It's time for the New York Knicks to move Amar'e Stoudemire elsewhere.
The New York Knicks are on a roll as of late, and they’ve done it by beating some of the league’s best competition. So far, the eight-win Knicks have dominated the Miami Heat by 20 points, stormed back to beat the San Antonio Spurs on the road and have performed extremely well, despite two losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, without one of their biggest names in the lineup, Amar’e Stoudemire. Considering the amount of success they are having without him, the Knicks’ front office should be doing all it can to move Amar’e Stoudemire off the roster.
The team has shown that it can dominate without him, and if you’re going to have a contract like his taking up cap room, you might as well be getting solid production out of it. It would be a daring move, but if the Knicks can pull the trigger on it, a solid deal would be to move Amar’e Stoudemire to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Josh Smith and Johan Petro. As much as Knicks fans want to see Amar’e and Carmelo Anthony figure it out, they’re better off without him, and here’s why a trade to the Hawks makes sense.
The great thing about trading Amar’e for Smith and Petro is the fact that there is no long-term commitment necessary. By shedding Amar’e and his three-year deal, you’re basically renting Smith and eating Petro’s contract to make the trade work. Petro is a perennial journeyman who bounces from team to team, so unless the Knicks keep him for depth, he will likely end up on yet another team. Both Petro and Smith’s respective deals expire this year, so essentially, it’s a win-win for the Knicks regardless of the outcome. If Smith plays well for them? Re-sign him to a new deal, and both parties are happy. If things don’t work out? No problem. Let Smith walk and save the cap room for 2013, a year in which impact players like Chris Paul will be free agents.
Salary-wise, it’s a great move for the Knicks because they get financial flexibility, and as far as the NBA is concerned, NBA front offices should be playing the market like chess rather than checkers. Looking ahead is vital to long-term success, and moving Amar’e and his contract would ensure a much brighter future in a fiscal sense for the Knicks.
In his hey-day, Amar’e was nothing less than an offensive monster. Even after micro-fracture surgery, he was lighting teams up with a dominant mix of skills and relentless athleticism to the tune of 20-plus points per game and nearly 10 rebounds. Although he was an incredible player in his own right, much of that past dominance came from playing the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. Now that he’s in a system where the ball is stopping a lot on the wing (Carmelo Anthony’s favorite spot), or being swung for shooters, Amar’e is likely going to have to generate his own shots whether posting up or facing up defenders. As can be seen, his numbers last season declined drastically in comparison to prior seasons. Sure, he may not have been 100 percent healthy, but that’s still a huge drop off for a guy like Amar’e.
He’s not the primary weapon on offense anymore, and considering that the Knicks haven't figured out how to make two of the game’s most talented scorers coexist in the same lineup to this point, it seems to safe assume that they never will. When you saw Carmelo and STAT play alongside each other, it was an awkward tug of war offensively. It was like both took turns attempting to score rather than making each other better. Another interesting fact is the Knicks’ record last season with and without Amar’e. When Amar’e was playing, the Knicks went 22-25. When Amar’e was out of the lineup, the Knicks’ record dramatically changed to an impressive 14-5. Interestingly enough, the Knicks actually scored seven more points on average without Amar’e than they did with him—obliterating the myth that they’re better offensively with him.
The fact remains that the Knicks simply don’t need him whatsoever for his offense. Carmelo and company are generating enough offensive output without Stoudemire that keeping him on the roster is simply illogical. At this point he’s an overrated offensive player (within the current system) and poor defender, neither of which will get the Knicks any further to their goal of a championship. Their positive win record without him is indisputable. They are simply better sans Amar’e, and they’ve proven it so far this season.
Now here’s where the Amar’e-Smith trade would make the most sense: The defensive side of the ball. Now assuming Josh Smith and head coach Mike Woodson can get over past friction, Smith would probably fit very well within this lineup, and there would be an immediate impact on defense. Smith’s best abilities are his supreme athleticism, rebounding and defensive presence. On the Knicks, rather than being a primary option, he would be a high-level role player responsible for rebounding, finishing on the break and keeping opposing offenses in check.
A frontcourt pairing of Josh Smith and Tyson Chandler would dominate the boards and change or block plenty of shots in the paint. Without Amar’e in the lineup, the Knicks are holding opponents to an average score of 91 points per game, which is the third-best mark in the league. With Smith added to the team, the Knicks’ defense would only get even better. Off of turnovers, Smith is a nightmare in transition, and the other intangibles he brings outweigh his faults. Smith does have a penchant for ill-advised shots from the perimeter and not passing, but he would get scoring opportunities following rebounds or transition buckets if he bought into the system. Smith is also four years younger than Amar’e, and he still has time to finally reach his full potential.