despite playing power forward for most of his career, he has very little in terms of a post game. Smith is an excellent passer though and if he were able to develop his post game he could open up the floor for the many shooters Ferry has brought in this offseason.
Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin has entertained us with his insane dunks and leaping ability but he found out during the playoffs that teams were not so willing to let him get to the basket as easily as he did during the regular season. Teams started to get real physical with Griffin towards the end of the season and throughout the playoffs forcing him to work for everything he got.
Griffin had one of his worst performances of the year in the Clippers’ elimination game versus the Grizzlies. If not for a late game scoring surge by the Clippers’ bench, the Clippers would have never made it out of the first round. Griffin’s ability to score in the paint may be even more important this season if he continues to have problems with his knee making it even more important for him to pay Olajuwon a visit.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.