Let me start off by thanking everyone for the support on the first entry. I loved all the feedback I received. Just so any potential loyal followers know, here is how the remainder of my NBA free agency entries will go.
-Tuesday June 15: Joe Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki
-Thursday June 17: Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer
-Sunday June 20: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
Enough with the logistics. On to my next post!
Unlike David Lee, Amar'e Stoudemire is anything but under the radar. Rumors have been swirling about Stoudemire departing Phoenix since the very beginning of this season. Trade speculation started up early and managed to last all the way until the final minutes before the trade deadline.
However, when the dust was settled, Amar'e was still donning the purple and orange. Aside from the distraction, Stoudemire managed to have an outstanding year. The five-time All-Star averaged 23.1 points per game which was well above the league average for his position. While his rebounding totals were sub-par (8.9) he still managed to help the Suns to a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Amar'e has one year remaining on his contract which is set to pay him around $17 million. However, he has the ability to opt out if he so chooses. Amar'e has clearly stated that he wants a maximum contract, and that if Phoenix does not offer him one he will test the free agent waters.
This is the last thing that Phoenix wants. The frenzy that would take place would almost certainly draw his attention elsewhere, and in the end probably lose them their star.
My thoughts: While I understand that Amar'e is a very loyal guy and wants to remain in Phoenix, I don't think that is the best option for his career. Sure, they can offer him more money than anyone else, a six-year deal worth $127 million (ESPN.com). But an NBA player's legacy correlates with championships.
Quite frankly, I don't think he has a chance to win one in Phoenix. Stoudemire is 27 years old and would sign a long-term deal if he chooses to stay with the Suns. When you look at the rest of their roster, they aren't exactly built to be competitive for the long run.
Fellow starters Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Jason Richardson are all entering the backside of their careers and are bound to decline soon. While the Suns do have some young talent on the bench, it wouldn't be nearly enough to compete with the Lakers and Nuggets of the world.
I think that the best possible place for Amar'e to go would be Chicago. The Bulls are a team that is one player away from being a dominating force in the Eastern Conference. Stoudemire could fill that role for them. With a career average of 21.4 points per game, he would beef up the Bulls' front court immensely, no doubt making himself and Joakim Noah a very difficult duo to defend.
While it wouldn't be as much money, it would still be a deal that ranked him among the top paid players in the league. Not to mention the appeal of playing with a young core of players like Derrick Rose (21), Noah (25), Luol Deng (25), and James Johnson (23). Chicago would be a place where Stoudemire could truly build a legacy, and bring a championship back to the windy city.
My prediction: I really can't see Suns General Manager Steve Kerr letting Stoudemire out of Arizona. Kerr is a basketball guy and fully understands what Amar'e brings to the table. Without Stoudemire, the Suns would not be able to match up with Western Conference opponents such as the Lakers and Spurs in the post.
As we have seen from this year's playoffs, a strong inside game is key in making a run to the NBA Finals. I think Stoudemire's future will be decided before the majority of other free agents.
He has stated that he is hoping to work something out before July 1, and his agent will be in constant contact with the Suns organization over the next few weeks. Stoudemire will get his maximum contract and hopefully be able to help the Suns jump past the Lakers as the class of the Western Conference sooner rather than later.