Where does Amare Stoudemire rank among the 2010 free agents?

Amare Stoudemire hasn't been himself through two games of the Western Conference Finals. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Amare Stoudemire wants max money, but how does he compare to the other 2010 free agents? (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

PHOENIX — For years Phoenix Suns power forward and free-agent to be Amare Stoudemire has yearned to be mentioned with the LeBrons and Wades of the NBA. The ‘superstar status’ is and has been a driving force in his search for a max contract.

“I’m friends with all of those guys, from Dwyane and LeBron and Chris, all those guys are friends of mine so I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a conversation here and there,” Stoudemire said in his exit interview. “It’s a big free agency this summer, for all of us.”

The five-time All-Star has expressed that he deserves to be placed near the top of the 2010 free agent list in the past, and explained that the only reason he hasn’t been as hot of an offseason topic is because his first priority has always been re-signing in Phoenix, while the other hyped free agents have been searching for a new area code.

“I think they were the guys more so looking to become free agents. From my standpoint here I was looking to stay here, so I think the world kind of figured that and just left me out of the talk a little bit,” Amare explained. “Just the fact that I have my loyalty here and they saw it, so that’s why (the general public) mentions LeBron and D-Wade and Chris Bosh.”

However, the fact of the matter is that Amare is just a notch below guys like LeBron, Wade and Bosh. But since he isn’t in that group, how exactly should STAT be valued in the historic 2010 free agency?

The top spot obviously belongs the The King. LeBron will get as much money as he wishes, under the salary cap rules of course, and is deservedly the most touted free agent of the 2010 class.

D-Wade is and should be the second-most heralded free agent, as he’s proven year in and year out to be a top-three guard in the league and the type of player who can lead his team to a championship (see 2006).

Amare would probably like to slot himself right after Wade and James, but there are a pair of big men that belong ahead of him on the free agent totem pole. Bosh, who averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds this season, edges out STAT thanks to his consistency, board work and slightly less awful defensive ability.

There is no question that Amare has the talent to be as good if not better than Bosh on a regular basis, but the lanky lefty has yet to have his effort and basketball IQ questioned, and he also hasn’t gone through two knee surgeries and a career-threatening eye surgery. Bosh still hasn’t had the chance to showcase his talent on a big stage, which is where Amare has been criticized, but all in all he is a more complete player who should garner more interest and cash flow this offseason.

Another big man that should be valued more than STAT is Dirk Nowitzki, if he opts out of course. Most everyone around the NBA expects him to re-up with Dallas the second Mark Cuban opens his checkbook, but it is looking like Dirk will in fact opt out of his current deal. Dallas can pay him more than any other team, but there are a few situations (like Phoenix) that make sense for the former MVP.

There aren’t really any arguments against the fact that Dirk is a better player than Amare and should be more sought after than STAT. He’s almost un-guardable, his stroke is uncanny for a seven-footer and he has experience in big games as a closer in crunch time.

But after the quartet of LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Dirk is where Amare fits in. He’s still too inconsistent and incomplete of a player to be mentioned as a top-notch superstar, but he does bring more to the table than guys like David Lee, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson.

At 19.5 PPG and 11.2 RPG Boozer is no slouch and crashes the boards with a vengeance, but Amare offers more of an offensive repertoire along with a fear factor that the Jazz forward can’t match. Lee is also an interesting prospect, but 2010 was his first season averaging 20-plus points per game and STAT is a much more established player.

Johnson has had a nice career for himself in Atlanta, but the simple fact that he’s a guard brings down his value and he’s been plagued with an inability to take over as the No. 1 guy. Much like Amare, he’s stuck in the middle between being a low-end No. 1 option and a really good No. 2 option.

So STAT is just outside of the “elite” tier of the 2010 free agent class, but just above the second tier, making things that much more confusing for the Suns. Because when Amare plays like he did in February, March and April, he deserves to be the guy to round out the upper-echelon free agents. But when he has an underwhelming postseason like he did in 2010, it’s hard to think of him as much better than the Boozers, Lees and Johnsons.

It is the possibility that he might solidify himself as the player he showed he can be in the second half of the season that will have GMs feeling the urge to give him max money this summer. But then again the questions and concerns are certainly there as well. So with all of that being said STAT is just below the cream of the crop, but just above the second tier of 2010 free agents.

  • Billy Masterson

    Amar’e Stoudemire should be resigned if, and only if, he is willing to drop the delusion that he a franchise caliber player worthy of a max contract. Unfortunately, Stoudemire appears likely to bolt for a sub par team that in a few years will give him the Luol Deng “We’re Paying Him WHAT Again???” Treatment. It’s a shame but Amar’e has shown nothing that makes me want the Suns to keep him next year for the amount his option is worth, let alone giving him a raise.

