A potential trade of Amar'e Stoudemire is always a hot topic for the New York Knicks, and with the trade deadline approaching you can bet that the rumors will start developing once again soon.
Stoudemire has been having somewhat of a mini-revival since returning from injury in early January, embracing a role on New York's bench.
His increased efficiency and production will help to make him attractive to other teams, but at the same time reduces the likelihood of the Knicks wanting to trade him in the first place.
Let's go through and weigh up both sides of the argument, and see if the Knicks should pull the trigger if a trade opportunity presents itself before the deadline.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of Feb. 2, 2013.
The Knicks currently have the oldest roster in the NBA, and more importantly have some of the most injury-prone big men in the game.
Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are both currently sitting out with foot injuries and Amar'e Stoudemire has missed the majority of the season so far after knee debridement surgery.
That leaves the Knicks with the potential to become very thin behind Tyson Chandler (who also has a serious injury history) at center and the slightly undersized Carmelo Anthony at power forward.
Though Stoudemire isn't too old having turned 30 in November, his penchant for injury does ask some serious questions about whether or not he can stay on the court. Both of his two seasons in New York have ended with injuries in the playoffs, and it is definitely something the front office should be concerned about.
It's unlikely to expect another team to want to trade a younger (or healthier) player in return for Stoudemire, unless that player happened to also be less talented.
At that point, the Knicks would have to weigh up whether they want to ensure they have a healthy player in the playoffs, or take a risk and have a better player who might not be there when needed.
Players like Carlos Boozer (who, whilst older, is also less of an injury-worry) and Andrea Bargnani would come into play here.
The main reason there were so many calls for Stoudemire to be traded last year is that, with Carmelo Anthony starting at power forward, there would be no role for him on the Knicks.
As it turns out, though, STAT has found a place he can thrive off the Knicks' bench, logging minutes at both power forward and center when either Melo or Tyson Chandler is off the floor.
Stoudemire's scoring may be his lowest on average since his rookie season, but at 55 percent his field goal percentage and overall efficiency is fantastic.
Looking at the advanced stats, Stoudemire is putting up his highest true shooting percentage, win shares per 48 and offensive rating since he was at the top of his game in Phoenix, and is also doing so in less minutes.
Trading high may yield the best return, but at the same time it might not be wise to trade a player showing serious signs of a return to dominance.
Amar'e Stoudemire's struggles on the defensive end of the floor have been well-documented, and he made headlines once again after telling reporters that he has "never been taught defense."
Whilst Stoudemire does sound committed to making changes defensively, it will definitely be tough for Mike Woodson to get him playing reasonable D essentially starting from scratch.
For a team that has preached the importance of defense since training camp, it may make sense to move STAT for a better defender, even if that means giving up some offensive production in return.
There aren't too many players in the NBA on similar salaries to Stoudemire who fit the bill, but a move for David West or Emeka Okafor would be a defensive upgrade...even if they do sound unattractive on the whole.
It's all good and well to talk about Stoudemire not being worth his $100 million contract, but the fact of the matter is that if the Knicks don't want it, other teams won't want it either.
The only way another team can realistically be persuaded to take on Stoudemire's contract is by giving back a contract or two that they regret signing in return.
Whether they make a trade or not, the Knicks will not be getting $20 million per year of value, so the question becomes more about which overpaid player fits better on the team.
Players like Carlos Boozer, Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu are likely to want to be traded by their respective teams, but with Stoudemire playing how he is are they really a better fit for New York?
According to Basketball Reference, STAT has a much higher PER than any of those three players in his 14 games this season, and it will be hard to find anyone else more productive that their team will actually want to trade.
The Knicks managed to make some major moves last offseason despite Amar'e Stoudemire's $100 million contract, but with sign-and-trades now out of the question it will be hard for them to do the same in 2013.
The majority of New York's key players are tied up long-term anyway, but looking at the age of some of them there is a chance they could retire and leave the front office with some work to do to replace them.
Also, in the case of J.R. Smith–who has really stepped up as a sixth man this season–the Knicks do risk losing out to teams with more cap space in free agency.
The Knicks do have Smith's Bird rights this summer–which lets them go over the cap to re-sign him–but as we saw with Jeremy Lin, there may be some reluctance to overspend if another team comes in with a substantial offer.
That said, Smith did take a pay cut to stay in New York this season, so there is a serious chance that he will help out again in 2013.
Trading Stoudemire for an expiring contract like that of David West or Jose Calderon would help ease the financial strain, but would also come at the expense of STAT's production.
If the Knicks are seriously worried about losing out on Smith this offseason, then it would make sense to try and move Stoudemire, but it won't be easy to do.
Though Amar'e Stoudemire's improved play since returning from injury has made a trade less attractive from the Knicks' point of view, the real reason trade rumors have died down is likely that they have tried and failed to move him already.
We heard from Howard Beck that Stoudemire had been put on the trading block earlier in 2012, with Beck writing the following in the New York Times:
This past summer, the Knicks offered Stoudemire to nearly every team in the league — “available for free,” as one rival executive put it. But they found no takers because of his diminished production, his health and his contract, which has three years and $65 million remaining (counting this season) and which is uninsured against a career-ending knee injury.
In February, the Knicks wanted to send Stoudemire to Toronto in a deal for Andrea Bargnani, a person briefed on the discussion said. But the proposal was vetoed by James L. Dolan, the Garden chairman, before it ever reached the Raptors (who would not have made the deal anyway, team officials there said).
This casts some serious doubts over whether or not the Knicks will be able to get anything of value in return for Stoudemire, or if they'll even be able to trade him at all.
He has been more efficient recently, but clearly his injury-history and inflated salary is what is really turning other teams away.
After weighing up both sides of the argument, the bottom line is that giving up Stoudemire and his hefty contract would likely mean taking back another overpaid player, making a trade hard to justify.
With Stoudemire playing so well off the bench, it's time for the Knicks to just ignore his salary and move on with him in his new role. After all, with the team standing at 29-15, it's not like his contract has stopped them from adding talent and building a deep roster so far.
For once the Knicks are actually in a good position chemistry-wise, so trading away major pieces isn't something they should actively be trying to do. It's rare that you see a team make a deep playoff run after pulling off a big trade halfway through the campaign.
At this point, the Knicks need to cross their fingers and hope for the best injury-wise, because Stoudemire's performance in the games he has played has been impressive.