NEW YORK – Back when the NBA released its truncated 66-game schedule on December 6, tonight’s South Beach matchup featuring the New York Knicks and LeBron’s beach bums was supposed to be a clash of the titans.
Instead, it’s an NBA version of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Exactly one year ago today, the Amar’e Stoudemire-led Knicks beat the Miami Heat in Madison Square Garden. To that point, it was probably Stoudemire’s most proud moment as a Knick. After the win, his team was 24-21.
One year later, with him struggling to co-exist with Carmelo Anthony, he finds himself on the trading block.
Yes, Stoudemire is stuck playing in an unimaginative and predictable isolation system. It has been devoid of open looks and uncontested dunks.
And although that’s not necessarily Stoudemire’s fault, thus far this season, he has looked old, slow, and—at times—uninterested.
Earlier this week, he said that his conditioning isn’t necessarily where it needs to be. The back injury that he sustained prior to Game 2 of April’s playoff series against the Celtics, he says, interrupted his offseason workout regimen and conditioning routine.
Maybe that’s what’s going on here.
Or, maybe he’s mad that the Knicks were open to the idea of using him as a pawn to land Chris Paul. The Knicks made the offer and were immediately rebuffed by the Hornets. Stoudemire found out.
And now, the latest trade rumors out of New York say that the Knicks and Magic are “discussing” scenarios in which Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler would head to Orlando in exchange for a package built around Dwight Howard and (presumably) Hedo Turkoglu.
Since Chandler was only recently signed as a free agent, he is not eligible to be traded by the Knicks until March 1. So it’s not possible for any such deal to go down before then.
But all of that aside, it’s interesting to see how quickly—in New York—someone can go from being the savior of the franchise to someone being openly shopped.
It’s especially interesting when you consider that the Knicks biggest problem is their offense and that they don’t have anything close to capable hands controlling it.
Stoudemire and Anthony are two dangerous offensive weapons that can both hit jumpers from the perimeter and score on the interior. There should be little doubt that playmakers such as Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, or even Jose Calderon could help maximize their insane potential.
Unfortunately, at this point, that might all be water under the bridge. The Knicks have twice discussed scenarios involving Stoudemire, and we all know the type of impact trade rumors can have on a player.
That’s the tough thing about building a team. You’ve always got to look for ways to improve, and sometimes that may entail various scenarios in which you trade guys. But as we saw in the case of Lamar Odom, there is such a thing as a point of no return.
If the trade rumors are the source of Stoudemire’s poor play—and it could be—the Knicks have no choice but to trade him. All too often, we fail to recognize the significant impact that the mental part of the game plays on the performance of our heroes.
Even worse, there is a growing number of general managers and coaches across the league that don’t believe that Stoudemire can co-exist with Anthony. To this point in their respective careers, Stoudemire has been most successful in an up-tempo system while Anthony has excelled at a slower, half-court pace.
It’s only 18 games into the 2011-12 season—a season which the Knicks have played without a true floor general. But numbers don’t lie. By my count, after winning only one of their four games over the past week, the Stoudemire-Anthony duo is now 18-23.
If you think hard enough, you can surely come up with good reasons to explain their terrible record. But once you’ve finished, you’d be forced to face the most obvious possibility: Maybe the partnership can’t work?
Although I’m not there yet, personally, it’s something that definitely needs to be considered. If the Knicks decided to trade one of the two, they would certainly rather deal Stoudemire than Anthony.
Anthony is Jim Dolan’s prized acquisition. Plus, he’s younger, healthier, and more marketable.
Finding a new home for Stoudemire might be difficult due to his uninsured contract, health concerns, and recent poor play. But if there’s one thing that Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis taught me, it’s that anyone can be traded. You just need to find the right team at the right time.
The other team would have to be in the market for a primary offensive option and have to have a point guard on the roster that could create plays. In return, they’d need to have either an older, comparable power forward and/or backcourt depth that they could send the Knicks in return.