  • Phil

    Amare is nowhere near the top tier (which isn't really a tier but an orderly queue). If someone is prepared to pay him silly money, the key is to achieve this via sign and trade so a) we get some value and more importantly b) we get an exception to spend the money elsewhere.

    The most interesting point in the article is the thinking about Lee – Mike argues he is lower than Amare because he is less established, but this works both ways – he has less miles (and surgeries) on the clock, will be cheaper and could improve further. He obviously isn't as polished offensively as Amare and is as bad defensively, but would dramatically improve the Suns interior rebounding (wing rebounding already being pretty goos).

    I would so a sign and trade Lee and a No 1 for Amare in a heartbeat – and D'Antpni might just bite

  • Kyle Fleeger

    Amar'e is definitely the 3rd most interesting Free-Agent in the draft class. Mainly because he has only ever been healthy 2 consecutive years, and has improved under his first year of defensive coaching.

    I think Steve Kerr not coming back is a HUGE sign that Amar'e is considering returning to Phoenix, I didn't think after the last two off-seasons that the Suns stood a chance of signing him with Steve Kerr in charge.

    Now it's at least 60/40% to Amar'e staying in my opinion. it was probably 40/60 the other way before this news.

  • Mel.

    Phoenix fans may take Amar'e for granted, but–like Jason wrote–they're also more accepting of his career ups and downs than ANY other market in the NBA. If Amar'e were playing for the Hawks, Blazers or Los Angeles, he'd be singled out as the major reason why the Suns didn't make the Finals (Spurious as it may be; the guy put his in, everything short of taking Game Six over), and turned into a goat.

    As it is, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single legitimate Phoenix fan who would ever cite the usual STAT-related complaints (Squishy D, lack of clutch instincts, inconsistent rebounding) as being a contributing reason for the lack of success over the last five years. The focus is always on the jinx, or who left for greener pastures; compare that to your average major-market franchise (Who typically turn on their superstars within two or three years), and it's pretty easy to see why STAT's a natural fit for us.

    We love the guy, and his over-under doesn't compare to the fact that we consider him one of the true faces of the team. Hopefully, that factors into what's likely to be a failed campaign for a max-money grab, and settles into a more reasonable contract.

  • Phil

    JD – your questions are ridiculous, because Bosh plays for Toronto and Amare plays for the Suns and with Nash etc. If you swapped them over, do you think teh Raptors are going to the Conference Finals?

    I hate the implication that 'true' fans love Amare – I am a true fan and while I like him, I know he is not worth the money he is on now, never mind what he wants to be paid.

  • JD

    How exactly is Bosh rated over Amare? How many conference championships has his teams reached? How many playoff games has Bosh won? How can anyone say Bosh played anything like a top tier free agent after the All-Star break when the Raps went into a free fall?

    Amare is a winner. His teams have had winning records in all but one season of his career. He’s made the playoffs in 5 out of 7 seasons (don’t count ’05-’06). He may not be Kobe or Wade, but he is a very high-level free agent who wins more than Bosh or Boozer and Phoenix fans take him for granted, which is a shame.

  • JasonK

    Phoenix fans do take him for granted, and that’s a shame. I’m sick of the flaky effort and bad defense and non-rebounding. Get out, Amar’e.

  • George Z.

    If Amare really cares about the organization and wants to win a championship or make a real good push then he needs to sign a nice contract with Phoenix that isnt “max money” otherwise if Phoenix gives in and signs him to a Max contract then some pieces are going to have to be shuffled around and the Suns have very good chemistry the way they are. With a little more defense and 1 more big to help out I think the Suns could make it to the Finals. Hope they do resign Amare, but if they dont then I really think Dirk would be a great fit-(talentwise and checmistrywise) *dont know if thats a real word.

  • Hersey

    The reality of the market to means you pay Amare but don’t hamstring the franchise. The reality is you can’t swap out his offense for anyone else that’s available. Sure Nash makes people better but Amare is about as complete as it gets on offense. This team needs a 4 that can score and given the cap situation and lack of players clamoring to come to Phoenix, I don’t think the team can build on what they have without Amare. He has his warts but that’s what Robin Lopez was drafted for. Karl Malone played with a defensive center who didn’t need shots for most of his prime. This is a team that has talent and depth that complements well. Far too often this franchise loses a piece they can’t replace. We’re in for a major step back if we think we can easily replace Amare. That means they have to overpay a little. Gasol’s deal should be the benchmark IMO. This isn’t fantasy basketball, continuity is more likely to win a championship than trying to reload on the open market.

