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Amare Stoudemire in DC? For that package? Sign me up

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I haven't written much about the Amare Stoudemire rumors because I honestly can't believe them. That's partially because the sources aren't particularly believable. Hoopsworld's Bill Ingram lost credibility with me when he wrote that Antawn Jamison was a "hard-working defender" (if you mean defending his lawn from the evil youngsters, then sure). There's a blurb on Phoenix's radio station KTAR about the Wizards being "the most likely trade partner" for the Suns, but mentions Caron Butler leaving, not the rumored Jamison/#5/filler for Amare trade. Otherwise, however, the only time I really read about this was Wizards Extreme's half-baked fantasy trade for Amare in the Washington Post's blogger roundtable last month. Meanwhile, Mike Jones, a source I trust, writes that an Amare-to-DC rumor has no legs.

But the other reason is that the package suggested -- Amare for Antawn Jamison, Mike James and the fifth pick -- seems so lopsided to me. The Suns are willing to take on long-term salary of a soon-to-be 33 year-old fringe all-star who doesn't play defense, the fifth pick in a weak draft and a useless expiring contract for one of the 20 best players in basketball? That doesn't seem like enough at all. To use a Bill Simmons phrase, it's 40 cents on the dollar. I figure that, considering Phoenix could have had Tyrus Thomas or Rudy Gay at the trade deadline, they'd insist on the Wizards including McGee and the pick, as well as either Caron Butler or more youngsters like Andray Blatche and Nick Young. That's what I would do if I was Steve Kerr.

That's why it shocked me to read two prominent Phoenix Suns blogs support the Jamison/James/5 trade.

Bright Side of the Sun:

Jamison is a great player if a bit undersized for the PF position but that's never stopped him from rebounding well. Despite his size, he's only averaging .9 fewer rebounds then Amare on their respective careers.

In the short term, Jamison is a great fit with Nash, Hill and Shaq. The question is the next two years where his contract escalates to $15m in 2012 when he will be 35 years old. Everything I know about the guy says that he's a great teammate and has a solid work ethic. He's been durable so there's no reason to think that he can't play well until that age. At that point in his career he would probably be over paid for his relative production but $15m for a 35 y/o Jamison isn't horrible in comparison to lots of other contracts out there.

The #5 pick is the other prize. That would get the Suns another solid young player and would give them the option of trading the #14 pick for a pick next year or perhaps packaging it in some other way. It all depends on how the Suns are feeling about the guys they are seeing at that spot.

Valley of the Suns:

This would be great value for Amar’e. Jamison can be a 20-10 guy (career: 19.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), and can spread the floor with his three-point shot. Although he is not an inside threat, he would fit well with Shaq in the middle.

This also allows the Suns to draft James Harden, which is a position of need at the deteriorating small forward position. Harden can essentially play the 1-3 positions and would alleviate some pressure off Goran Dragic after Nash expires.

The Suns lose some payroll and get a lot younger, while staying competitive. As it seems Amar’e does not have Phoenix in his future plans, he needs to be traded this offseason, and this is the trade that I am lobbying for.

They're just fans, but they're two fans that I trust to give the best idea of the situation in Phoenix. If they're willing to swap out Stoudemire for that package, then perhaps it's more realistic than I think.

If that deal is actually on the table, the Wizards have to take it, despite all the risks.

Why must the Wiz take the deal?

Simply put, Amare Stoudemire is one of the best players in the NBA when healthy. In fact, I don't think there's a more complete offensive power forward in the game. Amare is still an unbelievable finisher inside and has developed into one of the best mid-range jump shooters in basketball. We all know about the thunderous dunks inside, so it should surprise nobody that, even in a down year last year, only 15 players had a higher percentage on interior shots than Amare. And despite all that turmoil, Amare was still in the top 15 in the league in dunks and foul-drawing percentage.

But Amare is no longer just a dunker. Among interior players, only Dirk Nowitzki, Antonio McDyess, Darius Songaila (surprising, I know), Pau Gasol, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, Rasheed Wallace and Luis Scola had a higher two-point jump shot percentage than Stoudemire last year. And that was in a major down year! Antawn Jamison, by comparison, shot just 39 percent on long twos last year and 35 percent from three-point range.

Amare is incredibly efficient, posting a true shooting percentage over 61 percent for the fourth consecutive year. Yes, playing with Steve Nash helped, but you could easily argue that Amare made Nash as much as Nash made Amare. Amare might be the best pick-and-roll player since Karl Malone. He has tremendous instincts in knowing when to slip, pop or roll to the basket, and he has great hands that allow him to catch so many different types of passes.

But you probably knew he was great offensively. What about his defense? It's no secret that Amare is not a particularly great defender, and I don't come to disprove that. But I certainly see no reason why he can't be better than Jamison, who was an unbelievable sieve. Back in February, Valley of the Suns explored Amare's defense statistically and concluded that it was far better than everyone thinks.

The numbers show the player Amare guards averages 0.4 points per 40 minutes less than usual based on the weighted average of his season stats, including 0.9 less when Amare is at power forward and 0.6 more when he’s at center.

Amare’s guy scores just 18 percent of his team’s points, shoots 45.5 percent from the floor and grabs 0.2 more offensive rebounds per 40 than expected but 0.6 less defensive rebounds per 40.

Amare, meanwhile, scores 22.5 points per 40 minutes, which is seven more per 40 than he gives up due to his stellar 61.1 percent true shooting percentage.

Granted, this kind of analysis does not take into account help defense, which we all know isn’t a Stoudemire strong suit by watching him play, but in terms of pure one-on-one defense he might not be as bad as we all think.

Plus, you have to contemplate how much his offense outweighs his defense, and seven points per 40 minutes is no small margin.

This, again, was data in a down year when he was complaining the entire season, so perhaps the right type of coach can coax a better defensive effort out of Amare. It is also important to note that Amare has never played alongside a big as adept defensively as Brendan Haywood. Shaquille O'Neal is a big body, but nobody can confuse him for being a defensive anchor that takes pride in that end. Before Shaq, Amare often played out of positon at center, where he was a misfit as the Suns' defensive anchor. If he were to come to DC, Haywood's presence would automatically elevate him as a defender.

There are risks

Two major risks jump out at me. The first is that Amare is a free agent after 2010 and no doubt wants a maximum contract. Considering that we've already handed out one to Gilbert Arenas, it will be difficult to accomodate Stoudemire as well and also re-sign Haywood and build a competitive team without going way over the luxury tax. There's also the question of whether Stoudemire is a max player at all.

The other, more valid concern is what will happen with Amare's eye. Remember how he missed the second half of the season because of some retina injury? Apparently, it isn't going away in the slightest. Here's the Arizona Republic's report from a couple days ago.

He had surgery Feb. 20 to repair an injury so severe that he probably won't resume any physical activity until late June. There is still fluid under his retina that his body must resorb.

Yikes. I don't expect the eye to be a problem, but you have to wonder if he still hasn't resumed physical activity. Even if he does fully recover, will he be fully himself by training camp? You have to wonder.

Still, these are risks I'm willing to live with if the package is simply Jamison/5/James for Amare. If Amare works out, then this is probably a title contender and Abe will probably be willing to pony up cash to pay Amare and Haywood anyway. If not, well then we've essentially done what many advocated we do at the trade deadline: dump Jamison for expiring money in an attempt to reload with a younger core. Best of all, we retain many of our assets that could be used to make another upgrade at the trade deadline. We still have Etan Thomas' expiring contract, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee to turn into something relatively useful that could help fix potential defensive problems that are presented.

That's only if the package is indeed Jamison/James/#5. Anything more and the risks associated with Amare become too much. But if that's all that's being offered, the organization needs to jump on it. Amare, at the very least, dramatically improves our shelf life for next year and extends our window further if he can be re-signed. He's a way better player than Antawn Jamison, and we weren't going to do much with our fifth pick anyway. It's a small price to pay to get a borderline superstar.