I normally don't like to engage in trade speculation, but I came up with this deal while working on the Bulls section of the Central Division free agency series and thought it was worth exploring a little more.
Amare Stoudemire and Alando Tucker to Chicago for John Salmons, Tyrus Thomas and Tim Thomas
The Suns are faced with a dilemma regarding Stoudemire. He is looking for a max extension and the Suns aren't sure if they want to give it to him.
With his ability to opt out after this next season and his injury history teams aren't going to be interested in giving up too much for Amare. I am not convinced the Suns should try and move Amare and certainly think that if they do it should be for decent value in return but the Suns can't expect to get an all-star back either.
This deal sends Amare to a big city where he can thrive off the court and pairs him with a young dynamic scorer who can also get him the ball. With the roster the Bulls have assembled, you could see Amare thinking he will be able to be "the man" in partnership with the soft-spoken Rose which would make him likely to want to resign there.
In return the Suns get two solid starting players and a third bench guy. They aren't great players but in combination they add immediate value and none of them have long term contracts so the Suns retain roster flexibility.
Amare is slated to make $16.4m this season with a player option for 2010/11 of $17.7m.
The big question that no one can answer is if Amare will opt out after this season so he can get into free agency sooner and perhaps get his next big deal in before the new CBA is negotiated in 2011.
Total possible contract obligation: $34.1m
Tucker is still on his rookie deal making $1.1m next season with a team option for $1.9m in 2010/11 and a qualifying offer amount of $2.9m for 2011/12.
I still believe Tucker is going to be a solid rotation player which would make this contract very valuable. If he doesn't pan out, the team is holding all cards.
Total possible contract obligation: $5.9m over three years
Total Suns outgoing: $40m
Total outgoing for next season: $16.1m
John Salmons will make $6.4 next season with a player option for $5.8 in 2010/11.
Salmons is in the same basic contract situation as Amare and will be playing for a contract this year. He will be hoping to get an extension or to better position himself to consider opting out before the new CBA.
Total possible contract obligation: $12.2m over two years
Tyrus Thomas is finishing up his rookie contract and will make $4.7m next season before becoming a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer amount of $6.3m.
More likely then not, someone is going to extend Tyrus Thomas before he becomes a free agent. He will also be playing next season with that in mind.
Total possible contract obligation: $11m over two years
Tim Thomas has one year left on his deal worth $6.5m before he becomes and unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2010.
Total possible contract obligation: $6.5m over one year
Total Bulls outgoing: $29.7m
Total outgoing for next season: $15.9m
Why this works for Phoenix
The Suns get a scoring slasher in Salmons who isn't a great defender but isn't horrible either. Grant Hill played 82 games last season, but assuming he comes back really can't be counted on to do that again. Salmons can easily start in place of Grant and if he works out, could be a longer term solution at small forward. If not, the Suns aren't on the hook for a long term deal.
The big question is rotations. Do you start Salmons or Hill? Hill has shown that he doesn't do well coming off the bench so perhaps you go with Salmons in that role. He provides a nice offensive punch to the second unit.
The Suns would certainly have the option of playing Hill and Salmons together at times too with either Hill at the 2 or Salmons at the 4. This makes up for losing Tucker's depth behind Richardson and Barbosa and still gives the Suns enough options if they want to trade Richardson at some point.
Up front, you pair Tyrus Thomas with Shaq and you have all of Amare's athleticism running the floor and improved defense. Tyrus certainly isn't close to Amare's level offensively but the Suns proved that they can still score the ball without Amare on the court. I am not sold on Tyrus but he's a still only going into his 4th season and has shown steady improvement.
Tim Thomas while incredibly unpredictable at least gives you a nice bench option to spread the floor and if you want to go small, you could play Tyrus and Tim together at times while Shaq was resting.
The Suns roster looks like this:
PG - Nash / Barbosa / Dragic
SG - Richardson / Barbosa / Hill
SF - Hill / Salmons / Dudley
PF - Tyrus Thomas / Amundson / Tim Thomas
C - Shaq / Lopez / Tyrus Thomas
This roster is probably better defensively then with Amare and certainly still potent on offense. There's a lot of flexibility in that multiple players can play multiple positions. Best of all, no one is signed to a long term deal so there's still plenty of flexibility to make changes over the next few years as free agents become available and the Suns stars continue to age.
Why this works for Chicago
The Bulls struggled to generate consistent front court scoring and Amare gives them that. He's a big enough name that when paired with Rose will be a ticket draw and certainly those two will combine for plenty of SportsCenter highlights.
The Bulls front court with Amare, Noah and Miller has a good mix of size, mobility, defense and scoring while Salmons scoring in the post season is replaced by Deng's return at small forward. If the Bulls do resign Gordon they have a fairly impressive roster with:
PG Rose/ Hinrich
SG Gordon/ Tucker
SF Deng / Free Agent TBD
PF Amare / Free Agent TBD
C Noah / Miller