With the Feb. 18 trade deadline looming, the entire NBA world is wondering what will happen with Phoenix Suns big man Amare Stoudemire.
Endless rumors and speculation have taken the online sports world by storm. Everything from an Amare contract extension with the Suns to an almost-imminent deal with the 76ers has hit the rumor mill in the last month.
Amidst all of this trade speculation, it is easy to only focus on the negatives of STAT: The inconsistency on the glass, the sub-par defense, the laundry list of injuries and the financial commitment that would come with keeping Amare.
But while those things are certainly relevant, don’t overlook the things that Stoudemire does bring to the table.
How often does a guy come around that averages at least 20 points and 8 rebounds in six of his first eight seasons – one of which STAT was limited to three games due to knee surgery? How often is a player able to reinvent himself from a power dunker to a knock-down mid-range shooter in a matter of seasons? How many teams try so hard to get their hands on a multi-talented, athletic big man who can go off for 40 on any given night?
Amare is all of that and then some, and with his history of improvement, it would be ignorant to think he doesn’t still have room to grow.
After breaking into the league in 2002, he was nothing more than an athlete hungry to tear down the rim. But with time Amare evolved his game. First it was the touch around the rim, then the jump shot, now STAT is near automatic from 18 feet and in. Although he is no longer a human-highlight reel because of a myriad of devastating injuries, Stoudemire has reinvented his skill-set accordingly.
He has gone from strictly a raw talent, to a multi-skilled big man amidst two major knee surgeries and a vision-threatening eye surgery. STAT has improved a new element of his game seemingly every season; maybe consistent defense and rebounding are next. But if you think Stoudemire is only a finesse player now, take a look at his recent poseterization of Denver Nuggets big Nene two games ago, the one step, no dribble throw down from the elbow against the Kings, and his second-place standing in dunks this season among NBA players.
He hasn’t been anywhere near elite status thus far — averaging 21.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game — but the Suns’ inconsistency has affected his averages a bit. However, when things are going right, STAT is up there with the Dirk Nowitzkis, Chris Boshs and TIm Duncans of the league, at least offensively.
Is it a coincidence that during the Suns’ current five-game winning streak, STAT is averaging 26.6 points, 10.0 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game? Is it a coincidence that the Suns swept a road trip of at least four games for the first time since December of 2006 with Amare averaging 27.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per game during that stretch?
Suns fans had no problem with the idea of sending him packing for a few youngsters, some expiring contracts and a pick or two when Phoenix lost seven of nine games. But now that the Suns look legit again, the idea of no more STAT tomahawk dunks or near-impossible And 1’s has to be a painful thought.
The man is a weapon, unmatched by very few others in the league. When motivated, he is arguably the best offensive big man in the NBA, period. He can hit the jumper from 20 feet on in, drive to the hoop from inside of the paint or out, and finish with contact as well as anyone in the league. Oh yeah, one other important detail: He is still 27 years old. He may not be worth max money, but with the right contract, he could be the building block to something special.
Blame it on his lack of defense, but pair him with a solid defender and that glaring defensive problem is patched up. Look at the impact Robin Lopez has had starting games alongside Amare. Not only has Amare flourished, but Lopez has been rock solid, and the Suns are playing arguably their best basketball of the season, and not just offensively.
The Suns have held their last four opponents — the Rockets, Nuggets, Hornets and Kings — to 42.6 percent shooting, well below the 45.6 percent Phoenix yields on the season. No, that does not mean that Amare is a defensive force by any means, but it does mean that the Suns can play defense against formidable opponents with STAT playing major minutes.
With all of that said, I am not advocating that the Suns not consider dealing Amare if the right deal comes around, as his contract situation along with the possibility of losing him for nothing next season is scary. But then again, players with STAT’s skills don’t come around too often.
Fans and analysts oftentimes focus solely on what certain players can’t do, but that shouldn’t exactly be the case. People want to see perfection, but only a few special players can be as well-rounded as the Kobes or LeBrons. Amare has fallen victim to this thirst for perfection.
Steve Nash is equally as atrocious on the defensive end, maybe worse than Amare, but you never hear people calling for his departure. Sure Nash has basically single-handedly propelled the Phoenix Suns franchise toward the NBA elite since coming back to Phoenix, but Stoudemire has also brought a slew of good moments to the Valley of the Sun, just to a lesser degree.
This is one of those grass is greener on the other side situations. It is easy to look at the negatives of Amare’s game, but don’t forget what he can do on the court — which is be one of the most offensively explosive and efficient big men in the NBA.
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire