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Talking Amare With Valley Of The Suns

In keeping with a tradition I started a while back, I thought it was about time we got the other side's point of view on a potential trade. We've been talking about the Amare Stoudemire situation in the comments here since the news broke that Phoenix was looking to move him.

Michael Schwartz from Valley of the Suns was nice enough to answer a few questions about a trade proposal I concocted, what he thinks the Suns should be looking for in a Stoudemire deal and Amare's performance vs. the perception thereof.
Depressed Fan: In your post you said you wanted the Suns to get a young big back in any deal sending Amare out. Is it vital that they get a four? If you're talking about a key piece for the future, does position really matter?

Valley Of The Suns: My ideal Amare trade has two components that could be satisfied with one player: a piece to build on in the future and a four that keeps them competitive right now. It's highly unlikely Shaq and his contract get dealt and the Suns have said Nash is untradeable, so even if Amare is dealt it's not like this is a fire sale. Not at this point at least.

If this were to turn into a fire sale and the Suns were going to tank and clear space for 2010 I could agree, but the Suns don't even have a pick in the 2010 draft (Kurt Thomas deal). Therefore you'd still have your Nash-J-Rich-Hill-Shaq core, just with Lou Amundson starting at the four. That's why I don't think it's necessarily vital to get a young four (although it's preferred), but they at least need to get a halfway competent four possibly as the expiring contract guy who they can at least fill in that spot for the rest of the season.

DF:  Here's a trade I've been kicking around ESPN's trade machine: Sixers give Andre Miller, Thaddeus Young, Reggie Evans and a lottery-protected first-rounder for Stoudemire. In your opinion, how does this rate against the trades Chad Ford proposed in his column? (Chicago, OKC, Memphis, Chicago, Miami and New York).

VOTS: Honestly, I'm not a big fan of that deal. The reason I don't believe it would ever happen is because of Evans' contract. The Suns want to clear salary for next season for cap reasons and likely the year after to be players in the Summer of 2010, so tying up $5 mil per the next two years for a guy like Reggie Evans is likely very undesirable. Miller would be a solid backup point guard for the rest of the year and a nice expiring contract, but essentially the only future assets they would be getting is Young and a mediocre pick for Amare. They may not follow this, but I feel they must get more of an impact guy than Young.

I seriously doubt this would happen, but I played around with ESPN's Trade Machine and here's what I came up with to get Amare to Philly. The Sixers would get Amare, the Blazers would get Andre Miller and the Suns would get Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young, Sergio Rodriguez and Raef LaFrentz's Expiring Contract. I know the first question was in part asking if Speights would need to be in any Amare deal, and I think he would be. Miller gives Portland a solid vet to run the team and they have the depth to afford to lose Rodriguez long term, the Sixers package a lot of talent but get a potential top 10 player in the league and the Suns start the reloading process with a trio of talented youngsters on top of the expiring deal. I understand that's probably too rich for Philly's blood, but that's why I really don't think the Suns and Sixers will be able to find common ground on an Amare deal.

DF:  This Wages of Wins article places most of the blame for Phoenix's record on Amare's poor performance. Agree? Disagree? Also, Amare's numbers are clearly down, do you think this is due to the slower pace the Suns are playing, is it simply a poor attitude, is it having to share space in the paint with Shaq, or maybe a combination of all three? (h/t to Dannie from Recliner GM for the WoW article)

VOTS: It's funny, when the season started most national pundits pegged the Suns to be a team on the fringe of making the playoffs, so while they may be underachieving below a level they're capable of reaching, this is really about what most people expected out of them. They were bad in January and have been much worse than they've been in recent years overall, but if they were in the East they'd only be a half-game out of the fourth spot. Amare has certainly been a major contributor to the disappointing first half by Phoenix's standards as the Wages of Wins article points out, but I'd say the biggest reason is the change in style and the subsequent confusion of what they should be doing from the coaching staff on down. The Suns spent November figuring out that slowing it down doesn't work with this roster, while Raja Bell complained loudly and Steve Nash struggled to adjust. Then they had to start over when they dealt Bell and Boris Diaw for Jason Richardson, which actually led to nine wins in 12 games before they fell apart with eight losses in 12 games thereafter. This team has no identity. Since around the time of the J-Rich deal they have tried to be a running team when the opportunities are there and then a slowdown team with Shaq at other times, which works about as well as it sounds like it would. So I'd attribute the struggles mostly to their lack of identity more than anything.

