On the heels of a second-straight tough loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, a 111-103 defeat in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, ended what many considered a season to remember for the Suns, their fans' attention now shifts to Amar'e Stoudemire.
The power forward will most likely opt out of his contract, making Stoudemire the fifth most sought after free agent in this summer's signing period. Phoenix should avoid giving their star a max contract.
This is not a slight to Stoudemire, who has proven to be a talented player. He was a key part of the Suns emergence from a morbid franchise to a consistent competitor in a tough conference.
I realize he's as talented as anyone in the NBA.
Stoudemire has also been a consistent All-Star, even starting this year’s game in Dallas.
When playing at his full potential, Stoudemire is probably the best offensive big-man in the game, and has had stretches where he registered high rebound totals, as was the case for parts of the second-half of this season.
For a while in the 2006/07 season, Stoudemire also developed a capable jump shot. He can also drive the ball to the rim like a guard.
All in all, Stoudemire has the talent to be one of the NBA’s top-5 players.
The issue with Stoudemire has been consistency. Sure, having a player with undeniable offensive talent is nice. But giving a guy who has had issues with consistency, and sometimes an apparent lack of passion for the game (which was proven at times in the series against the Lakers – most notably in Game 5), is not worthy of devoting a max contract.
Especially in these dire economic times.
And while Stoudemire has had stretches where he rebounds on par with some of the league’s best big men, there have also been stretches where he rebounds almost like a point guard.
For example, while Stoudemire had a 30-17 performance in a win on the road against Minnesota in March, he also had a 22-1 performance in January against the Dallas Mavericks. Coach Alvin Gentry benched Stoudemire for the entire fourth quarter of that game. Even then the Suns found a way to defeat Dallas.
Also, Stoudemire followed four successive solid rebounding performances (17-9-9-10-14-8-14-9) with a four board performance against the Sixers.
Granted, Stoudemire played extremely well in the second-half of the season, helping the Suns surge from a fringe playoff contender to a team that eventually made a deep run in the Western Conference finals. But patterns and stretches of inconsistency in seasons past suggest that a max contract from Steve Kerr is simply the wrong decision.
Defense has been an issue with Stoudemire throughout his career. He is not among the best of pick-and-roll defenders, and has frequently let opposing big men dominate him.
He has the talent and body frame to be much better defensively, but has simply not met his promise on that side of the floor.
Sure, he may be a great offensive player. But a max contract for a guy with rebounding and defensive issues?
No, absolutely not.
It's obvious that Stoudemire is one of the most talented players on earth . He possesses moves other big men simply do not possess.
But devoting a max contract at this point in time is not a decision that will benefit the Suns organization.
Sure, if Stoudemire settles for a much more reasonable contract – in this case maybe in the range of a 6 years/100m contract, then I would be totally open for the Suns to resign Stoudemire, and make him an integral part of the organization’s future.
However, should he demand LeBron money, then by all means, I hope the Suns simply let him walk.
Stoudemire and the organization have seemed to be on the right track in settling their differences in negotiations. It was more likely he would accept a slightly lesser contract than the max deal he had been looking for in years past.
Despite still stating that he was “50-50” in regards to resigning with Phoenix this offseason, it appeared that he began to enjoy being part of the Phoenix Suns system more. He had developed a good relationship with coach Alvin Gentry, whom he referred to as having “ implemented a solid game plan defensively."
During the stretch run this season, key improvements in Stoudemire’s game also appeared.
For one, his foul troubles appeared to decline. He became more engaged defensively, and his attention span in surviving full possessions and periods improved.
He even appeared to be a better teammate – at times some poor performances in the stat-sheet did not deter his joy in winning games. Was this the product of a player in a contract year possibly player harder just to get a good chance at a much higher contract?
Maybe. But the improvements in Stoudemire’s game should not be forgotten.
However, I do not see a maximum contract for Stoudemire and Phoenix. For a team that has had trouble paying the luxury tax in seasons past, and has been committed to cutting payroll at times in the past few years, I just can't see the scenario.
Look at this situation. Let’s say Stoudemire managed to net a $23m/year deal with the Phoenix Suns, and will end up spending the rest of his career in a Suns uniform.
Let’s say Steve Nash ends up leaving Phoenix after next season when his contract ends, and Stoudemire is stuck with a sub-par team. There will be little room to improve themselves with other acquisitions, thanks to giving Stoudemire a max contract.
Will it be fun seeing Stoudemire consistently drop 20/8 games in a Suns uniform for possibly the next eight years? Yes. But not at the cost of watching losing basketball.
Again, this is not meant to decry Stoudemire as an all out terrible player who has gotten statistics thanks to playing with Steve Nash. But I do not believe that giving Stoudemire a max contract is a smart investment.
Sure, Phoenix will probably be hard pressed to find a replacement for Stoudemire. But at least next year, not resigning Stoudemire will likely free up space for Phoenix to sign a more capable rebounder, and possibly other pieces.
I can definitely see the Steve Nash machine continuing to roll on even without Stoudemire.