More photos » Mark J. Terrill - AP
Amare Stoudemire has traded purple for blue and orange...well, the orange will still be there. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Amare Stoudemire aka STAT aka Sun Tzu aka @AmareIsReal aka a certain... I don't know what. No matter what you know the former Suns big man as, chances are his name alone provokes some sort of emotional reaction. Loved by some, hated by others and discussed by all, Amare was always an enigma to Suns fans. We loved him for his offensive abilities and hated him for his lack of defense. We loved him for being a product of the Suns, born and raised (at least from an NBA player standpoint) right here in the desert and hated him for always wanting more. Some of us are deeply saddened to see him move on to greener (as in 'Benjamins') pastures and others are hoping the door hit him in the ass on the way out. No matter where you land on the Amare love/hate spectrum, the big man is now in New York and this is his Phoenix Suns report card.
When Amare Stoudemire came into the league, he was nothing more than an array of beautiful dunks and it was awesome. (Quick side note: go back and watch his first playoff series against the Spurs when he was playing alongside Stephon Marbury. You forget just how explosive this dude really was.) Now back to what I was saying. When he went down after getting the dreaded microfracture knee surgery, many questioned how a player who depended solely on his amazing athletic ability could rebound from a surgery that historically had completely destroyed the athletic ability of every player who had gone through it. Amare's answer: shoot jump shots every day while he was unable to do anything else and come back with one of the best midrange games of any big man in the league. Over the course of his career here in the valley, Amare went from having one offensive weapon to being one of the best scorers (in terms of how easy it is for him to score) in the NBA.
Since 2004, we have had the EXTREME pleasure of watching Amare Stoudemire run the pick and roll with 2-time MVP Steve Nash. Not only was it beautiful, but effective, as the Suns advanced to at least the second round in every one of those seasons except for the year of Shaq (granted, one of those seasons, Amare was on the bench after the microfracture surgery mentioned above, but still). But again, we all loved his offensive game; it was his game on the other side of the ball that left us wanting more.
Amare showed flashes of defensive ability and even brilliance throughout his years with the Suns, but they always turned out to be just that... flashes. He'd rack up 7 blocks in one game only to have his man drop 40 the next. He'd pull down 20 boards one game only to respond with 3 the next. For all of Amare's offensive brilliance, his defense was inconsistent and many times just bad (mostly during games in which he wasn't being as involved in the offense as he'd like to be). When it came to Amare, this is where the argument would begin.
Being a fan of Amare, I have long argued that you can't just replace that kind of offensive brilliance. That instead of giving him away and trying to replace his offense and improving on defense, a team should try and shore up the other half of the front line with a defensive player that would allow Amare the freedom he needs on offense. That's what the Suns tried with Shaq (unfortunately having the Big Ego in the middle made it impossible for Amare to breathe) and what they lucked into when Robin broke a glass door and suddenly became one of the better centers in the West last season. So what happens when Amare is paired with a player like Robin? He blows up and destroys the league for 3 solid months, earning a spot as a 2nd team All-NBA player even though he was thought by many to be lucky to get into the All-Star game at the break!
Others argued that the price was too steep for a player whose main focus was on the offensive end of the court. They demanded that Amare become a defensive presence and when he failed to live up to their expectations, they pushed for the Suns to get rid of him. (Another quick side note: I did openly root for the Suns to get rid of Amare once and that was when the offer was on the table to send him to Minnesota for KG. This would have left a core of KG (3 seasons before he broke down), Marion (one of my personal favorite Suns players of all time), and Nash.) Back on topic. Now, Amare is gone and we'll see just how much of his offensive game is missed.
Too often in sports we, as fans, become overly critical of those athletes we watch and fail to fully appreciate what we have in front of us. When Marion was here and the Suns were considered to be one of the top 3 teams (if not the top team) every year we - I'm using a collective 'we' here even though I definitely didn't want Marion to go - clamored for a team that could play "traditional" basketball just because we had gotten a few unlucky breaks and failed to advance to the Finals. The Suns shipped Marion out and brought in the Big Ego. It took the Suns organization 2 years to respond from that disaster. For 7 of the past 8 seasons we have had the pleasure of watching a young raw dude straight out of high school develop into one of the top scorers in the league. We've watched him smash on Kandi man's head, embarrass Tolliver and cause Richard Jefferson to have a VERY bad day. Say what you want about him, but the power and fury of Amare was fun to watch and be a part of.
For the 7 seasons (and the 3 games he played in during the season of microfracture rehab), I am giving Amare Stoudemire an A. He made 5 All-Star teams, made the All-NBA second team 3 times and first team once (which he did along with Steve Nash, becoming the first PHX duo to do so) and he helped lead the Suns to the Conference Finals (meaning they were 1 of the last 4 teams standing for you non-math majors out there) in 2 of his last 4 Playoff appearances. While I did hold out hope that his defense would improve and he'd become an All-Defensive type player, there was never a single game that I wasn't on the edge of my seat just waiting for Amare to do something that would give me an excuse to be on YouTube for hours the following day. Amare Stoudemire may not be missed by all (especially if the Suns are successful this season without him), but he will most definitely be missed by me and THAT is what makes being a fan of one of the NBA's biggest enigmas is all about.
Amare Stoudemire's Phoenix Suns grade: A
One other quick note: I apologize if this comes off a little disjointed, the original draft was roughly the size of a small novel and I had to cut it down. Hopefully the sentiment came through and if it didn't, here's an Amare montage that I like.
