The Amare Stoudemire situation in hindsight

The Phoenix Suns miss Amare Stoudemire, but what should they have done differently this offseason with the power of hindsight? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Phoenix Suns miss Amare Stoudemire, but what should they have done differently this offseason with the power of hindsight? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The New York Knicks have gone from long-time lottery players to a playoff team and the Phoenix Suns have gone from long-time playoff team to the brink of the lottery after star forward Amare Stoudemire defected from Phoenix to New York this offseason.

When STAT visited Phoenix last week I broke down some advanced statistics to determine Stoudemire is playing at about the same level he did last year with the Suns and then we all watched Stoudemire have his way with Phoenix on his way to a 23-point, nine-rebound performance in which the Knicks blew out the Suns and fans gave him a hero’s welcome.

As the teams get set for a Monday matinee rematch in New York on Martin Luther King Day, let’s take one final look back at what transpired leading up to Amare’s departure and where the Suns went wrong.

The Suns considered trading Stoudemire at the trade deadline each of the past two seasons, which went a long way toward Stoudemire not feeling like he was wanted. After all, how many franchise player are dangled like a piece of meat two years in a row? For a player who needs to feel that love from the organization, it would have been tough to put that behind him and play the role of franchise guy, especially when a a team like the Knicks pulled out the red carpet for him.

There was still so much time and so many variables to consider in 2008-09, but around the 2009-10 deadline the Suns had a very difficult decision to make. All along, I stipulated that if the Suns could get a franchise guy they would be wise to sign off on an Amare deal. That’s why the rumored Golden State trade for Stephen Curry around the 2009 draft would have been so smart to give the Suns a guy they could build around but then last year wouldn’t have happened and in the end it was the Warriors who backed out, not the Suns.

Phoenix did not receive any such enticing offers around the deadline. It was rumored that the Suns could acquire J.J. Hickson and cap relief from the Cavs, who later reportedly took Hickson out of offers. The Miami Heat reportedly offered something with Mario Chalmers and a bunch of bit pieces.

At the time I argued against either of these deals, and even with the power of hindsight I stand by that today. The first question to ask is, “Are any of these players worth missing out on the conference finals run?”

You could see that Suns team jelling just before the All-Star break. You get such few chances in this league, and that’s especially true for a Phoenix squad with an aging core of Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Especially at this point, we don’t know how long it will be before the Suns are two games from the Finals again, and with a couple breaks last year really could have been their year.

Short of a future superstar like Curry, hindsight says the Suns absolutely made the right call, and even then I’d think twice about missing out on last season.

Sure, it would be nice to have a young power forward who can finish on the pick-and-roll, and the Suns surely could use Hickson, but he wouldn’t be worth ruining last season and missing out on any possibility of Stoudemire re-signing.

I don’t even have much of a problem in hindsight of the Suns not offering a full max deal. We need about four and a half more years of hindsight to know the right decision there. Nobody should be surprised Stoudemire is putting up the numbers he did or that the Suns badly miss him. We knew that for this year (and maybe even the next two) the Suns would be best off keeping him.

But if his health deteriorates to the extent he becomes the next Jermaine O’Neal getting paid max money for mid-level production or if he can’t play at all, this won’t look so bad.

Also, after the Lakers playoff loss, it just didn’t seem like Amare was the guy to lead this team to the promised land. He had not been able to do it all these years as a strong No. 2, so why make such an investment in him as a No. 1 due to his defensive and rebounding deficiencies?

The problem is the Suns didn’t replace him with anything close to a future franchise player, the main criteria I had for any Amare trade. All they did was replace him with a slew of role players.

There were a host of stud power forwards available that the Suns didn’t make much of a move for. Carlos Boozer would have been a great immediate fit (although he’s not a guy you can build around for the future), and David Lee and Al Jefferson could have been had although Lee was perhaps a bit overpaid and Jefferson would not be a perfect fit in the Nash system.

Still, the Suns needed to do something and hindsight tells us replacing Amare Stoudemire with Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick was most definitely not the answer. Turk never fit and has since been shipped out while Childress is out of the rotation and Warrick only recently re-joined it.

Perhaps that’s what will happen when you go through an offseason without a general manager, but the Suns really seemed to lack much of a plan this past summer.

