Weighing the Rumor: cases for and against a deal for Stoudemire

Firstly, these rumors are worth discussing because the trade is entirely plausible. It meets several requirements of a realistic proposal. There is an argument for it from both team's perspectives. It could benefit both teams.

 

But importantly, it stings a bit. It is not some far-fetched scheme that somehow transforms a sign-and-trade of Kurz into Lebron James. We are talking about giving up a young, quality center with a reasonable, well designed long term contract for the duration of his peak years. Add to it some assortment of young guys who have performed reasonably well in limited time and have (and I use this word with great hesitation) potential to be better than pretty good players. This is not a freebie. It means giving up something real, something you do not want to give up. Still, it is a deal that could net us one of the few dominant big men, a guy who has shown he can score a bunch of points with elite efficiency. Stoudemire is a rare talent and has in the past been real, real close to the sort of high octane player who you can build a winner around. Opportunities for the elite big man do not come around often, and your odds of winning it all go up considerably if you have one. And this is why this subject is worthy of debate.

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Just for starters, any deal assumes an extension for Stoudemire as the gamble on a one and done should mean immediately rejecting the deal. But the assumption of an extension should mean the assumption of a Max contract extension. He will not come cheaper. So assuming these things...


The case for Stoudemire:

 

There are not many guys who score as efficiently as Stoudemire with his shot volume. He takes shots and makes shots. He gets fouled and he converts from the line. In the paint, there are very few guys in the game who are as lethal as Amare and other teams know it. If you play against him, you have to figure out a way to contend with his considerable abilities, else pay a penalty for poor planning, a penalty that usually shows up in the "L" column. We want what he can do and there are not many chances to get a player like him, especially one who is still in the prime of his career.

 

In the past, Amare has been a reasonable rebounder. Some years, he's been even better than that. He has played a combination C/PF roll for the Suns and would likely be the nominal center after a trade, and he's done it well enough to see his team win far more often than not.

 

And that, as short as it is, is a real strong case for getting him. Odds do not favor that anything we give up, no matter how promising it is, will match that value. That is, if we get what we have seen.

 

The case against a deal:

 

The real worry is not that we would have to give up too much. There is not any sure way to know, though it seems that in most NBA trades, the team that gets the best player wins and a greater volume of lesser talent and "potential" rarely if ever outperforms one dominant guy. So for now, I try not to think too much about Brandan Wright (with a world of potential) or Marco Belinelli (with less than a world of potential, but still seemingly capable of producing), or even the newly minted Stephen Curry (who is in the wonderful position of never having played a game and is thus just oozing with "potential"). Odds do not favor any of them being a dominant player just because so few players ever are. It could happen, but that seems to be said of several players every year, and yet here we sit with two winning seasons and one playoff appearance in the last decade and a half. We could discuss their potential, but better money says that these guys remain afterthoughts "oozing with potential". Potential does not win games.Market your deal on potential. If we can get a buyer for it, you make the sale.  Sure, in negotiations, try to keep the best parts you can, but do not get distracted by what this trade will likely mean.  


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No, the real worry is that we will not get the best player in the deal, though we will pay like we did and pay for years to come.

 

My fear is that the proposed trade will be Biedrin and change, not for the Amare Stoudemire who led the Association in scoring efficiency just one season back, but rather a lesser version. Do I mean the knee? The microfracture seems to have been dealt with. He has played better since the surgery and has not missed games because of it. The eye? A freak accident. It is more likely to be a recurring problem than Biedrins's no longer extant appendix, but only slightly more likely. Ignore it. It is not a real concern. I do not mean these things.

 

The fear is time. The real fear is that the decline in rebounds and FG% last year was not just a lack of motivation due to having to share the paint with Shaq, but the early stages of a decline in skill. Few guys his size have ever been as explosive, as quick and nimble as Stoudemire. But one player who might have rivaled him in such regards was Shawn Kemp. Or at least the under 27 version of Kemp, before a bulging waistline robbed him of enough speed and agility to turn him into a bloated (in both body and contract) version no longer capable of driving his team into the win column. When your game is so significantly reliant on overwhelming athletic ability, a decline in this ability for whatever reason means a less effective player. A fully effective Stoudemire did not quite get his team to the finals. Close, but not quite. We are not likely to see him improve at his age, but should his deal run into his early to mid 30s (and an extension on his contract will almost certainly mean that) means we are likely to see his maximum earnings come after he has lost a step. Or two. Or three.