  • CornFlakes

    “As it is, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single legitimate Phoenix fan who would ever cite the usual STAT-related complaints…”

    They’re common complaints for a REASON.

    I used to love watching STAT play, all the way back to his rookie days. Arguable the most offensively-talented PF in the game, he was a natural fit for the Suns’ run-n-gun style of play.

    But now, his deficiencies stick out far worse than his talents. Forget being a consistent defender, he’s never been a good defender period. He’s always been liable to let in as many points as he scored, and his rebounding is, for lack of a better word, INCONSISTENT.

    He played like a man possessed after the All-Star break, averaging 26.3 points on .565 shooting, and grabbing 9.8 rebounds, all in 34.7 minutes. The playoffs? Averages of 22.2 points on .519 shooting, and 6.6 rebounds in 36.5 minutes. On a stage where players like Richardson, Dragic, Dudley, and Nash elevated their games, STAT downgraded his.

    He knew he was gonna opt out of his contract after this season, and the trade rumors kicked his butt into gear. He dropped off in the playoffs, and it took another verbal butt-kicking on his sub-par play against the likes of Gasol and Odom to step up and score 42 in Game 3 of the WCF. He plays well only when motivated, and not always when it matters.

    This is what disappoints me so much about him. He has ridiculous potential, but he plays so far below it. He only cares about getting that max contract right now, and he knew he had to play well to impress. Something tells me that kind of motivation will be lacking once he’s chugging through a multi-year max contract.

    Plus, if nothing else, why would ANYONE sign him to a max contract considering the fact that he’s had two major knee surgeries? Signing him short-term is one thing, but long-term? That’s just begging for him to blow out one of his knees. For the money we’re talking about, I wouldn’t want to take that kind of risk on him.

    Yes, we would be hard-pressed to replace this kind of talent. But that still doesn’t make the idea of signing him any more attractive.

  • CornFlakes

    To add to the last part of my post, I’m not crazy one way or the other about the STAT-situation. As ballyhooed as this offseason is, there are not as many options as we may like. The only potential FA out there I like that we have any remote chance of getting is Dirk.

  • paradoxguy

    Mike Schmitz writes correctly that Amare Stoudemire does not belong in the top tier of the 2010 FA players, noting his deficiencies as poor defense, middling rebound rate, and inconsistent play. However, I think Schmitz is a bit too charitable in ranking Stoudemire between the 1st and 2nd tier. Frankly, I believe Stoudemire ranks in the 2nd tier, and on some days, even below, due to his inconsistent play, non-existent defense, laziness in improving his skills, and very egocentric attitude. Stoudemire is undeniably a great offensive player, especially paired with a great point guard. However, he's lazy in not trying to improve his defense and rebounding, as well as trying to increase his basketball IQ, which is sometimes lacking. As comparison, at the beginning of his career, LeBron James was a deficient defender, but he worked on improving his defense, such that he made 1st team all-defense this year. Stoudemire is very egocentric with his braggadocio, as symbolized by his self-pronounced nickname STAT, to the point of being self-delusional. Recently, in the late regular season, Stoudemire addressed the team, mentioning other players' deficiencies, but not his own. He did not take ownership or responsibility for the team's slides, even though his poor defense and brain cramps were contributing factors. He tries to insert himself in the so-called free-agent summit mentioned by Dwayne Wade, but notice that Dwayne Wade mentions Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson consistently as peers he wants to compare notes with, but not Stoudemire. He seems more interested in making sure people associate him with the top tier players in the 2010 free agent class than doing the work to get there. I realize many good and gifted players are egotistical, and ego is no reason to downgrade a player, but a player whose skills don't match his/her self-aggrandizing statements is suspect. Stoudemire does not seem to be one to work to improve his game and deficiencies. Defense and rebounding are not glamorous, yet take as much or more work as putting the ball through the basket, and Stoudemire doesn't seem inclined to work on those areas. I realize Stoudemire is a very good offensive player and deserves a commensurate contract, but he's simply not a maximum-contract player. I suspect that any team that signs him to a max contract will regret the signing within 2-3 years, as I suspect Stoudemire will not work to improve his all-around game, especially as his athleticism declines with age or if his surgically-repaired knees start faltering. I think the Suns should try to do a sign-and-trade with Stoudemire for a better all-around player, one who is more team-oriented and is more interested in maintaining and improving his all-around game than self-aggrandizing.