Over the course of the past week, no New York Knicks player has displayed as much improvement as 31-year-old power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. As his playing time has increased, so too has STAT’s quality of play, which is a promising sign moving forward.
The question is, what should the Knicks do with Stoudemire’s massive contract and rising value?
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Boston Celtics would accept a trade that would be centered around Stoudemire and Gerald Wallace‘s less than ideal contracts. Broussard reports that Courtney Lee would be the other player involved, while Jared Zwerling of ESPN relays that the deal would include Stoudemire going to Boston and Wallace and Kris Humphries heading to New York.
Regardless of what the hypothetical trade may be, there’s reason to believe that it should be done. There’s also reason to believe the Knicks should refrain from dealing the highly paid former All-Star.
Here are the pros and cons.
Pro: Financial Alleviation
Stoudemire will make $21,679,893 in 2013-14 and has a player option worth $23,410,988 for the 2014-15 NBA season. Knicks fans may be hoping that STAT will turn it down for financial reasons, but it’s beyond unlikely that the 31-year-old will pass over a payday that most athletes can only dream of.
It certainly doesn’t help that Stoudemire is averaging 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
With his recent resurgence, however, Stoudemire has created reason for New York to hold onto him. He’s scoring with efficiency, which is exactly what he did during limited playing time in 2012-13. That also makes him an attractive trade option.
In the hypothetical Celtics trade, the Knicks would receive Humphries and Wallace in exchange for the five-time All-NBA selection. Humphries has an expiring contract worth $12 million. Wallace will receive $10,105,885 in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16.
In turn, the financial aspect of the trade lines up.
By dealing STAT, the Knicks would create significant breathing room for the 2014 period of free agency. Wallace receives roughly half as much as Stoudemire, while Humphries’ contract is expiring, thus taking him off of the books for 2014.
It’s well-established that the Knicks prefer to build through free agency as opposed to the draft, and opening up cap room is a critical aspect of pursuing top-tier free agents. For that reason, the trade makes sense.
Con: Losing Needed Interior Scoring
Offensively, the most concerning aspect of the Knicks’ slow start is the stagnant, isolation-based approach that results in low-percentage looks. Rather than pounding it inside, working the pick-and-roll or attacking in transition, the Knicks are spotting up and pulling up for a majority of their looks.
Stoudemire provides the interior scoring prowess that the offense needs in order to shine.
Entering Dec. 11, 55.1 percent of the Knicks’ total field goal attempts were from at least 10 feet away. More concerning, 45.0 percent of New York’s total looks were from 15-24 feet. That heavy reliance upon mid-range and 3-point jump shots breeds inconsistency.
Dealing STAT would essentially signal the Knicks’ complacency.
It’s no secret that the Knicks value the 3-point shot. They averaged a league-high 28.9 3-point field goal attempts per game in 2012-13 and are second at 26.9 in 2013-14. Unfortunately, the Knicks are also shooting just 35.0 percent from distance.
During the month of December, Stoudemire is averaging 11.8 points on 73.1 percent shooting from the field in 20.3 minutes per game. He’s scored at least 14 points in each of his past three games and tallied a season-high nine rebounds in his first game with at least 30 minutes of playing time on Dec. 11.
In 2012-13, Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 23.5 rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting from the field and 80.8 percent from the free throw line. He only played in 29 regular season games, but the efficiency was established.
If New York wants to turn this season around, it needs an interior presence on the offensive end of the floor. Stoudemire is that player.
Verdict: Keep Him. For Now.
In the short-term, trading Stoudemire makes financial sense for the Knicks. It’ll free up roughly $10 million entering free agency and that money could be used to re-sign Carmelo Anthony and acquire another high-profile player.
Just don’t be so short-sighted.
By executing this specific deal, the Knicks would be on the books to pay Wallace $10 million in each of the next three seasons, including 2013-14. Stoudemire, meanwhile, has a player option for 2014-15 and will become a free agent during the following offseason.
For as hyped as the 2014 free agent class may be, it’s risky to get caught up in three years of financial burden when only two remain with STAT.
There are bound to be other options, but it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be more ideal. For as improved as he may be, Stoudemire still has a gigantic deal, and the only way a team would be willing to take it on is if they were able to part ways with an ugly contract of their own.
Fortunately, the Knicks have reason to hold onto Stoudemire.
Even with the pending return of 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, the Knicks will need offensive interior depth. Andrea Bargnani can shoot, but it’s Stoudemire continues to prove that he’s a strong enough player to score in double-digits while playing in the paint. That’s a good enough reason to keep him on board.
For the time being, the Knicks’ best bet is to hold onto Stoudemire. He may be the difference between making and missing the postseason in the depleted Eastern Conference.