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Six Pack: Knicks Stuck with Stoudemire?
Posted By Tommy Beer On May 4, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack:
1. Would New York Be Able to Move Amar’e?
With his mangled hand still wrapped in bandages, it remains unknown whether or not Amar’e Stoudemire will return for Game 4 on Sunday, quite possibly the final game of the Knicks’ 2011-12 season, which leads to a question some fans here in New York are already asking: Has Amar’e already played his final game as a Knickerbocker? When this rollercoaster ride of a season finally ends, the focus on the Knicks’ future will begin and that future is cloudy, as key roster pieces appear incompatible.
With just three players (Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Stoudemire) set to account for a combined $53 million in 2012-13 – and a combined $57.2 million the following season – New York’s salary concerns are glaringly apparent. It’s not that you can’t have two or three superstars clogging your cap; you just have to make sure those superstars are terrific two-way players, who can stay healthy and ensure that the team can find a way flesh out the roster with solid role players.
There are currently only three organizations that have multiple players amongst the top-20 highest paid players in the NBA: The Knicks (STAT & Melo), the Lakers (Kobe and Gasol), and the HEAT (LeBron, Wade, Bosh). Unlike Miami and L.A., the Knicks are not championship contenders as currently constituted. As a result, talk of a shakeup has already heated up and will definitely pick up steam over the summer. If new GM Glen Grunwald and the Knicks do make an effort to trade one of their big three, Stoudemire is likely the odd man out.
Although STAT’s struggles are a bit over-embellished in the tabloid media (the guy did average 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in a disappointing season) the real issue isn’t his scoring or rebounding numbers. No, the problem is $64.4 million. That is the amount of money owed Amar’e over the final three years of the guaranteed contract he signed with the Knicks two summers ago. Amar’e will be the sixth highest paid player in the NBA next year. The five players making more are Kobe Bryant, Rashard Lewis, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony.
While there certainly is potential for this New York triumvirate to develop into the core of an elite and cohesive unit, the early returns have not been promising. As has been written many times here and elsewhere, the offense often sputters when Melo and Amar’e are on the court at the same time, and Amar’e’s defense was subpar even before he back stated acting up. Moreover, the litany of Stoudemire injuries seems to grow by the month. The knees were the primary initial concern (and a major reason why Phoenix decided to let him walk); but the recurrent back problems are now obviously a significant cause for concern going forward.
Although it was rumored that the new collective bargaining agreement would grant players the ability to re-structure existing contracts, that provision never actually made it into the CBA. The esteemed Larry Coon has confirmed that while this “re-structuring” concept was discussed, it never made it into the ratified deal.
On the surface, it seems far-fetched that any team would trade for an oft-injured player with $64 million coming his way. However, Stoudemire’s is certainly not the only bloated and unfavorable contract on the books in today’s NBA, and at just 29 years of age, Amar’e clearly has plenty left to give. Nonetheless, the reality is that if New York is ever going to trade Amar’e, they’d do so understanding fully they would have to accept another unattractive contract in return. The question then becomes: Does it make sense for the Knicks to swap one bad contract for another? Would the net result be an increase or decrease in value, and ultimately, wins?
So, with that as the backdrop, it is possible to unearth a few potential deals that could theoretically make sense for both sides.
For instance, Rashard Lewis is set to make far more than Amar’e next season, and if you were wondering why the Wizards have yet to use the amnesty clause to cut Lewis loose, it’s because Rashard has just one year left on his contract (for a mind-boggling $23.8 million), and Washington is well aware that some teams might view that expiring contract as a valuable trade chip. For instance, how about this trade idea:
Amar’e Stoudemire and Toney Douglas
The Wizards already have one injury-prone big man on the books in Nene, but would they be tempted to team Amar’e with John Wall, Nene, Jan Vesely, Andray Blatche and company? For a team that may have a difficult time attracting free-agents, would they consider rolling the dice on STAT?