Another option would have been to roll over their assets to this offseason, but with no franchise guys really available (as in Carmelo isn’t coming to Phoenix) and considering the age of Nash/Hill I have no problem spending it last summer. I don’t dislike the Childress and Warrick signings in a vacuum either, it’s just they needed to replace that star power at the four both for the present and the future and they whiffed big in that regard.

This offseason the Suns built an inefficient team payroll-wise in that Alvin Gentry has 11 quality players at his disposal but feels he can only play nine for maximum effectiveness. That means over $10 million of salary generally sits on the bench for the majority of the game (Childress and either Warrick or Pietrus lately) while aside from Nash this is a team with no star power.

If the Suns can acquire this mythical future star somewhere down the line, perhaps they will end up in better position than they would have been considering all the problems surrounding Amare’s future health and the diminished odds of winning it all with a big man who’s not a great defender or rebounder.

Or perhaps the Suns are finding out how difficult it is to replace a franchise guy without a high lottery pick, the route they might eventually have to take to respectability.

With the power of hindsight, the Suns made the right call not dealing Amare at the trade deadline for another solid role player based on how last year turned out. Hindsight thus far also tells us the Suns’ biggest mistake in all this came by failing to replace his power forward production or acquire a future stud with the assets his departure freed up.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • Mike L

    But who really was going to give up a future star for Amare? Certainly not GS since they pulled out of the Curry deal. And that even though they could have argued it harder to find a PF than a PG. The truth is actually deeper than you write in this article. The truth is NO ONE felt like Amare was worth mortgaging their club’s future. Not even NYK. Amare can feel he was “wanted” more there but the reality is NYK had the money to spend and New Yorkers might have burned down MSG if the Knicks had lost on not only LBJ AND any of the other FAs.

    Are there ANY records of ANY teams who came hard for Amare at the deadline? No.

    So I think the ONLY way we can fault the Suns is if there is some way (which there isn’t) of guaranteeing the Suns would have won at least one championship by paying Amare all the money. Even I would say it was worth being on the hook for all that money if the Suns win a championship in 2011-2013 for a hobbled Amare in 2014 or beyond. But nobody can guarantee that and the smart money says to cut bait now and find another way.

    Sure I’m a Suns’ fan and I’m drinking the kool-aid to some extent, but I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who can really make a great argument that the Suns whirred, as you say.

    Sure it sucks right now, but anyone who expected otherwise wasn’t being realistic. We just need to hope for a break before Nash retires. And anyone seeing Nash holding the trophy while wearing a Suns uniform is not being realistic.

    But I’m hopeful! Who would have expected the Suns to get as far as they did last year? If we can get a break (like trading a 1st rounder for A. Randolph/Aldridge/J. Smith) than who knows what will happen.

    Honestly, if we can look at the Amare deal at this point and not point to obvious fowl-ups than I think we’re in a pretty good spot.

  • Mike L

    Oops … Meant to say whiffed, not whirred. Gotta love autocorrect on the iPad.

  • binkfooter

    We are just any pf who can handle a nash pass not get it stripped and put it down away and rebound. plus amare was never going to resign he wanted to be the man and it was not going to be here.

  • Tony B

    The point this article is missing is that this team only had a few more years of potential title contention before they had to rebuild. It will be a sad day, but eventually Nash isn’t going to be a Sun anymore and he is someone you can’t simply replace. Thus, it was Sarver’s obligation to the Suns organization and to Nash to give them the best possible player or players to compete. Not resigning Amare was only a legitimate option if Sarver had a great chance at signing another top-tiered power forward. If, as happened, the Suns didn’t have any real chance of signing a Boozer, Lee, or Jefferson type player, then Sarver should have taken the chance on Amare’s health and resigned him.

  • Mike L

    Things aren’t that simple, though, Tony B. None of the other PFs were max money kinds of players. And I don’t think you can say that you’ll just sign Amare if you can’t obviously replace him. That said, I was disappointed that they didn’t seem to immediately switch gears to go after one of the other major PFs available. I suppose they might have seen Warrick as the best “system PF” available but I have to believe that one of the other PFs would have been a ether replacement.

  • KJ Loyalist

    I think something that gets missed is the mindset of said “free agent PF savior”

    Most of the beast mode power forwards in the league, (most meaning all except STAT prior to this year), had the rock in their hand when they wanted it and could drop 35 every night or at least have the ball in their hands to work.

    Those types of players want to continue doing that. That is not something that can happen on most nights in PHX.

