How much is Amare Stoudemire worth?

When Amare Stoudemire officially opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent Wednesday night, we will finally find out how his actual value relates to his perceived value and what the Phoenix Suns are offering him.

It’s widely assumed — especially in Stoudemire’s camp — that STAT will be offered maximum dollars and maximum years, an assessment that ESPN Insider contributor Tom Haberstroh agrees to be the case in his buyer’s guide on Amare Stoudemire.

But that’s not what Haberstroh thinks he’s worth. From an in-depth analysis of Stoudemire’s past and his projected future production/injury concerns, Haberstroh thinks he’s only worth a four-year, $48 million deal.

Obviously the Suns — and every other team with cap space — would hand over such a contract to Amare at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, and obviously market value is much different than what somebody might be worth, especially in this bloated marketplace.

So while we know Amare would almost for sure re-sign for the max and will for sure be gone with a low ball deal based on Haberstroh’s perceived value of Stoudemire, the question remains: How much should the Suns pay for Amare?

When the Suns meet with Stoudemire Tuesday in Los Angeles, they will have a last-ditch effort to make a play for STAT before the courting process begins.

The Suns obviously are at risk of losing Amare for nothing, but it could be worse to give him max money and max years and have that deal hinder future flexibility if he is not worth such a deal at the end.

It’s a tenuous time in the team’s history what with the organization entering a free agency period in which it could lose its franchise player without a GM or assistant GM, but the Suns should not panic and offer Amare the moon, the stars, and a max contract.

Instead they should hold steady to their reported offers and give him max money for no longer than three years.

That’s really the Suns’ only chance of making a deal that makes sense for all parties. Amare isn’t likely to take less money long term if he’s offered the max by somebody else, but perhaps he could take the three-year max (or something like Pau Gasol’s three-year, $57 million deal).

I’m not sure if Stoudemire is worth that much annually, but that’s the kind of deal it’s going to take. Such a contract would keep Amare in Phoenix through Nash’s two-year extension plus one more year (Nash could certainly try to play beyond this deal), and at that point Stoudemire would be a 30-year-old in line for one more monster deal (at least).

Such a deal would keep the Suns “the Suns” for the next three seasons, and then in three years they could evaluate whether they want Amare to be a Suns lifer or if they want to start over then, with nobody under contract that far out.

The thing is, I don’t really think such a deal would get it done, especially if a team like the Knicks shows Amare the love and comes charging in with a three-year offer. I think the love and the status is one of the biggest things for Stoudemire.

Remember when he talked about wanting to be mentioned along with the LeBrons, D-Wades and Dwights of the world? Remember when he tried to barge his way into the free agency summit? Amare thinks he’s a top-10 player in the league and this will be the summer to validate it, and all the Suns have done in the past on that front is dangle him like a piece of meat without pulling the trigger time and time again.

In many ways, there’s no right decision when it comes to Amare’s salary. Overpay and you run the risk of crippling the franchise later this decade. Fail to overpay and you run the risk of finishing off the Nash Suns.

Best-case scenario Amare takes a short-term, max deal. Otherwise, this isn’t going to end well for Phoenix.

What kind of deal do you think the Suns should offer Amare? Let us know in the comments.

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