For the Knicks, the obvious benefit would be clearing nearly $24 million off the cap in the summer of 2013, which would dramatically shift the direction of the franchise and give the Knicks infinitely more options on re-creating their roster next July.
Another potential trading partner would be the Philadelphia 76ers. Which side would say no to this potential swap?
Amar’e Stoudemire, a second-round pick, and cash
The Sixers have a well-balanced team, but the knock on Philly is that they lack a true “superstar.” Amar’e was a legitimate MVP candidate when he was the focal point of the Knicks’ offense and carried New York on his back 18 months ago. Is Amar’e healthy enough, and is his back strong enough, to carry that kind of load once again? Would the Sixers be willing to gamble $45 million to find out?
Obtaining Brand makes sense from the Knicks’ perspective because he would not only provide the same benefit of Lewis (Brand has just one year left and $18.6 million left on his contract, which would result in increased cap space for New York in July of 2013), but Elton would also be a solid fit next to Chandler and Melo on the Knicks frontline. A native New Yorker, Brand (who was once traded for Chandler) is more of a natural back-to-the-basket power forward than Stoudemire. Brand is still able to score on the block and defend the basket (1.6 blocks per game last season).
One last team that would likely be willing to take Grunwald’s call is the Chicago Bulls. How about this one:
Amar’e Stoudemire and Josh Harrellson
Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer
Boozer is owed $47.1 million over the next three seasons, and while that’s not quite as much as Amar’e, it’s still an incredibly high sum of money for a player who has not lived up to the hype in the Windy City. In fact, much like Stoudemire, some in Chicago feel the Bulls are at their best when Boozer is on the bench. Would a change of scenery benefit both big men? In addition, Brewer could potentially fill a position of need (shooting guard), considering Landry Fields and J.R. Smith are both impeding free agents. Brewer has just one year left on his contract. (Considering Steve Novak is also a free agent, the Knicks could ask for Kyle Korver, who also has one year left on his deal, instead of Brewer).
So while the common consensus is the Knicks will have to figure out a way to incorporate Amar’e into the offensive flow with Melo and Chandler, a trade is not completely impossible. Anther other option would be including promising rookie Iman Shumpert (on an extremely affordable rookie contract) in the package to help entice other teams; although Grunwald would be loathe to give away a young player so many in the organization are so high on. Thinking outside the box a bit, a sign-and-trade with Jeremy Lin might also be an option. Stay tuned…
2. Handing out the Hardware: Harden as Sixth Man of the Year
Last week, we declared our winner of the MVP and the DPOY, and today we name James Harden the NBA’s best bench player. This is actually one of the easiest awards to decide on this season. Harden was a super sub right from the start, and the runway winner of this award from pillar to post. Harden scored in double figures in all but four of his appearances this year and led all reserves in scoring, averaging 16.8 points. Like all great bench players, he was also incredibly efficient, posting a career-high in field-goal percentage (49.1 percent). Durant and Westbrook get the lion’s share of national media attention, but Harden is a true x-factor for Oklahoma City: The Thunder posted a 14-1 record in the 15 games Harden scored over 20 points.
Lou Williams gets the nod as runner-up for the Sixth Man Award. The stats help highlight just how effective Sweet Lou was this season. Williams averaged a team-high 14.9 points per game (956 total) without starting a single game this season. He became the first player to lead his team in scoring (total points) without making a single start since Dell Curry did so for Charlotte in 1993-94. Williams also averaged 3.5 assists in just 26.3 minutes per game and became the first player to appear in at least 60 games and average 14+ points and 3+ assists in fewer than 27 minutes per game since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did so for Denver in 1990-91. Dating back to 2007-08, Williams has the highest-point total of any player in the league with fewer than 40 starts. This season, he ranked tied for 13th in the league in points per 48 minutes played (27.2), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.11), had the third-highest point/rebound/assist total of any reserve and had the fourth-highest fourth quarter point total of any player. He had the 4th-most points of any player in fourth quarter this season.
