Amare Stoudemire, the Lottery, and Reality

Normally, I agree with TNT analyst Charles Barkley or at least understand where he’s coming from. However, I think he has got it all wrong with his idea that the Suns should trade Amare Stoudemire for young players and draft picks.

As you know, I am firmly in the “keep Amare” camp. Perhaps I’m the only Suns fan who truly feels this way. But regardless of your feelings about Stoudemire, the reality is that a trade will more than likely not improve the team and instead might make things worse.

First, let’s examine this season. When the Suns were shopping Stoudemire, it turns out the strongest possibility was the Chicago Bulls. Yes, a 1st round draft pick would have been part of the deal. However, there is a good chance that this would not have been a lottery pick. The Bulls own two 1st round picks for 2009, their own and the worse of either the Nuggets’ or Spurs’ 1st pick. In terms of young players, the Bulls were offering Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha. No disrespect to these players, but I don’t see any of them becoming a go-to, franchise-type player.

On top of that, the Bulls are currently tied for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. In other words, the Suns could have risked trading Stoudemire against the odds of the Bulls making the playoffs and may have ended up with three role players, the 15th pick in the 2009 draft, and some cleared cap space. That would have been a disastrous way to begin a rebuilding project. As a GM, you cannot trade your star player on a gamble. You need a sure bet.

Also it is vital to remember that Stoudemire’s eye injury was not discovered until after this season’s trade deadline passed. All trade decisions were made under the assumption that Stoudemire would have been able to finish out the season and playoffs.

Turning to the upcoming offseason, there is one major impact player in the draft. As Fred alluded to in a comment to one of my previous posts, Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin is the consensus predicted 1st pick for the 2009 draft. However, there is no chance that the Suns will be able to trade Stoudemire for the rights to draft Griffin, and here’s why. At 6-10 with tremendous athleticism and great scoring ability, Griffin will play in a very similar role to that of Stoudemire. No team will want to trade away the rights to Griffin for a player who is older, similar, more expensive with an opt-out clause, and possibly damaged goods. The only way the Suns get Griffin is if they win the lottery themselves and get the 1st overall pick with their own draft pick.

Another important dose of reality. If the Suns trade away Stoudemire and begin rebuilding, they currently do not have a 1st round pick in 2010. This is one of the infamous “sold draft picks” given away by Suns majority owner Robert Sarver and GM Steve Kerr. If the Suns bomb out next season with a bunch of young project players, rookies, and scrubs, the will kindly hand over to the Oklahoma City Thunder a nice gift in the form of another lottery pick for that franchise. The Suns have every incentive to make the playoffs next season because they have already traded away their 2010 1st round pick.

I’ll repeat myself from my last post and argue that the Suns need to hold their ground for next season and aim for 2010 as a rebuilding year. The 2010 free agent class completely blows away 2009. Assuming that Stoudemire and Steve Nash don’t return for the long term, the contacts of Stoudemire (player option), Nash, and Shaquille O’Neal all expire for 2010, putting the Suns in an ideal position to sign two marquee free agents. This is something certain that a GM can plan for.

Bottom line? If the Suns trade Stoudemire this offseason, it will be the worst trade in the franchise’s history since they traded Dennis Johnson to the Boston Celtics for Rick Robey.

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