(Photo by Max Simbron) Dunk by Amare Stoudemire.
Are you confused yet? Who can blame you with all the trade talk flying around the Suns these day. Here's our attempt to bring some clarity to your life, which should make you a happier person, more productive at your work, and a better lover too on this Valentine's Day. You are very welcome.
1. The Sitch
Amare's contract is coming to an end which gives him the power to either stay one more year or leave to explore free agency. He can pick up the final year of his contract or he can opt out. I've made the case that it would be silly for him not to opt out and I am standing by that opinion.
For the Suns to prevent this, they have to agree to either an extension that would add up to three years to his deal or they can agree that he will opt out and then re-sign a new deal for up to 6 years.
If the Suns and Amare don't agree on a deal that keeps him in Phoenix, then the ball is in his court. He can decide by June 30th to opt out and test free agency or he can decide to stay his final year in Phoenix for $17m.
If the Suns don't come to agreement with him and don't trade him, then there's a big risk of Amare walking and the Suns getting nothing but about $7m under the cap to use on a free agent. That's not enough to reload the team and next year the Suns would be facing a dismal season.
2. Extension Talks
Extending Amare is priority number one. Y! Sports reports that the Suns made an initial offer which was rejected by Amare and, while talks appear to continue, there are no indications that the two sides are close to a deal. The details of the offers and counter offers aren't known other than rumors from KTAR radio that the Suns offer was around $12/yr for 3 yrs while Amare still seems to be looking for a max deal or perhaps a deal similar to Pau Gasol's $19m/yr for three years.
Any extension would be begin after the 2010/11 season so putting together the information, we are looking at a Suns offer that would net Amare $53m over the next four seasons and Amare looking for $74m over that time frame. Can the two sides split the $21m difference and come to agreement? We'll see. All this trade talk from the Suns only strengthens their negotiation position with Amare by letting him know that they do have other options and don't have to simply accept his demands.
At some point when this is all over, we will probably learn what the Suns actually offered and what Amare actually asked for. Until then, we just wait on the sidelines and assume that the two sides are talking and will continue to talk until a decision is made.
3. Trade Options
Miami has reportedly been hot on Amare's trail and earlier in the week was said to be offering anyone except Wade. Now the Heat owner has specifically denied that in the Miami Herald, saying that Beasley is not on the table, "We've never put him out there,'' Arison said as he watched the East team practice for Sunday's All-Star Game. "I know I've read about him being put out there. I can tell you this: We have not put him out there. The media has. We like Michael and see him as a part of our core going forward.''
Since the Suns were said to not be all that interested in Beasley anyway, taking him off the table has to put the Heat out of the running. Without Michael, all the Heat have to offer is expiring contracts and a couple of mid-first round draft picks. That might be enough to land a guy with multiple years left on his contract from a team looking to dump salary (Philly or Washington), but it should not be enough to get Amare.
The only way a deal with the Heat works for the Suns is if they take Jason Richardson's $14m contract which has one year left. It would be insane for the Heat to do this however, as Jason is a horrible fit on the floor with Wade and they would use up too much of their cap space in getting him.
Talks between the Cavs and the Suns have obviously been escalating rapidly over the weekend with old buddies Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry meeting along with their respective owners. According to the latest from Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, talks have advanced to the point of discussing nitty gritty details such as salary pro-rate schedules.
Windhorst reports that King James has signed off on playing with Amare but he's also approved a deal that would bring Antawn Jamison to the Cavs.
The offer from the Cavs appears to be J.J. Hickson and Big Z's expiring contract and perhaps the Cavs late first-round pick. The Suns, however, according to multiple reports including this one in the Morning Journal from Bob Finnan, want the Cavs to also take on Jason Richardson's contract. As we detailed yesterday, such a deal would give the Suns a young power forward prospect and about $19m in cap space and $34m under the luxury tax to reload this summer.
The benefit to the Suns is obvious. They would have the opportunity to sign multiple free-agents or even go after one of the big names, if possible. They could even conceivably trade cap space and salary relief to a team like Sacramento or Minnesota in exchange for a top pick in the 2010 draft.
The Cavs seem to be discussing what kind of impact Amare (and Jason?) would have on their team going into the playoffs. Remember, the Suns were in 1st place in their conference when they traded for Shaq because they thought they needed something to get "over the hump". That didn't work out so well.
The Cavs would be taking a huge gamble to make this move now but in their case the gamble isn't just about this season, it's about keeping LeBron in Ohio which is worth far more than a Finals appearance this spring.
We haven't heard much about this deal in the last few days, but the latest reports are that the Suns offered Amare and Richardson for Iguodala and Dalembert or perhaps Amare for Iguodala and young power forward Marreese Speights.
The 76ers appear to be mulling these offers and trying to decide if they want Amare.
4. What Does it all Mean?
I've believed for awhile now that the best option for Phoenix would be to keep Amare but only if the contract is "reasonable". $19m/yr is too much for Amare. $12m/yr would be a great deal for the Suns. $15m/yr seems about fair to me. That would guarantee Amare $62m over the next four years. Perhaps he can do better than that on the open market, or maybe not. He needs to make that decision and fast.
If an agreement can't be reached then Amare opting in for his final year is a great outcome for the Suns. The team stays together for one more season (which seem to be what the players want) at a total payroll that is below the luxury tax and then goes into 2011 with a ton of cap space as Amare and Richardson's contracts expire. That's a fine option for me but it is completely dependent on Amare making a clear statement to the team that he will do that. So far, he's been wishy-washy, which is scary because if he does opt out and a trade isn't made this week, then the Suns get nothing.
Getting nothing in return for Amare is the standard by which we have to judge any trade. We can't get caught up in the discussion about a deal not being "worth" Amare. If a trade for "lesser value" happens then Amare is as much to blame for that as anyone.
He can either agree to a reasonable extension or opt in for the final year of his contract. If he's not willing to do either, then any trade the Suns make must not be compared against Amare's own value but against the prospect of getting nothing.
The best trade option is to move Jason Richardson along with Amare so the Suns can start rebuilding immediately, while Nash is still playing at such a high level.
If no one will take Jason, then the Suns will have to decide on the best package of young players and draft picks and that means either J.J. Hickson or perhaps the Nets are still in the mix with all their young players and better draft pick options. Worst case is sending Amare to Miami in return for Haslem's expiring contract and hopefully a 2010 and 2012 first round pick.
As bad as those deals sound, they are better than letting Amare walk for nothing.
We are at the point in the season where we are beyond any crazy idea that the Suns can make some kind of run in the playoffs with this team. The players and some fans might still want to believe that, but the Suns have not played well enough to risk the future of the franchise on the hope that a very average team will somehow get much better as the year winds down.
- Amare opts in
- Or best trade possible which means including Jason Richardson's contract if possible and the best combination of picks and young talent if not