This is it. Just a few hours left in the high stakes game of Star Swap before the Phoenix Suns pick up their Amare Stoudemire and go home empty-handed. Despite all the sturm and angst it seems like another trade deadline that will pass without even a whisper for the Suns.
A recap of where we stand and how we got here. It's been a bumpy ride.
- Reports are still conflicting over what happened with the Cavs. Did the Suns wait too long to pull the trigger on the Hickson and Illgauskus deal or did the Cavs decide to go with Jamison so they could keep J.J.? At this point, we really don't know. Sources from Cleveland and Yahoo! report the Suns backed out, but Phoenix-based media reports the Cavs pulled Hickson out of the deal which tanked it.
- Late last night we learned from Paul Coro that the Suns were actually trying to flip Illgauskus to Utah in exchange for Carlos Boozer who also is an expiring contract. Surely, Utah would have wanted more than Big Z's expiring, though. Right? Unless maybe they thought they could get by with just Milsap and this deal got them under the luxury tax. Regardless, it didn't happen and quite honestly it is going to be difficult to know which side of the story to believe since all parties have an interest in spinning things.
- No doubt that trading Amare for a Boozer rental and Hickson would have been quite a coup for Kerr. Too bad his buddy Danny Ferry backed out. Or did he?
- We do know that the Cavs are out of the picture, which leaves the Heat. Once again, the reports are all over the map on what the Heat are actually willing to give up. We've heard everything from Beasley and both of their first round picks to a lame mix of expiring contracts.
- We heard the Suns might be trying to get a third team involved so Amare goes to the Heat and various Miami assets go somewhere else with another piece coming back to Phoenix. The Bulls and 76ers with Deng and Iguodala were mentioned. Maybe the Heat can send expirings to Utah to get Boozer to Phoenix? Doubt it, right.
- Once the Cavs deal for Jamison was announced Wednesday afternoon we started hearing a lot of noise about Amare staying in Phoenix to finish out the year. This could be smoke from the Suns camp to try and create leverage with Miami who probably still want Amare, or it could be true. Or it could be both.
- Extension discussions between the Suns and Amare seem seriously stalled with Amare's agent publicly saying yesterday that he expected Amare to be traded. Of course, it benefits Amare to be traded because his new team would have his Bird rights this summer which gives Amare more strength when it comes time to negotiate his next deal.
- The Suns reportedly offered Amare 2 years on top of his final year at about $14m per. That would have netted him $45m over the next three years. Amare was looking for a couple more years but supposedly not asking for the max. The max for Amare btw would be 6 years for a total of $138m so there's a big gap there. That would be the max for a new contract. The max extension (I believe) would have been 3 years at about $57m which is what Pau Gasol got. That would give Amare a total of 4 yrs and $74m. You can see why they are so far apart.
That's pretty much where things are on the morning of the trade deadline but of course, it is not over until 3pm EST (1pm Arizona time) and it is possible for deals to come in after the deadline if teams have notified the league in time. Stay tuned. Anything could still happen (But probably won't) (But might).
It is hard to know exactly what the Heat offer really is or what happened with the Cavs but I remain of the opinion that Amare staying the rest of this season and opting out is the worst case scenario for the Suns.
Even a bad deal now would be better than getting nothing in July. Of course, a horrible deal might be all that's on offer and that would mean a bunch of expiring contracts and only one draft pick. That's not enough. But two draft picks and some kind of player with either legit prospects or a proven experience is enough for me.
If Amare stays, which is looking more and more likely, that means we are right back here in June when Amare gets to decide if he's picking up the final year of his contract ($17m) or opting out to try and get more money before the new CBA. Despite what some people (...Jon Barry) think, Amare would be foolish to pick up that final year.
I already wrote a few thousand words about that, and nothing I've seen since changes my mind. Amare can get more years and more money this summer as a free agent then he can by picking up the $17m and waiting until 2011 when the new CBA will be in effect. I don't care one whit about what Amare says regarding this. That's just noise.
However, the BEST CASE for the Suns is for Amare to do just that. If he picks up that final year than the Suns can keep this entire team in tact and roll into next season as is. They will be at $63.5m with 10 players under contract. Even allowing for a drop in the luxury tax, they should have enough to re-sign Lou Amundson and grab a few cheap end of benchers.
The Amare fans will be happy. The Suns won't be paying the tax. The team can give it another go and will likely be right where they are now - a decent team who will win more than they lose but not be a threat to contend. Most importantly though, they will go into 2011 with a TON of cap space.
We should be right back here in February 2011 talking about the how much value we can get for the expiring contracts for Amare and Jason Richardson (a combined $30m). Many teams will be spending a lot of money this summer and loading up on contracts, the Suns will go into the new CBA without any long-term deals. That could put them in a very favorable position if teams need to suddenly dump contracts for good players.
It delays the inevitable rebuilding and takes one more year of Nash's remaining basketball life, but all things considered it is the best option for the Suns. Pray for Amare to opt in.
The WORST CASE for the Suns unfortunately, seems the most likely scenario. Amare finishes this season and opts out. At that point, the Suns can try for a sign and trade but that doesn't seem feasible. Why would a team that wants to sign the unrestricted free agent, Amare Stoudemire, need to send the Suns anything for the privilege of doing so?
There's only two reasons I can think of for the Suns to get something back in a sign and trade:
a) There's a bidding war for Amare and one team wants to be able to get his Bird Rights so they can offer him more
b) A team without cap space wants to trade contracts with the Suns get him.
There aren't too many examples of sign and trades in the NBA because these scenarios just don't come up. If we we're talking about LeBron James then sure, I could see that. But I don't imagine many teams are going to be willing to give up anything - let alone more than the Suns could have gotten this week - for the free agent, Amare Stoudemire.
So, before you start celebrating Amare staying in Phoenix, just remember where the Suns are going to be come July. No Amare. No first round draft pick. And a payroll of about $46m for nine players (assuming both Frye and Hill pick up their options). That's about $7m under the projected salary cap which is not going to be enough to replace Amare.
If they had done the Cavs deal they would have a young PF prospect, a late first round pick and about $5.5m in cap space. Which is better?
The best news of all. We get to do this all over again in June and maybe next February and in June 2011 too!