Suns have options if Amare Stoudemire leaves


For months now, Amare Stoudemire has put his chances of staying in Phoenix at “50-50.” We now know that he definitely won’t be picking up his player option for nearly $18 million dollars, will seek a maximum contract and has the Suns at the top of his list.

Apparently the relationship Stoudemire has created with Suns fans and the legacy he has built in purple and orange, nearly reaching the NBA Finals on a few different occasions and playing with one of the best point guards in NBA history the past six years, hasn’t been enough for Stoudemire to commit to a return to the team that drafted him in 2002. If all of that were enough, Stoudemire would have said long ago that he’d be back in Phoenix (he could have even added “pending my contract situation.”)

It seems sometimes that Stoudemire has dollar signs in his eyes (hence his interest in getting in on the so-called “free agent summit”) and will go where the money is. That will leave him a number of options during what promises to be an exciting offseason of superstar relocation.

As if the situation weren’t complicated enough, the recent announcement that Steve Kerr won’t be returning as the Suns’ general manager adds a whole new angle to the issue. Stoudemire had come to trust Kerr and had thus far done all his negotiating with him.

Stoudemire’s agent Happy Walters told The Arizona Republic the day of Kerr’s announcement that he and STAT saw Kerr’s departure as a change in direction for the organization. Having to negotiate a new contract (especially a max deal) with an executive who’d essentially be an outsider likely doesn’t appeal to Stoudemire or Walters.

Negativity about Stoudemire’s return to Phoenix has been up lately. A lot of Suns fans aren’t confident that STAT is the long-term answer. Even the restaurant steps from US Airways Center using Stoudemire’s surname has changed its name.

There’s no saying for sure whether he stays stays or goes, but if he does walk, the Suns have a number of options to fill the hole he leaves behind. We’ll start with the apparent preference of most Suns fans…

Dirk Nowitzki: 25.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg in 2009-10

A Nash-Nowitzki reunion has got a lot of Suns fans (and NBA analysts) excited and for good reason. The two superstars were a dominant duo in Dallas, and Nash is coming off one of his best statistical seasons.

However, this option remains a long shot. The primary reason Dirk is unlikely to end up in orange? Mark Cuban. Cuban already lost Nash to Phoenix and there’s little chance he’d be cool with letting Dirk head for the desert. Besides, Dirk is the franchise in Dallas. Without Dirk, the Mavericks have little but an aging point guard and some role players.

Cuban will throw a truck — no, two trucks — full of money at Nowitzki. Can the Suns match it? No. And even if they could, they probably wouldn’t. For Nowitzki to end up in Phoenix, it will take him wanting to be there. It will come down to him wanting a shot at a title (which seems out of reach in Dallas) and wanting to play with Nash again.

Nowitzki would more than replace Stoudemire. He would provide more scoring, at least equal rebounding, little change defensively, and a three-point threat (as if the Suns don’t have enough). There is little doubt that Dirk would be one of the best replacements for Stoudemire, especially on a team with such a strong existing core.

The verdict: Slight chance, but don’t hold your breath — you might not survive.

Chris Bosh: 24.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg

So we’ll knock out the long shots first. Bosh is probably the prime example of dollar signs in the eyes, and he is probably already packed to get out of Toronto. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to be a Raptor anymore (would you?), so competing with his current team isn’t an issue.

The big question is money. Bosh is going to want a maximum contract. The Suns most likely can’t and wouldn’t offer Bosh that kind of deal. In fact, Bosh may not get maximum offers from a lot of teams, but someone will pay him max money. If the Suns wanted to make it work, the Suns’ new GM would have to take to the trusty trade machine.

Bosh would bring an interesting element to the Suns in his intensity and physicality. Alongside Robin Lopez, Bosh could give the Suns one of the best front courts in the league. There’s no doubt he would bring the offensive presence Stoudemire did, but he’d also provide a defensive upgrade, better rebounding and a solid long-term option to build around.

The verdict: Very unlikely. Phoenix may not have even crossed Bosh’s mind.

David Lee: 20.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg

Once again, the Suns would be faced with a money issue here, but Lee is much more plausible than Bosh or Dirk.

A lot of people have been saying that Lee has benefited greatly from former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni’s system in New York. That may be true. If it is, wouldn’t he then also fit in the Suns’ system, a descendant of D’Antoni ball?

Lee would be making the move to power forward, but with his build and playing style, it should be an easy transition. A player like Lee would benefit from playing with Nash much in the same way that Stoudemire has. It’s hard to imagine his scoring dropping at all and not hard to imagine it increasing.

Lee also provides the rebounding presence that Stoudemire doesn’t. Combine the rebounding and scoring efforts of Lopez and Lee, and you’ve got a very good post tandem.

Would Lee be the explosive offensive player that Stoudemire is? Maybe not. But he may be the most affordable top-tier option on the market.

The verdict: A smart move, but a challenge financially.

Carlos Boozer: 19.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg

Suns fans may scoff at this option, but there may be a few positives to considering Boozer.

Boozer would be a mild defensive upgrade and one of the best rebounders to don orange in quite some time. On a bad night, Boozer still pulls 11 or 12 boards. That’s a lot better than Amare’s bad nights of two or three rebounds.

Boozer isn’t the fast, explosive player that Stoudemire is, but he is a strong, physical force that would bolster the paint for the Suns. Lopez and Boozer are both very physical players with rebounding instincts that could give the Suns a lot of second chances. With the Suns’ shooting ability, that could be a huge upgrade.

Boozer is, however, injury prone and the Suns aren’t likely to invest a lot of money in an option that could spend significant time in street clothes on the bench. That said, money would be less of an issue with Boozer. Not a non-issue, but if Stoudemire left, the Suns would likely have the money needed to pay Boozer. The biggest question, though, would be whether or not Boozer would fit in the Suns’ system.

The verdict: Possible, but not a primary option.