That being said, here are five Stoudemire deals that might make some sense:
New York Knicks receive: Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and New York’s own 2012 first round draft pick
Houston Rockets receive: Amar’e Stoudemire, Toney Douglas, and Jerome Jordan
Why the Knicks do it
Here, the draft pick is major. The 2012 draft will be the deepest since 2003 and the Knicks are currently shut out. Houston would convey New York’s own 2012 first round pick back to New York (the Knicks sent it to Houston as a part of the cap clearing Tracy McGrady trade back in February 2010). Better yet, Luis Scola would give the Knicks something they lack, even with Stoudemire—an offensive post threat. Dragic has shown flashes of brilliance in his short career. He flourished playing behind Steve Nash in Phoenix and could probably man the point guard position fairly well for the Knicks along with Baron Davis.
Why the Rockets do it
The Rockets have managed their cap and assets well over the past few years but lack a primary offensive option that is capable of carrying the load on a nightly basis. With Kyle Lowry playing the best basketball of his career this year and Kevin Martin drilling jumpers from the perimeter, Stoudemire would fit in nicely. Samuel Dalembert could help protect Stoudemire and his defensive deficiencies. If Houston is ever to become more than a team with a lot of assets and cap space, they’ll need to eventually take a risk and trade for someone who can help them score and distract opposing defenses.
New York Knicks receive: Elton Brand, Jodie Meeks, and Philadelphia’s own 2012 second-round pick
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Amar’e Stoudemire and Toney Douglas
Why the Knicks do it
They do it for the same reasons they’d trade Amar’e for Scola or Pau Gasol. Brand is a good post option whose health concerns seem to be a thing of the past. Even though he’ll soon be 33, Brand is coming off of a very good 2010-2011 campaign and is one of the few big guys in the league that gives you one steal and one block per game. He plays great in a half-court set and would have no issues with playing Robin to Carmelo’s Batman. In Jodie Meeks, the Knicks would get one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and would immediately fill their need at the shooting guard spot.
Why the 76ers do it
The 76ers are currently 12-6 and sit at first place in the Atlantic Division. But when you look at who they’ve beaten and who they’ve lost to, it’ll become obvious that they’re not as good as their record says. Aside from their Wednesday night loss to the Nets, back on January 21, they were blown out by the Heat. Ah, the Heat — the same team that ousted them from the playoffs last year. If the 76ers want to take the next step, they need to find someone who is capable of being the primary offensive option, yet be willing to share the ball. Stoudemire has proven that he can be that piece. By moving Meeks, the 76ers will also clear minutes for Evan Turner. With Jrue Holiday, Turner, Andre Iguodala, Stoudemire, and Spencer Hawes starting for Doug Collins’ team, I’d think they’d stand a better chance against the likes of the Chicagos and Miamis of the East.
New York Knicks receive: Pau Gasol, Darius Morris, and Dallas’ 2012 first round pick.
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Amar’e Stoudemire, Landry Fields, and Iman Shumpert.
Why the Knicks do it
It’s pretty simple. They’d be getting the best player in the trade. For some reason, Gasol has worn out his welcome in Tinsel Town. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. With Tyson Chandler, he would form the East’s version of the Twin Towers—at least on the defensive end. Like Anthony, Gasol excels in a half court system and is a great passer from the post. In Morris, the Knicks would get a young point guard prospect who was on their radar this past June. The Lakers got a Top-20 protected pick from the Mavericks when they sent Lamar Odom to the Big D. So long as they were getting Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert in return, they’d probably include it.
Why the Lakers do it
They know Kobe won’t be around forever, so they’re in “win now” mode. Since Mike Brown has implemented a pick and roll based system in Los Angeles, pairing Kobe with one of the best pick and roll bigs in the league would make for some sweet music. Stoudemire is just as reliable from the perimeter as Gasol, but a much better finisher in the paint. He isn’t nearly the passer that Gasol is, but with Gasol hanging out on the perimeter in Mike Brown’s sytem, the Lakers wouldn’t miss it. If they were getting the hometown kid, Landry Fields, and a young rookie prospect in Iman Shumpert, the deal would make sense since they desperately need backcourt depth.
