Which NBA contender will Amar'e Stoudemire join? He has options.
The vast majority of NBA contract buyouts occur without controversy. So it is with the Knicks’ agreement to part ways with Amar’e Stoudemire, who in 2010 came to New York on a five-year, $99.7 million max contract. The star player who drew that contract is no more and the team that signed him in such high hope has been run aground to rebuild. At this point, Stoudemire had nothing more to offer a rebooting Knicks team and they, at 10-43, had nothing more to offer him.
All involved move on. New York remains on the hook for most (or all) of Stoudemire’s salary (tagged $23.4 million in total) this season, but clears playing time and touches for prospects who could be of interest to the team for next year. That doing so required they part ways with the longest-tenured Knick hardly matters. Teams this bad needn’t stand on ceremony.
New York also does right by Stoudemire in letting a 32-year-old, oft-injured veteran ply his trade elsewhere. Stoudemire has been hurt so often in his career – and especially of late with the Knicks – that to deny him competitive basketball when healthy seems cruel. Once Stoudemire clears waivers (a practical certainty given the size of Stoudemire’s salary), he’ll be empowered to seek it out elsewhere. Among those teams with reported interest are the Mavericks, Clippers, Suns, and Spurs.
All could make use of Stoudemire to varying degrees, though none would benefit from his addition quite so much as the Clippers. Los Angeles is a team desperate for bodies; even before Blake Griffin and Glen Davis were sidelined by injury, theirs was among the shallowest rosters in the league. The top of the roster is of contending quality. The bottom features more rotation spots than it does rotation-caliber players, to which Stoudemire could help. He might not be viable for more than 15-20 minutes nightly and won’t salvage L.A.’s defensive issues on the second unit. But what he can do is contribute in greater capacity than the Clipper alternatives when healthy, a positive outcome in itself.
The salary cap math is tight given that the Clippers are subject to the hard cap, but signing Stoudemire to a minimum deal should be feasible. In doing so L.A. would improve – perhaps not as much as Stoudemire’s name and reputation would suggest, but in some amount that could come to play a part in a Western Conference where every minor advantage matters.
Ditto for the Mavericks, whose need for a rotation big of any kind comes in equal measure to the Clippers. Dallas needs better minutes behind Dirk Nowitzki, spot insurance for Tyson Chandler, and stylistic flexibility as to give Rick Carlisle more options in his postseason tinkering. Stoudemire would be a partial address at the least, though he isn’t the caliber of rebounder or defender who could change the Mavs’ outlook all that drastically. Were Dallas to go on to sign Jermaine O’Neal (and were O’Neal to be in similar form to last season, when he was a difference-maker for the Warriors in controlled minutes) or get continued quality play from 10-day-signee Bernard James, however, the Mavs might buttress their back line enough to support their rotation’s quirks. Stoudemire would help in any case as an active finisher whom defenses respect.
At this stage, reports from the Dallas Morning News and ESPN.com point to the Mavericks as frontrunners in their push to acquire Stoudemire. This makes sense for all involved. Dallas is a balanced, veteran team with a friendly internal dynamic. They’re well-coached and well-supported with a successful training staff. Their offensive system turned Brandan Wright into a 75-percent finisher from the field and could conceivably make Stoudemire even more efficient through similar means. By signing with a contender and making the most of a reserve role, Dallas could offer a way forward for Stoudemire as much as a way out.