Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer first brought this to our attention in Ohio last night via Twitter, but Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic is reporting the Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns have had some discussions about a trade to send Amare Stoudemire to Cleveland. In that article in the Arizona Republic, Paul Coro certainly doesn’t make it sound like a potential trade is eminent or even likely, but the thought is interesting none the less. Coro writes:
“A league source said Golden State, Minnesota and Cleveland have shown interest in acquiring Suns power forward Amare Stoudemire.
Major hang-ups in a possible deal are the Suns’ need to get good value in return and the other team’s need to feel secure in knowing it has a chance to keep Stoudemire, who can opt out of his contract this summer.
Stoudemire has said he wants to play for a title contender but prefers to stay with the Suns, who met with his agent Thursday.”
As with most trades, there are reasons to like it and reasons to dislike it, and that’s without even questioning the likelihood of such a deal getting done. Windhorst wrote a follow up piece early this morning in which he discusses some of the reasons why a trade for Stoudemire might work for both teams. Paul Coro mentioned that the Suns need to take back good value, and that’s something the Cavaliers can’t afford to part with right now. But Windhorst touches on the financial implications of this trade and why it could be appealing for Phoenix.
The biggest reason I have doubts about this trade happening, though, is because of the fact that Amare is an expiring contract himself. This is why the Suns have to get value back for him. Otherwise, why not just wait and see if you can sign him? Well, the simple answer would be that if they feel Amare is going to leave anyway, then why not try to get whatever you can in return for him? Phoenix is currently 26-19 and 7th in the Western Conference. Blowing up a playoff team is always a bold move, but if the Suns feel they’re not realistic title contenders, then perhaps starting over is one acceptable alternative to riding out in mediocrity.
From Cleveland’s standpoint, though, trading for Amare would be especially risky seeing as how he could walk away at the end of this season. Is it worth giving up JJ Hickson for a couple months’ rental of Stoudemire? I’m not certain it is. The Cavaliers of course would love a guarantee from Stoudemire that he would re-sign in Cleveland, but Amare’s probably not going to do that unless he gets a similar guarantee from LeBron, and we know that’s just not going to happen.
For Amare, then, there are a couple reasons to still agree to stay in Cleveland. One, he would have to feel that even if LeBron left, the team could still win with a core of Amare, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, Jamario Moon, Daniel Gibson, and Jawad Williams. And before anyone thinks the Cavs could still sign a free agent with the money they saved from losing LeBron, they couldn’t because that money would be going to Amare instead and the Cavaliers will not have much, if any, cap space this off season.
Which brings us to reason #2 for Amare to still stay in Cleveland, and that would be his Bird Rights. A trade for Stoudemire would send his Bird Rights to Cleveland with him, meaning the Cavaliers would have the ability to offer more money and more years to Amare than anyone else. In a year where the salary cap (and thus, max contract values) are going to decline, re-signing with the team who has your Bird Rights is an especially appealing option. So if Amare were to feel comfortable with the Cleveland roster even without LeBron (and I’m by no means suggesting he would be), then perhaps if the Cavaliers promised him a max Bird Rights contract he would give his word in return to stay in Cleveland.
These of course are all hypothetical scenarios and we have no insight into where Amare’s mindset is on this matter. But if the Cavaliers need a promise from Amare to stay, those are some reasons he might consider it without a promise in return from LeBron. From Cleveland’s standpoint, though, this could be an opportunity to lock up a young superstar to even further entice LeBron to stay in Cleveland. For the Cavaliers this deal would be a no-brainer.
Amare Stoudemire, for all his weaknesses on the defensive end, is an elite scorer from both the PF and the C position. He’s not a great post player, but he is one of the best big men in the game at working off the ball. For all the times we’ve seen LeBron hit JJ Hickson with a great pass, only to see JJ fumble around with the ball or try to put it on the ground first before going up, this deal would give the Cavaliers one of the best finishers off the pick and roll in the league. My mind is literally spinning at the thought of watching LeBron and Amare operate off the pick and roll for years to come. It would be a lethal 1-2 punch and would add some dynamics to the Cleveland offense.
Furthermore, Amare is able to create his own baskets at the rim even when he’s not just the recipient of a pass off the pick and roll. He attacks the rim with a certain ferociousness and he draws fouls en masse. In fact, this season he is drawing fouls on 18.2% of his FG attempts, which is higher than anyone on the Cavaliers other than Shaq. Unlike Shaq, however, Amare is a very solid free throw shooter, having hit on more than 80% of his attempts in 3 of the last 4 years (although he is down quite a bit to 75.7% this season).
Amare is by no means a great rebounder, having never averaged more than 10 rebounds per game in his career despite playing for a team that consistently ranks at the top of the NBA in possessions per game. However, he’s not really a poor rebounder either. Just more of an average rebounder. This season he is averaging 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes (for comparisons sake, JJ Hickson is at 8.0 and Varejao is at 9.3). So essentially the Cavaliers would be getting an elite scorer who could help provide even more easy baskets for Cleveland and open up things for the outside shooters even more. Plus, they would be getting an adequate at best rebounder.
None the less, for the Cavaliers this is something they shouldn’t pass on if it really is a viable option. For anyone who mentions the fact that Shaq and Amare were a terrible match in Phoenix where they still had a great setup man in Steve Nash, I hear you. I really do. But this is a big picture opportunity that transcends more than just one matchup. This is setting up the Cavaliers’ future while also adding some firepower for the present. I have my doubts about these trade talks ever getting too serious, but if Phoenix ever does start to get serious about moving him, I like the Cavaliers’ chances. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting this morning that the Pistons, Bulls, Heat, 76ers, and Nets are also teams with interest in Amare, but the fact is that Stoudemire controls his own destiny here, because I doubt any team will trade for him without a promise he will stay. So from that standpoint, Amare controls his destination and I’ll put the Cavaliers’ current situation up there with any of those teams. For now, though, I will continue to keep an eye on this rumor with guarded skepticism.