If you can believe the NBA rumor mill, the Phoenix Suns have apparently jammed a “Yard Sale” sign in front of Amare Stoudemire’s locker. It seems that Suns GM Steve Kerr has finally realized that, despite Amare’s wicked-awesome talent and immense athleticism, he’s still a big man without a post move who couldn’t protect the paint (short of the occasional high-flying swat) if his team’s playoff chances and a $100 million contract extension were on the line. (And they are.)
Huh. An athletic power forward who can’t defend at his position (or at center) and would rather shoot face-up jumpers than execute a move in the low post? We already have that guy. His name is Tyrus Thomas. Look, Amare may be an All-Star — who despite intense lobbying via an Internet marketing campaign barely beat out Bruce Bowen for a starting spot on the Western Conference squad, by the way — but he’s basically an older and much more expensive version of a player the Bulls already have on their roster. And then there’s that whole “his knee was reconstructed through microfracture surgery” thing. I know he’s become something of a poster boy for recovery from that particular procedure, but still…it certainly isn’t going to extend his career.
But let’s forget for a second whether it’s a good move and ask the more immediate question: Could it happen? The Suns want three things in return for Stoudemire: A salary dump, promising young talent (since they don’t have any of their own) and some draft picks. As it happens, Chicago can offer all that. The Bulls have almost $9 million worth of expiring contracts in Drew Gooden (who isn’t even playing) and Cedric Simmons (ditto). Joakim Noah and Thomas (and maybe even Thabo Sefolosha) are the young and talented. And John Paxson could probably be convinced to toss in some draft picks (lottery-protected, of course).
So yes, it could happen. But it really, really shouldn’t. If, you know, Pax wants to actually improve the team. Stoudemire is a random numbers generator, no doubt about it, but he’s not the answer to any of Chicago’s most pressing concerns. The Bulls need a stopper in the paint. Amare can’t (or won’t) do that. They also need somebody who can score with his back to the basket. Amare won’t (or can’t) do that either. He also tends to sulk and stop rebounding when he’s not the number one option on offense. Sounds like a lose-lose-lose proposition to me.
Then there’s the little problem of keeping him around even if we can trade for him. Stoudemire’s contract includes a clause that would allow him to opt out after next season. You’d better believe that he’s going to do it…and then ask for a huge raise. He’ll no doubt be seeking one of those max-outs that go for about six years and over $100 million. That’s what I like to call a cap killer over at Basketbawful. Imagine watching him average 16 points and 7 rebounds after Pax decided to pay him $20 million per year. Wouldn’t that make you want to drink until you couldn’t feel feelings anymore?
Look, in the summer of 2006, Paxson signed Ben Wallace to a $60 million contract that wrecked the team’s salary flexibility and eventually forced a trade for Larry Hughes. In doing so, he gave up on (and subsequently traded away) Tyson Chandler, even though Tyson was younger and could do pretty much everything Big Ben could do…and for less money. Now, Tyson is an All-Star-caliber center (when healthy) and Wallace has one foot in his NBA grave. As blunders go, that was big. Paxson now stands to make the same mistake by potentially dealing Thomas — whom the Suns would almost certainly demand in any trade for Stoudemire — plus other valuable team commodities. Here’s hoping John learned his lesson.
On the other hand, if the Suns are interested in Larry Hughes…