By David J. Cohen
The Suns are at a crossroads. They had the most entertaining team in the NBA and in many ways are responsible for the more free-flowing games we see across the league right now.
Now you have a team of malcontents slipping in the Western Conference. If the goal is to win a title, the Suns won't as they're currently constructed. Amare Stoudemire will likely leave on his own in 2010, and trading star players in the final year of their contracts is problematic.
As their best tradable asset, the Suns must make a deal that starts a rebuilding process for the future, with players that fit the new style of play Terry Porter and Steve Kerr feel will bring a ring back to Phoenix. Reports around the league indicate that the Suns are open to trading everyone except Steve Nash at the moment.
If they trade Stoudemire before this year's trade deadline, they will almost certainly ship him to the Eastern Conference. With that said, here are the best possible trade options Steve Kerr can hope for.
*These were done using the ESPN.com trade machine to make sure the financials work out.
1) Stoudemire to the Raptors for Chris Bosh
With reports that Chris Bosh might want a change of scenery himself, this move makes the most sense for both teams. Stoudemire is better suited for how Toronto wants to play and is the best possible value they could expect to get back if they were to move Bosh.
The Suns would get someone with more passion for rebounding and defense, which is something Kerr wants to infuse into the Suns.
The strained relationship between Kerr and Raptors' General Manager Bryan Colangelo could be the only thing standing in the way of this blockbuster deal.
2) Stoudemire and Goran Dragic to the Pistons for Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince
If the Pistons truly believe their window of opportunity has closed (which would make the Billups for cap-space deal make sense), they could be open to trading two more pieces of the previous regime to bring in their franchise big man to play with Rodney Stuckey.
For Phoenix, Hamilton and Prince bring championship experience with them and are the kind of players Kerr loves. He always raved about Hamilton when calling games for TNT. A starting lineup with Nash, Prince, Hamilton, and Shaq could fuel the Suns back in the right direction.
3) Stoudemire and Louis Amundson to the Wizards for Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison
This trade would be good for the Suns in that they could keep a lot of the production given this year by Stoudemire while bringing in arguably the most underrated player in the league in Caron Butler. The Suns would have a complete starting five with these two, Nash, Shaq, and Jason Richardson. They would have no more cap room to make any major moves, but would have one of the most balanced starting lineups in the west.
The Wizards could appeal to Agent Zero by giving him someone athletic like Stoudemire to play with. Eventually, a starting frontcourt of Stoudemire and JaVale McGee could be the most athletic in the East.
While this is a major win for Phoenix, it's unlikely Stoudemire would like to stay in Washington long-term.
4) Stoudemire and Dragic to the Bulls for Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and Drew Gooden
A deal like this would commit the Suns to the defensive end of the floor. Thomas can provide that with his freakish athleticism, and with Nash they could turn into a poor man's version of Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler. Deng is the all-around player the Suns have missed since trading Shawn Marion. Gooden provides a good rebounding presence and, more importantly, an expiring contract.
For Chicago, Stoudemire would be the low post scorer they have lacked for years, and they could build a contender around him and rookie sensation Derrick Rose.
5) Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa to the 76ers for Andre Miller, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, and Willie Green
This is a good deal for Phoenix if they decide to blow the team up and start fresh. Miller is a great point guard and could play the two for a bit and spell Nash when needed. Along with him come three solid young players that add depth and athleticism, something the Suns lack.
For the Sixers, adding Stoudemire and Barbosa to Andre Iguodala could take the up tempo attack they like to run to another level.
A deal with the Sixers probably won't happen because Philadelphia would have to find a way to ship out some of the money they have tied up for them to keep Stoudemire.
6) Stoudemire and Barbosa to the Heat for Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem, Dorell Wright, and Mark Blount
Now we're moving into the realm of the absurd as far as likely trade partners.
The Suns would be banking on the future in getting essentially a top draft pick and some good role players for Stoudemire. If Beasley were to develop as expected, this could work out down the road.
For the Heat, bringing in Stoudemire could ensure the re-signing of Dwyane Wade, and bringing in a scoring-oriented point guard like Barbosa could create all kinds of matchup problems for opposing defenses.
This is the first deal where the Suns are truly at an outright loss.
For Miami, moving Marion before the deadline along with this acquisition would make them a team none of the East's big three would want to run into come playoff time.
7) Stoudemire to the Knicks for David Lee, Wilson Chandler, and Al Harrington
Since the Knicks are an obvious favorite destination for Stoudemire, I feel compelled to throw a scenario in here.
This deal would give the Suns two very talented players that could develop into all-star contributors for them in the future. Harrington could come in right away and provide scoring and play center when Shaq takes a break.
For the Knicks, it would mean landing a franchise player with absolutely nothing around him. Stoudemire would be the big dog, which is what his ego wants. If the Knicks were to make this move, they better have something in writing from LeBron saying he's a Knick in 2010.