As for the other question, first off everybody's numbers are down, which will happen when you're playing with fewer possessions and have fewer open court opportunities, so that's certainly one factor. Sharing space with Shaq is probably the biggest factor, as Nash and Amare haven't used their deadly pick-and-roll game as frequently as they have in recent years, and when they do you still have Shaq clogging the paint. Amare postup opportunities have also gone down sharply with Shaq around. Some games that means Amare is content to just spot up for jumpers, which is a nice part of his game but not the reason he's as potent an offensive player as he is. I think the attitude is also a factor to a lesser degree, as sometimes he's not as assertive as maybe should be, but I think his perceived attitude issues stem more from some of the stupid things he says when he doesn't play well. When Amare doesn't play well he doesn't like to always take responsibility for it, but I don't know how much of an effect it's had on his numbers. But really while his numbers are much worse than last year's, they're about in line with what he did two years ago (20.9 ppg this year, 20.4 ppg two years ago).

DF: Exaclty how bad are Amare's defensive and rebounding skills?

VOTS: I think he gets such a bad rap for being a bad rebounder because of the fact that athletically he should be one of the best rebounders in the game. Even as is, his 8.2 boards per game rank 21st in the NBA, and he ranked 18th at 9.1 last year, ninth at 9.6 in 06-07, 17th with 8.9 in 04-05, 18th with 9.0 if he had qualified in 03-04 and 13th with 8.8 as a rookie in 02-03. Those aren't terrible numbers and rankings. The thing is Amare sometimes doesn't seem to care if he rebounds, and it's often tied to his offense. Before his 19 and 15 game on Friday against the Warriors, he had not recorded double-digit rebounds in a game he hadn't scored at least 20 points in. If he's involved in the offense, he's going to rebound, and when he's not he'll score three points and grab one board in 30 minutes at Boston. Amare also explained the theory that he and Shaq sometimes decide Shaq will get all the rebounds and Amare will start running the court, which is why he has some low rebound games. You can decide for yourself if you believe him on that theory. What's most frustrating about him is he'll be a beast with a game of 20 boards, two of 15 and two of 14 this year and then go 10 games in January without double-digit rebounds. Amare has the quickness, size and athleticism to be one of the best rebounders in the game, which is why it's puzzling when that's not always the case.

I also always thought he would develop into at least a very solid defender, but at this point I think I'm going to be wrong on that count. The reason for optimism on that front is because he's such a great athlete how couldn't he be great on defense' However, he doesn't have a high basketball IQ or very good basketball instincts, and sometimes you get the feeling he would rather just outscore his opponent instead of stopping him. Hence, the Mike D'Antoni system certainly agreed with him. He'll make a sick block every once in a while but by and large he's allergic to help defense and isn't a great one-on-one defender either.

Thanks for taking the time, Michael. We all appreciate it.

My thoughts on his thoughts: As a Suns' fan, I think he's being logical. The odds of a Sixers/Suns deal involving Amare are very, very low. It's not a talent issue, I think the Sixers have the talent to get a deal done, and the expiring contract, but to make the salaries match up it would require including either Willie Green or Reggie Evans, and I seriously doubt Phoenix would want to take back a bad contact in a Stoudemire deal.

As he thought, Speights + Thad + Miller is just too much to give. It's interesting that he went to a three-team deal with Portland involved, TK76 suggested that in the comments. It makes sense, considering what the Blazers are reportedly willing to part with and what their biggest need is. There may be something there.

I'm glad we were able to get a Suns fan's perspective on Amare's effort, rebounding and defense. These are the biggest strikes against him as a player. The "low basketball IQ" thing is troubling to me, not sure we want two of those guys in the front court.