3. Quote of the Week:
“This is not a hot building. It’s kind of a stage. It’s a Broadway stage. It has a history and an energy to it, but it’s not one of those where you can’t hear or sometimes you’re afraid to feel (the opposing crowd). This is more of a stage than an intense building like Oklahoma City (has) or something like that.” – George Karl (via ESPNLA.com)
4. Assists of the
Last week we highlighted the best dunks of the 2011-2012 season, today we’ll link to deserving dimes:
* David Lee to Monta – who finishes with a sick 360:
* Manu is amazing – hurls a heater to Matt Bonner:
* C’mon Manu – stop it now:
* Please watch this assist from Gallo if you haven’t seen it yet – assist of the year:
5. Tweets of the Week
- @marcel_mutoni AMAZING. RT @Aqua174: [a river of tears] RT @jusdave31st: #KNICKS #THUGLIFE: http://t.co/5Qs23XIO
- @AustinCroshere The Pacers training staff is taking injury prevention to a whole new level! pic.twitter.com/JFxNa1Du
- @netw3rk: Lebron was limping until he started to yell at the ref at which point he became Keyser Soze walking away from the police station.
- @kpelton: Why am I getting a mental picture of a sad Reggie Miller sitting by the phone, waiting for stars to call for advice?
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* From Elias: LeBron James scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat pulled away to defeat the Knicks, 87-70, taking a three-games-to-none lead in their playoff series. James matched the most points that he has ever scored in the fourth quarter of a playoff game; he knocked down 17 in the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers in a victory over the Magic in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.
* With the loss, the Knicks set an NBA record by losing their 13th straight playoff game, breaking a record they had previously shared with the Grizzlies. And by failing to score 100 points, the Knicks tied the NBA record for the “shot-clock era” of 38 consecutive playoff games without reaching the century mark; the Heat had set that record from 1997 to 2004. The last time that New York scored in triple figures in a playoff game was on June 9, 1999 in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals, a 101-94 win over the Pacers in Indianapolis. Latrell Sprewell scored a team-high 29 points, while Marcus Camby chipped in with 21.
* The Thunder rolled into Dallas and whipped the Mavericks, 95-79, to take a three-games-to-none lead in their first-round series. That is the largest margin of defeat in history by a team playing in its first home playoff game in defense of an NBA championship.
* The Magic lost to the Pacers on Wednesday night, 97-74, after they were defeated two nights earlier by Indiana, 93-78. Orlando is the first NBA team in seven seasons to allow more than 90 points and score fewer than 80 points in each of back-to-back playoff games. That had last been done by the Spurs in the 2005 Finals. San Antonio lost Game 3 of that series to the Pistons, 96-79, and then Game 4 by a 102-71 score, but still won the NBA title in a seven-game series.
* Chris Paul recorded game-high totals in points (29), assists (6), steals (5) and turnovers (5) against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. There have been only two other instances over the last two seasons in which a player led both teams (either outright or tied) in all four of those categories in one playoff game. Paul himself did it against the Lakers in the opening round last year, as did Russell Westbrook versus the Grizzlies in the 2011 conference semi-finals.
* Paul Pierce, 34 years old, had 36 points and 14 rebounds in the Celtics’ win over the Hawks on Tuesday. The only other Celtics players to score 35 or more points in a playoff game at age 34 or older are John Havlicek (twice in 1974, at age 34, including in Game 6 of the NBA Finals) and Sam Jones (in 1968, at age 34).
* Kobe Bryant, 33 years old, scored 38 points on Tuesday in the Lakers’ win over the Nuggets. The only other Lakers players to score that many points in a playoff game at age 33 or older are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three times in the 1980 playoffs, including twice in the NBA Finals) and Wilt Chamberlain (45 in Game 6 the 1970 Finals against the Knicks).
* And coupled with Pierce’s 36-point game, it’s the first time that two players age 33 or older have scored 35 points on the same day in the NBA playoffs.
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