New York Knicks receive: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Chris Duhon
Orlando Magic receive: Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler
Why the Knicks do it
Ummm… Dwight Howard? In essence, the Knicks would be combining Tyson Chandler’s defensive and rebounding prowess with 2007 Stoudemire’s scoring ability. All they’d need is a Stretch 4 (Antawn Jamison will be a free agent this summer) and they’d be in business. Turkoglu and Duhon would both be included for cap purposes, but both would play important roles for the Knicks. Turkoglu has good chemistry with Dwight and plays well in a halfcourt system. Duhon once flourished under D’Antoni and could provide the Knicks with a very capable hand off the bench.
Why the Magic do it
Richard DeVos is the owner of the Orlando Magic. He’s 85 and doesn’t want to go through a long rebuilding process. If Dwight leaves Orlando, the Magic want to make sure that they have an opportunity to compete. At the very least, they want to get decent talent in return for Dwight to keep their brand new arena somewhat full. They surely will not make a trade like the one the Hornets made for Chris Paul. In Stoudemire, the Magic would be getting a local product. Amar’e was born in Lake Wales and played high school basketball at Orlando’s Cypress Creek High School. It would be the Central Florida version of Carmelo’s “homecoming” to New York. With Tyson Chandler, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, and Jameer Nelson, the Magic would be no laughingstock. Moreover, a return of Chandler and Stoudemire would be great compared to the other offers they’d get. Unless the Lakers are willing to trade Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (which they said they wouldn’t), or the Clippers were willing to deal Blake Griffin (which we have no reason to believe that the would), the Magic couldn’t possibly get more talent in return for a player that might leave them—like Shaq—with nothing.
New York Knicks receive: Joe Johnson and Ramon Sessions
Atlanta Hawks receive: Rashard Lewis, Nick Young, and Iman Shumpert
Washington Wizards receive: Amar’e Stoudemire and Marvin Williams
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Andray Blatche
Why the Knicks do it
They would plug their hole at the point guard spot with a youngster that both Mike D’Antoni and his older brother, Dan, know very well. And although Joe Johnson has a whopping 5 years and $100M left on his contract, it’s only one more year than Stoudemire. Joe has shown the ability to hit big shots and can create off the dribble just as well as he can catch and shoot. This trade would leave the Knicks very thin up front, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. They’d need to fill the hole that Stoudemire’s departure would create, but they’d plug two in return.
Why the Hawks do it
It’s all about the money. Over the next five years, the Hawks will pay the combination of Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson a ridiculous $130 million. The Hawks also have long term money tied up in Al Horford and Josh Smith, but certainly cannot afford to pay $20-$30 million in luxury tax bills each year. Something has to give. For the Hawks, being committed to paying the combination of Rashard Lewis, Nick Young, and Iman Shumpert $50 million over the next four years has to be more appealing than the aforementioned $130 million option. In Lewis, they get a 3-point shooter who can help space the floor and in Young, they get a young shooting guard whose stock is rising because of his ability to score. We are not quite sure what Shumpert is yet, but he’s well known in Atlanta, having played his college ball for Georgia-Tech. This would represent a good haul for the Hawks. With Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, the Hawks—though they might step back in the immediate future—would end up younger, fresher, and with more flexibility over the long term.
Why the Wizards do it
The team is a mess and they need a few veterans who actually play. Even more so, they need someone for John Wall to run with. Stoudemire and Williams both play well in transition and would both make fairly reliable targets for Wall. Though the deal would cost them Nick Young, they’re very likely to lose him this summer. Last summer, he felt disrespected by the Wizards lowball contract offer and accepted the one year qualifying offer. He’ll be unrestricted this summer and isn’t likely to return. The toughest part of the Wizards making this deal would be getting owner Ted Leonsis to invest serious money in Stoudemire and Williams. But if he has any intention of trying to build a winner in DC, he’ll have to pony up at some point.
Why the Cavaliers do it
The drafting of Kyrie Irving made Ramon Sessions expendable. They could jettison him and get Andray Blatche in return. Blatche might be a bit hard headed, but if Byron Scott was able to get positive production out of Kenyon Martin back in New Jersey, I think he can reach Blatche. With a reliable front court talent to play alongside Irving, I think the Cavaliers would be better having done their part in this four-teamer.