Love him or hate him, Amare Stoudemire is someone who is finding his name in trade rumors right now. The $100 million man was on top of the world after signing a contract with the New York Knicks. He was given credit as the man who came to the Knicks to turn the franchise around, despite clearly coming because of the contract terms. Whatever his reasons for coming to Madison Square Garden, he restored hope and respectability to New York basketball. However, his role and image changed the minute Carmelo Anthony came to New York via trade. Their struggles to mesh together on the court, combined with Stoudemire's salary and healthy have led to rampant trade rumors. Most rumors should be taken with a grain of salt. However, where there's smoke there's fire and it's clear that, while the Knicks franchise respects Stoudemire for his skills and leadership, they would love to clear his salary off the books. If they could somehow land a productive player in the process, even better.
Amare Stoudemire was drafted ninth overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2002 NBA Draft out of Cypress Creek high school. The 2002 Florida Mr. Basketball became an NBA All-Rookie First Team player and NBA Rookie of the Year in 2003. He was named the NBA Rookie Challenge MVP in 2004. He's been a four time All-NBA Second Team player (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011) and a All-NBA First Team player in 2007. He's also been a six time NBA All-Star (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011). He played for the Suns from 2002-2010 and the New York Knicks from 2010-present.
It's simple, Stoudemire has had a nice career. However, there's a reason why the Suns refused to give him the extra year in his contract. There's a reason why he's missed so much time as a member of the Knicks. Stoudemire's health is failing him. He's past his prime. He's very skilled offensively but has had a very hard time meshing with Carmelo Anthony on the court and buying into becoming defensive player.
While Stoudemire's name will likely be put into many crazy trade scenario's the two that are most popular and make the most sense right now involve the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks. It certainly remains to be seen if either rumors have legs but lets look at what's being talked about around the water cooler.
The Lakers have recently hired ex-Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni to turn their season around. With Steve Nash in the fold Stoudemire could definitely thrive in Los Angeles. Would the Lakers really exchange Pau Gasol for Stoudemire?
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reports that he believes Gasol can thrive in his system.
“He’s another seven-footer who can guard the rim and he’s extremely smart,” D’Antoni said. “So there’s no reason why he can’t fit. Ideally, you’d want a guy like Jesse Owens who can run. But he’s a big part of what we’re going to do.”
“I don’t see how a player as smart as he is, as talented as he is and efficient as he is, doesn’t fit in anybody’s schemes,” he continued. “I got to reevaluate myself if I can’t play with Pau Gasol. Come on. He’s won two championships.”
That being said, what is D'Antoni suppose to say? Would people really expect him to say that he couldn't win with Gasol and that he wants Gasol traded? The Lakers would lose any leverage he might have in a trade.
Gasol has struggled in the up-tempo offense. He's averaging a career low 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds, lower than his three previous seasons. He's set to make $19 million this season and $19,285,850 next season.
Stoudemire is set to make $19,948,799 this season, $21,679,893 next season and $23,410,988 in 2014-15 if his Early Termination Option isn't taken. Because the players salaries are just about identical they can be exchanged straight up.
Beyond that, no matter what D'Antoni might say he'd love to reconnect with Stoudemire. His most successful time in the NBA was while running the pick and roll with Nash and Stoudemire. Also, there is very little hope that D'Antoni relies on Dwight Howards' post up skills. He'll be used in pick and roll situations.
Since that's the case, Gasol is in the way. He doesn't have the game to space the floor enough. He's much stronger being used as the roller in the pick and roll than shooting jumpers and making back cuts. Stoudemire's mid-range game and previous experience in the system should mean more success than Gasol could have under D'Antoni's watch.
For the Lakers this trade would be about making the system work and surrounding Howard and Kobe Bryant with players who thrive under D'Antoni in hopes to win sooner rather than later. For New York it would be about getting a player with better health, who plays better defense, rebounds better, has championship experience and would fit better with Anthony.
The next scenario involves Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. He's set to make $13,200,000 this season and then become a free agent. Obviously the salaries don't match so there would either have to be more players or another team to make the salaries work. However, someone like Kyle Korver who makes $5 million this season could make up the difference if the Hawks were to decide that landing a star like Stoudemire is a better direction for their franchise than potentially losing Smith as a free agent for no compensation.
Before even thinking about exchanging Stoudemire for Smith the first think the Knicks would have to do is talk to Mike Woodson and make sure he'd be willing to bring Smith into the fold. Woodson and Smith had issues with one another in their time together in Atlanta. However, if they could get over that Smith would definitely be an interesting option to replace Stoudemire.
Smith is not as strong of an offensive player as Stoudemire. While scoring more points than your opponent is certainly part of the equation so is defense. Smith thrives on the defensive side of the ball. Defense still wins championships and Smith already knows Woodson's system. In addition, he thrives at getting back to challenge opponents at the rim.
Offensively, Smith can run in transition and while he can't consistently stretch the floor with his perimeter shot he can finish at the rim with authority. Smith is skilled at using his quickness, athleticism and mobility to get to the rim off his dribble and make defenders pay for not being able to keep in front of him.
The fact is the Knicks are statistically better when Stoudemire is out of the game. They have a record of 23-9 when Stoudemire doesn't play and a record of 23-29 when he is in the game. In addition, he makes a boat load of money. Stoudemire's salary hinders the Knicks from making further roster moves and his return will disrupt the offense that is rolling with Anthony as its focal point.
No matter who of the three you may like more Stoudemire, Gasol and Smith are all good players. Stoudemire is 30 years old, 6'10", 245 pounds and has averaged 21.6 points, 1.5 assists, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per game throughout his 10 year career. Gasol is 32 years old, 7'0", 227 pounds and has averaged 18.6 points, 3.2 assists, 9.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 0.5 steals throughout his 11 year career. Smith is 26 years old, 6'9", 225 pounds and has averaged 15.1 points, 3.1 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals throughout his eight years career.
Stoudemire is the most explosive of the three when healthy but he'll probably not be healthy for the remainder of his career. Both Gasol and Smith are better fits for the Knicks offense but Gasol has more height, is a better rebounder and has championship experience. Smith is shorter than Gasol but plays more above the rim and is a superior defender. He also has youth on his side.
No one should expect either of these trades to happen any time soon. However, as the NBA trade deadline (February 21) approaches and the clock ticks closer to three o'clock teams will be talking. It is very likely the Lakers will make at least one move. The Knicks will find it hard but will try their best to get from under Stoudemire's contract. Smith has made it known to Atlanta that he will no re-sign and intends to test free agency. Someone's going to find themselves playing for a new team before the season is out. Who of the three do you want to see on for the New York Knicks?
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