More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images
PHOENIX - MARCH 14: Steve Nash talks with head coach Alvin Gentry (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
And we thought rebounding was bad before...
Seth had a GREAT writeup over at SB Nation AZ last night, which he referenced in the last poll below this. Basically, the Suns' offense is going to be more potent than ever and the perimeter defense might be the best it has ever been, as well (collectively).
But the big remaining question: if the Suns start Hedo Turkoglu at PF, will the Suns ever win the rebounding battle again?
The answer, actually, is pretty obvious (Suns will suck at rebounding), but.. and this is the good part: not quite as badly as you might have thought.
Sure, Hedo Turkoglu is the worst rebounding player for his size in the history of basketball. Really, I'm not exaggerating.
Sure, we don't have a Dwight Howard on our team to pick up his slack.
But let's look at the actual numbers:
According to hoopsstats.com, the Suns were 7th in overall rebounds per game last season, at 43.0, last season. Unfortunately, they gave up 42.3 to the other team (10th worst in the league), so their total rebound rate per game was just 50.7% of total possible rebounds.
The problem wasn't in getting rebounds, it was stopping the other team from getting so many. Especially considering the Suns had, by a wide margin, the most efficient offense in the league last year (and 3rd in history, if I recall correctly), this SHOULD translate to fewer rebounds for the opposition.
But I digress.
How much rebounding did the Suns actually lose? In terms of grabbing rebounds, my guess is 2 fewer per game, swinging the overall rebound differential in the other direction.
Why only a couple rebounds diff, when Turk gets 5 while Amare would get 9? Because I'm assuming Turk gets fewer minutes than Amare's 34 mins per game, while Childress and Warrick (not bad rebounders) get more minutes than LB and Lou did.
Rebs Mins Reb/Min Est Mins 2010-2011 Tot Rebs per game Turkoglu 753 5,087 0.15 28 4.14 Warrick 720 3,586 0.20 15 3.01 Childress 713 4,300 0.17 24 3.98 Richardson 404 2,485 0.16 27 4.39 Dudley 286 1,384 0.21 24 4.96 Hill 445 2,430 0.18 23 4.21 Frye 427 2,190 0.19 26 5.07 Lopez 248 986 0.25 25 6.29 Dragic 171 1,442 0.12 19 2.25 Nash 268 2,660 0.10 29 2.92 240 41.23
But if the Suns want to break even, they will need major development from Robin Lopez and Channing Frye in the rebounding department. If each increases his rebound rate by 1 per game on the same minutes, then the Suns stand a chance. And if the Suns improve their defense, causing more misses by the opposing team, the margin improves further.
If not, it's 2005-2006 all over again. The Suns were outrebounded by 5 per game that season. They were the little team that could, with Boris Diaw playing PF, Tim Thomas at C and Shawn Marion at SF. Yet even that wouldn't be so bad: they still made the Western Conference Finals.
So that's your rebounding battle - the weakest link of this current Suns team, yet not as weak and you might have thought.
And if you factor in an even MORE potent offense and better perimeter defense, this team just might rival any of the decade.
That's a huge sigh of relief over the gloom and doom of recent weeks.
Picture this guy in a Suns uniform and then smile.
Well, well well.
Isn't this fun? Say what you want about the Suns, but they are never boring. Not on the court and not in the offseason.
I put a very detailed analysis of these moves over at SB Nation Arizona. And yes, if you are wondering... I am in fact trying to drive some traffic to that new site. Sue me.
Here's the conclusion for you impatient types:
The Josh Childress deal is fantastic. He's a dynamic player who's been coveted by many teams and at 27 years old is coming into his prime. To get him for only a second round pick is a steal. He provides depth at two positions that both happen to be occupied by guys (Hill and Richardson) who have only one year left on their contracts. Childress is a player who can and should start for an NBA team, unlike a role player like Jared Dudley, who is best in a reserve role.
Childress will make the Suns better defensively and, if he can improve his three-point shooting from his career average of .360, then he can fit nicely with the Suns as a spot-up shooter. His .522 overall field goal shooting in four years with the Atlanta Hawks is the sign of a highly efficient offensive player, which is exactly what the Suns covet.
A + for pulling off this deal.
Hedo Turkuglo is going to take some more convincing. He's a very unique player, but as stated above, will likely struggle defensively at the power forward and create even more problems on the defensive glass.
If he eventually moves back to small forward when Hill retires and the Suns find a better option to start at the four, then that will probably make more sense. In the meantime, there are concerns over a guy who chose as a free agent to go to Toronto and then asked to be traded after only one season. A friend of mine who covered the Raptors this season responded with "good luck" when I asked if he was a good guy.
At 31 years old, with four years left on his contract, this is a much bigger risk. I can't help but think of another 6-foot-10 foreign player (Peja Stojakovic) who signed a long-term deal with the Hornets that has turned into a giant drain on their team. That's the worst case scenario. Of course, with news that the Suns head trainer Aaron Nelson has also re-signed with the Suns for four more years, we can hope that the healing magic continues and Hedo remains productive.
Trading Leandro Barbosa is a wise move. His time here had run its course and with the development of Goran Dragic, his services became redundant. He is a great teammate and fantastic person and for those reasons will be missed, but losing him isn't a big blow to the team's on-court potential.
There's a lot of unanswered questions with Hedo and this deal could go either way. It could prove to be a fantastic move if he stays healthy and plays well or it could certainly be a bust.
I am giving this deal a C.
Once again, the Suns prove to be a team willing to make moves and shake things up. There's never a dull moment and if nothing else, there will be plenty to talk about when the team takes the court in October.