The mood surrounding the Phoenix Suns, not to mention their effort, is heading further south by the day. On the floor the Suns have no discernible identity, having traded in Mike D'Antoni's uptempo "Seven Seconds or Less" system for what was supposed to be a defense-centric approach under Terry Porter. Instead, following the trade of wingman Shawn Marion, one of the catalysts for the team's success in recent years, and the departure of D'Antoni, what's happened in the desert is the deconstruction of a contending team that was tailor-made for its system, in favor of a directionless collection of talent, whose last flickering hope of a NBA championship has vanished.
The problem? Well, there's more than one. For starters, Terry Porter seems to have lost the team’s respect (if he ever had it to begin with); Steve Nash is noticeably crestfallen every time he takes the floor; Shaquille O'Neal and Amar'e Stoudemire can't stay out of one another's way on the offensive end; and Shaq is the better of the two on the defensive- not exactly cause for optimism.
Complicating matters further is that Stoudemire's heart no longer lies with this team. Despite his seemingly limitless potential, Amar'e was never a dominant force on the glass or on D, but he always fought for his team. Now, with D'Antoni gone, and Shaq replacing the departed Marion as Stoudemire's frontcourt rival, that fight seems to be gone, leading to speculation that he'll be dealt before the NBA's February 19 trade deadline- speculation that management’s done little to dispel, admitting that "many calls" have been fielded for their talented power forward.
With the Suns' decline now seemingly in full swing, and Amar'e, who, despite holding a $17.7 million player option for the 2010-11 season, is widely expected to opt out and join the much-anticipated free agent class of 2010, no longer showing the effort and dedication expected of a high-priced star, his value on the open market has taken a serious hit. Not only is Amar'e no longer considered untouchable, his status is no longer lofty enough to necessitate the inclusion of a top-ten player in any trade offer. With the team's play and his attitude gradually worsening, the Suns will have to accept the reality that no one's going to bowl them over with a monster offer, and that a good-to-very-good offer will have to do.
With that in mind, it's seems appropriate to consider some possible destinations for Amar'e. Thanks to some quality time on the Trade Machine, here are nine potential deals involving Stoudemire, that would stand to benefit both sides (at least from where I sit):
One of Stoudemire's rumored destinations. Chicago's been in search of an inside presence for some time, and Amar'e, could help take the Bulls back to the top half of the East. Amar'e thrived playing with a dominant point guard in Phoenix- Derrick Rose could play a similar role. In Ben Gordon, whose $6.4 million salary comes off the books this summer, the Suns would get an explosive scorer and another perimeter threat, and in Nocioni they’d get a big man would can spread the floor, put the ball on the floor and fill the lane- a good fit for any big playing with Steve Nash. And the cash? Well, we all know where Robert Sarver stands on that.
If, rather than adding another perimeter scorer, the Suns are looking to shore up their front line, Drew Gooden, a solid, near-double-double paint presence with an expiring $7+ million contract, along with Nocioni and Sarver's BFF (cash) would give Phoenix some much-needed depth on the front line.
The Miami Heat share the Bulls' strong interest in a strong inside presence. Not only would Stoudemire fill their void in the middle, his presence would go a long toward placating Dwyane Wade, another member of the 2010 free-agent class. Shawn Marion, whose $17.8 million deal expires this summer, would not only bring improved rebounding and on-the-ball defense to Mavs, his game is perfectly suited to combine with Jason Kidd's, making Dallas a force on the break. The Suns would receive a solid trio of wing players, with no one under contract past 2010. Josh Howard would give the Suns the gifted swingman they haven't had since Joe Johnson left for Atlanta. Daequan Cook is a lights-out shooter who would open looks all day playing with Nash and Shaq. As for Stackhouse, his expiring $7.25 million contract would make him a hot commodity next year, and his experience could be attractive to contending team this season, making his stay in Phoenix a very short one, and allowing the Suns to turn him into some frontcourt help.
The Warriors reportedly have a strong interest in Amar'e, and with Andris Biedrins banged up and little viable depth on the front line, it's with very good reason. Even with Biedrins back in the lineup, Stoudemire would be a great fit, with his athleticism making him a major threat in golden state's up-and-down style. Maggette would give Phoenix a Marion-esque wing player with a talent for getting to the free-throw line. In Wright and Williams, the Suns would receive an athletic big (built similarly to Stoudemire) and young point guard (Nash is not getting any younger), both of whom were considered top-ten talents coming out of college.
By acquiring Stoudemire, Indy could team him with Danny Granger and assemble one of the league's best duos who, teamed with Troy Murphy, Marquis Daniels and TJ Ford, would make up one of the East's best starting units. Throw in $15+ million of cap space from the expiring deals of Daniels ($7.3 million team option; not likely to be exercised) and Rasho Nesterovic ($8.4 million), and the Pacers look like a legitimate playoff team in East. In acquiring Dunleavy and Foster, Phoenix would replace Stoudemire's scoring, as well as his rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, where Foster's among the league’s best offensive rebounders.
By acquiring Stoudemire, the Knicks would finally add a legitimate star, who loves playing for their coach, to their lineup, without committing money beyond the magical Summer of 2010. If the Knicks' pipe dream of LeBron is not realized, they will still be in a position to offer Stoudemire more money than anyone else, and build around a talented young big man. By adding Robinson, whose deal is up at the end of the season, the Suns could team with Nash, who would also be able to mentor him as their lead guard of the future- or try and work a sign-and-trade involving him in July. Richardson thrived in his one season with Nash in Phoenix and would be a nice scoring option off the bench. And James' expiring $6.2 million deal and some cash should bring a big smile to Mr. Sarver's face.
The Kings could team Stoudemire with Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and rookie Jason Thompson (he is nice!), giving them a solid young trio for the foreseeable future. Brad Miller is a big man that better suited to play alongside Shaq- plays on the perimeter, can shoot the 3 (46.5% on 43 attempts) and is a gifted passer, and Garcia is a talented candidate to fill the Suns' ever-present backup point guard role, and possibly earn the post-Nash starting spot. And the cash, well, you know...
Let's face it, the Arenas-Jamison-Butler trio is not going to contend for a championship, and the Wizards' massive financial commitments to Jamison and Agent Zero make them untradeable. Adding Stoudemire to this roster makes the Wiz much more interesting, and Butler is really the only prize asset that can make that happen. From the Suns’ perspective, this is the perfect deal- Butler is a beast at both ends and will give Phoenix some much-needed toughness, and Haywood is a solid big man who can complement Shaq, and maybe start in the post-Shaq era.
A pair of one-time contenders, now both unmistakably in decline and in desperate need of a shake-up. By adding Stoudemire now, the Pistons could be in position to make a very speedy return to contention, given the $46+ million in salary set to come off the books by next summer (Iverson and Rasheed Wallace this year, Rip Hamilton next year)- allowing the Pistons to lock up Amar'e and still go shopping for a running mate in the Summer of 2010. The Suns, on the other hand, would be able to add Prince, a great two-way player and a solid teammate, on the wing, as well as beefing up the front line with Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown, whose $4 million deal expires at season's end.