 

The fear is also that the Amare Stoudemire who could score nearly 27 points on just over 16 shots does not exist without Steve Nash to get him the ball. Indeed when Nash was not on the court, Amare's production declined significantly. Nash is one of the best in the game at improving the offense of his teammates. But he does not come with the deal, so the Amare we get is unlikely to be able to match that sort of production. He will undoutedly still be very good, but very good may not be good enough, especially when it is all but certain that Stoudemire will command a max contract, making it unfeasible to acquire another dominant player if he turns out to be insufficient.

 

Either of these fears should be enough to give pause to sending out a quality center for the opportunity to put $16mil a year, increasing by a couple of million each year, into his pockets regardless of what happens on the court in the future. There is no money-back guarantee if the guy who you ink to a max contract turns out to be a thing of the past sharing a name (and bank account in which you deposit ridiculous sums of money) but not game with the player you thought you were acquiring.

 

This is a one time opportunity in more ways than one. An opportunity to hit big, perhaps big enough that paying the back end for his declining years would be worth it. But also an opportunity to blow another half decade waiting for a mistake to come off the books. We have been waiting for mistakes t come off the books for a long, long time, but just because we should be used to it does not mean we should continue to accept it.

 

And though I would tend to discount most of the 'high potential' kids tossed into the deal, we are not talking about giving up spare change to take this chance. Andris Biedrins, for his faults, is still a good player, a good starting center, something that is tough to come by. He has a responsible contract that does not grow and will look better and better in years to come. He is young and should see this contract though the best years of his career. While substantial improvement may not occur, he is still at an age where players tend to refine their game. It is unlikely we have seen his best. And already he does several things better than most in the game. He is a very good rebounder. Rebounds help win games and it is highly unlikely that Stoudemire would equal his production on the glass. While not as flashy as high octane offense, silently ensuring more clean possessions for your team has great value towards getting your team into the win column.

 

While Biedrins does not yet appear to be much of an individual defender in the paint, I am of the mind that Biedrins' value would be much more apparent on a better team. Already his rebounding meant that the team was as good defensively as they were when the better post defender but weaker rebounding Turiaf manning the middle. If guards were forcing the opposition to take bad shots from the perimeter, a fantastic rebounder – and nonsense about how his totals are "inflated" aside, Andris is a fantastic rebounder – would be even more valuable. There would be more missed shots to haul in and fewer chances to be abused in the pain. Each defensive rebound means a defensive stop. It means getting the ball back without surrendering a bucket. Real defense. Half the game. But that was not the Warriors' game last year. Guards did not prevent the entry passes to big men who can take Biedrins one on one, or two on one since he often had Corey Maggette "backing him up" (and I use the terms real, real loosely) at PF to go against the opposition's big men.

 

No, Biedrins does not have a polished offensive game. But per minute, he scores more than the average center and he does so without needing to have the offense designed for him. It may be nothing but "dunks and layups and putbacks" but they count just as much as a rainbow jumper or crafty spin move, and if was so easy to convert these, why then do so few players actually manage to do so. It is an exceptionally under-appreciated skill, and one that helps wing games.

 

And yet, we did not win many games last year, and without something to shake it up, the improvement we are likely to see hinges either on the ever elusive "internal development" or a whole lot of luck. Those are not things that suggest you hold your cards and pray you have already drawn a winning hand. Those are things that make a move, especially one that offers as much as thing one might, look enticing.

 

A conclusion?

 

Do not take the relative length of the pros and cons to mean one is more favorable than the other. The devil we know is more easy to discuss and perhaps superficially more appealing. But this does not make it better just in that regard. It is a very, very close call.  Tantalizingly seductive yet terrifying nonetheless. Were it that Stoudemire would agree for a shorter extension, or less than Max money, it would not be. Were it that Biedrins was a couple years older, or Stoudemire a year or two younger, it would not be.

 

But as it is, it is not an easy decision. If you think it is, think harder.

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