For what feels like an eternity (since the evening of the NBA draft June 25th, to be exact) Warriors fans have been jerked back and forth on a potential Amare Stoudemire trade deal with the Suns. As of today the deal has yet to gain legs, but many believe it's still on the table. What's taking so long, you ask? Some have argued that the deal fell through because Coach Don Nelson and the Warriors front office backed out on including Stephen Curry at the last moment. This theory, however, assumes that the Warriors were ready to make the deal even if Stoudemire declined to sign a contract extension. This is a HUGE assumption, and in my opinion disproves the above theory.
The importance of Amare's willingness to sign an extension should not be understated:
The Warriors would have to be FOOLS to pull the trigger on a trade that sends Brandon Wright and Andris Biedrins packing without securing the returned player beyond the end of this season. The notion that they would be willing to forgo this assurance is outright ludicrous.
So what's the holdup? Why hasn't Amare agreed to a contract extension? This is where it gets interesting. Amare has been quoted as saying "If I have to re-sign with a mediocre team, it will be here (with the Suns)", implying that he considers the Warriors to be a "mediocre team" despite the potential winning power of an Ellis-Curry backcourt tandem and a solid all-around roster that includes an emerging talent in Anthony Randolph and a tough veteran in Stephen Jackson. So, as it stands, Amare refuses to sign an extension if it means playing with the Warriors for the next 5-6 years. This much we know. The part I'm unclear on, and that has yet to be resolved, is what exactly Stoudemire THINKS his alternatives appear to be. In other words, WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE FOR YOU, AMARE?
The answer to that question can probably be summed up in three words: PROBABLY NOT MUCH! At this point, we can probably assume that Warriors would be willing to extend Amare to a 6-year max-contract somewhere in the ball park of $100 to $120 million. Maybe not, but probably. There are very few teams in the league (other than the Warriors) that would be willing to sign such an extension (his current team being one of the many unwilling). However, if Amare were willing to sign that contract today (and consummate a trade with the Warriors) he would be guaranteeing himself a handsome income for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, if he waits until next offseason to get a new contract he could find himself waiting around for a big offer, and THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE THAT CONTRACT WOULD FALL SHORT OF WHAT HE CAN GET RIGHT NOW!
Mixed up in this whole drama is the fact that Stoudemire's current contract ends just before the famed free-agency Summer of 2010. What seems to elude Stoudemire is the logical assumption that the Salary Cap is due to fall dramatically at the same time the free-agency market is flooded with unprecidented talent. There will be a list of at least 5 names bigger than Amare's vying to grab the big dollars (LeBron, Wade, Bosh...), and he could end up waiting around for someone to come calling with a satisfactory offer. Thus, two things could happen:
1) He may end up having to take less money in a new long term contract, as many teams will be unwilling (or simply unable) to sign him to a max contract becasue of the lowered cap. We've already seen this happen so far this offseason, as the previous trend toward overpaying free-agents has dipped dramatically (i.e. Allen Iverson is about to sign for 25% or less than the amount he was paid last year!).
2) He may have to settle for signing with a "mediocre team" anyway. If the market works out unfavorably, the only teams with the cap space to sign him may be even more desperate (and unattractive) than the Warriors. In fact, I would assume that this is quite likely.
So, to sum things up, Amare's best chance to sign the biggest contract with the best team possible may very well be with the Warriors, right now! His alternative will almost certainly have to be the "wait-and-see" method, which could end up being a "wait-and-see-what-a-huge-mistake-I've-made" kind of decision. Whether or not you want to see this trade happen, I think it's safe to say that the ball is in Amare's court, and, whether he recognizes it or not, this one is a slam dunk