    The Suns, to use an NFL analogy, run a spread offense where anybody can be the dagger; the 4 spot is more the method to the madness when Nash is involved.

    So do you want to come to a decent situation and watch all of your precious numbers drop? Most players won’t buy into that coming from another system where they were allowed to have the ball whenever they wanted.

    Of those that might consider it, how many of them fit the system? How many of them have a rock-solid mid range jumper to make it all work?

    Yes, Amare was valuable but that is because we drafted him and raised him in this system thus making him “perfect” for it.

    I would not have given him max money either, and even so do you really think he wanted to sign in the Valley? He went to a pretty similar system without an elite point guard which means that the offense would go through him. That is what he has always wanted, and that is what he got. That became the “perfect” situation for him.

  • Josh Hansen

    Great article. Excellent analysis as well KYLOYALIST. You have got me thinking…I may write more later.

  • YAYO

    Didn’t you have an article during the offseason that said according to some bogus statistic, the Suns would be just as good even without Amare and with the new role players?

  • Michael Schwartz

    Yes, Wins Produced. Surprise, surprise, the new Suns are producing fewer wins than in previous years this season with the Suns. That also included a huge chunk of wins from Josh Childress, as he was great in that stat his last season with the Suns, and obviously this year he can’t get off the bench.

  • Steve

    Mike L brought up a great point that most people forget about or mull over as if it’s not important. NOBODY put up a respectable offer for Amare at the trade deadline. To me, that means one of two things:

    1. He wasn’t worth a respectable offer.

    2. GMs already knew he was leaving Phoenix and they would have their shot at him in the offseason.

    Based on the response Amare got during the FA bonanza, I’d say it was option number one. Nobody except the Knicks really did much to get him. I just don’t think anybody else thought Amare was worth the kind of money Amare thinks he’s worth.

  • Jason

    I agree with this article on every point. Goodbye Amare, and good luck. He is not a max franchise player given his lack of defense and injury history. I sat two seats away from a high-ranking Suns executive during one of the playoff games last year, and based on his off the cuff reactions to Amare’s play (lack of rebounding, stupid fouls, poor defense) during the game, I knew the Suns wouldn’t resign him.

  • Nerd Numbers

    I don’t know on Lee. It’s hard to gauge injured players in new contracts. At least he wasn’t a Grant Hill/Gilbert Arenas deal where the team knew he was injured and still went for it. You guys needed a Center (Lee and STAT are both arguably PFs even if they play at C) and unfortunately a bunch of talented SFs do not a Center make. Gortat is actually a good pickup and I think if Nash can hold on you guys may be good in a year. Now you guys need to clear out the garbage, Dragic, Lopez and Frye have played tons of minutes at a terrible rate.

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  • The barnes

    I agree with much of the sentiment that no team offered much for amare. Although I would point out the sun could have had Beasley, a 1st round pick and expiring contracts which everyone seems to forget about. Beasley for all of his faults would have actually been a decent replacement fitting we’ll in the suns system. But I digress. Yes they could get little else for amare and yes he was asking for a lot, but whether it was right to resign him or not completely depends on what you spend that 100 million on. I would much rather sign amare for 5 years and only get 2 or 3 good ones out of him than take on Turk and childress and warrick, because that’s hat this comes down to, more money is paid to those 3 than stat, so for less money you could have stat and take those 3 out of the rotation, and then very quickly when you consider this it doesn’t matter how many years you got out of stat, it was always better, and somehow cheaper than the warrick, Childress, Turk combo. The argument for him not being a number 1 and rebuilding would be valid except the suns top two players are old, so if your gonna rebuild by the time you do your bad again as Nash and hill will retire. The option was always a simple one, pay stat that money now to max the next 2 to 3 year window with hill and Nash and suck it up I’m year 4 or 5 knowing you made a run. But don’t suck it up for those years now because that run is not there when hill and nah are gone. Then there is how we are handling things now, how we are not trading the aquired Orlando pick for Anthony Randolph I will never know. We should ne bringing him in then making a run at a star that is becoming available on a losing team that fits what we need, in two weeks or closer to the deadline that could be someone like Danny granger if pacers are looking bad. Robin Lopez, carter who is expiring and a first rounder from the suns would def have pacers thinking. Then you could go small with a five of Randolph at centre and granger at power forward. Or bigger with Randolph at center or gortat and or frye. There are a lot of decisions that should have been thought through better but the sun appears to be going down.