I know its too early for this, being that free agency doesn't start until July 1st and we're still knee deep in playoff games, but lets just explore the options for what we could do if amar'e leaves in free agency or gives an indication to the front office that he isn't coming back.
When potential trades fell apart at the deadline, Amare was furious and vowed to bolt Phoenix this summer when he could become an unrestricted free agent, a source close to the process told ESPN.com
"Amare feels like the organization disrespected him. Amare loves his teammates and has really enjoyed playing for the team these last few months, but he's reluctant to commit to Phoenix long-term."
Chad Ford,admittedly not the most keyed in basketball journalist out there, has a report that amar'e is unlikely to come back to Phoenix in free agency, which is plausible given the fact we've shopped him for the last two years and seem unwilling to give him the max-contract he so desires.
Now, i don't really want to get into the debate over whether amar'e is wortha max contract. I personally don't think he is, but i also think that giving STAT a max contract is a better option than having him bolt this summer and have Nash play out his last few years in lottery purgatory withLou Amundson our starting PF. However, keeping STAT isn't totally up to the Suns front office, even if we offer him whatever he wants he could still bolt and we'd be left witha pretty gaping hole in our roster and only about $7million with which to plug the gap.
So what are the options available to the Suns if Amar'e bolts?
Sign the best replacement we can get with our space under the cap
There are a load of free-agent power forwards in this years market, such as Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer and David Lee. But we'll only be about $7-10 million under the cap so those guys will be out of our price range especially with all the teams who have money to burn this summer likely pushing the price up.
Of the guys we'll likely be able to afford, the best of the bunch are Luis Scola, Tyrus Thomas, Al harrington, and Drew Gooden. None of these guys exactly inspire confidence in the suns repeating our success this season, and there's even a possibility that some of these guys could be out of our price range depending on how many teams whiff on the stud free agents and need something to show to their fans.
A sign and trade
A team that wants to sign STAT could send us back a player of their own in order to offer more dollars to amar'e to give them the edge in the free agent market. Now amar'e would still hold the keys to this process so we couldn't just send him anywhere, but of the teams that have been rumored to be interested in Amar'e we could be looking at getting back a guy like Taj Gibson (Bulls), Michael beasley (Heat), or Yi Jianlian(nets). Of course the dream scenario in this situation would be a sign and trade with New York with the suns getting David Lee, but does anyone see D'antoni wanting STAT back after their disagreements in phoenix?
Play Small ball
If stat leaves we could slot dudleyinto the starting lineup and run witha lineup of Lopez-Hill-Dudley-Richardson-Nash. This might work as a stopgap solution for a while but its very unlikely this could see any long-term success, it would probably expose Hill's age if he had to be banging with power-forwards every game, would almost certainly run-down Nash as he'd have more responsibility for the offense.
The player drafted at 14th in 2009 showed basically nothing in 2009. But at the time he was drafted he was touted as Shawn Marion 2.0 and i am confident that at some point he could step in and be productive for our team. There is a possibility that Clark could step in and replace at least some of STAT's production, but that possibility is remote. Clark does probably have a bigger role in Phoenix next year but unless he shows some serious flashes in Summer League taking this route will be a recipe for disaster.
Trade barbosa for a PF
With Dragic's huge improvement this year Barbosa's role in Phoenix has really deteriorated this season, and there is a possibility we could move him for a Power Forward. As we'll be under the cap we could take back more salary than we send away, but its not certain how much value we'll get back for Barbosa this summer.
The High risk, high reward approach
If amar'e goes we still have 2 years of Nash which has to be utilised, as we can't let the last two years of Captain Canada's career go to waste. Our best option would be to trade for a PF capable of putting similar numbers that amar'e does, a player definitely available, a player with a similar contract length to Nash.... such as Elton Brand.
Yes thats right i'm the crazy mofo who thinks getting elton brand could be a good idea. With the cap-space we'd get from losing amar'e we could trade J-Rich for Brand straight up. Brands last two years in Philly have been a disaster, almost as bad as his contract which'll see him getting paid about $50million over the next 3 years. But, towards the end of this season he showed some flashes of his former self- his former 20/10 all-star self.
Now Elton Brand has been plagued with injuries the last few years, but so was Shaq before we got him and (despite the catastrophe that he became) there is no denying the fact we patched him up pretty well. There is also a pretty big sweetner in a deal which saw us take Brand off the 76ers hands.
"A number of teams have already looked into the availability of the Philadelphia 76ers' No. 2 pick in the June 24 draft.
The asking price? Several sources said they were told that the Sixers want their trade partner to take Elton Brand off their hands".
Yes, that'sright, Philly seems willing to package the #2 pick if it means getting brand out the door. The Suns could trade J-rich (whose contract expires at the end of next season) to Philly who could cut about $4million of their books straight away with this trade. We could use the pick to draft Evan Turner, the reigning College Basketball Player of the year, who could replace J-Rich. Imagine a line-up next year of:
If the Suns medical staff were able to fix up Brand like they were able to fix up Shaq, the suns could improve next year even with the loss of Amar'e. And it's not like Brand would be the first former Duke forward the Suns have rejuvenated.
If Amar'e does leave, which is by no means a certainty, a trade like this could be bring us the best possible Amar'e replacement we could get as well as the second best player in the draft. it could also completely
fuck us up set back the franchise by locking up all our cap space, pissing off nash by bringing in a hobbled PF and a rookie, and make us the laughing stock of the league for being the team that freed Philly from the shackles of Elton Brand.