The Amar’e Stoudemire era with the New York Knicks has come to an end, as the two sides reached terms on a buyout agreement Sunday, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Stoudemire will clear waivers by Wednesday and then look to join a contender.
Stoudemire came to New York with great fanfare in 2010, signing a five-year, $99.7 million contract after opting out of his deal with the Phoenix Suns. That first season with the Knicks brought great promise, as the big man averaged 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 78 games. New York traded for Carmelo Anthony in February 2011, and the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
While Stoudemire got hurt in the playoffs and New York was swept by the Boston Celtics, the Knicks appeared to be on the rise. New York acquired Tyson Chandler prior to the 2011-12 season to fortify the frontcourt, and with Anthony in the fold for a full (albeit shortened) season, the expectations were high.
Sadly, the 2011-12 season would represent the beginning of Stoudemire’s downfall in New York. The big man missed 19 games in the regular season and became the subject of a running joke after he hurt his hand punching a fire extinguisher following a playoff loss.
The rest of Stoudemire’s Knicks career was marred by injuries and minutes limits. He played just 29 games in 2012-13, 65 games in 2013-14 and 36 games this season. After playing in 78 games that first season in New York, he played just 177 games over the next four years. Recurring knee injuries have been the biggest culprit in his decline, which turned that big contract (which was uninsured) into one of the worst deals in the NBA.
But while Stoudemire is a shell of his former self, that doesn’t mean he can’t help a contender this year. His big contract isn’t a big problem anymore, and there won’t be high expectations. He may be a sieve on the defensive end, but he’s still an effective scorer who can provide some punch off the bench. In his 36 games with New York this season, he put up 12.0 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting.
Isola mentions the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs as possible destinations for Stoudemire, while ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein named the Mavericks, Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers as teams that have expressed interest. The ESPN report states the Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t “actively pursuing” Stoudemire.
With these reports in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the potential landing spots.
Mavericks: The Mavericks are the front-runners for Stoudemire, and Ian Begley of ESPN New York has him leaning in that direction, which makes sense. Trading Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo deal has left Dallas thin up front, and while the Mavericks recently brought in Bernard James on a 10-day contract and could sign Jermaine O’Neal, the depth remains iffy. Charlie Villanueva, Dwight Powell and Greg Smith are the other bigs, and none of these guys can really be trusted to play meaningful postseason minutes. Going to Dallas would reunite Stoudemire with Chandler, who injured his ankle just before the All-Star break. While the ankle injury isn’t believed to be serious, bringing in Stoudemire would provide some insurance (even if it’s shaky insurance) if Chandler misses any time. Of course, the defensive downgrade from Chandler to Stoudemire is significant, so the Mavericks are crossing their fingers that their starting center will be fine.
Clippers: The Clippers have surprisingly gone 2-1 against tough competition since Blake Griffin went down with an elbow injury, but that doesn’t change the fact that the depth in the frontcourt isn’t ideal. Spencer Hawes is starting in Griffin’s place, leaving Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Ekpe Udoh as the bigs off the bench. Not a one of those guys are all that effective, meaning Stoudemire would be a significant upgrade if healthy. Los Angeles could live with Stoudemire’s defensive deficiencies if he’s often paired with a legitimate rim protector in DeAndre Jordan (similar to Dallas and Chandler), and even if Stoudemire was on the floor without Jordan, his offensive spark as a reserve could outweigh his issues on defense.
Spurs: The Spurs don’t seem like that logical of a choice outside of the fact that they’re a perennial contender, but Boris Diaw has regressed this season and Tiago Splitter has dealt with some injury issues. San Antonio may be comfortable rolling with those guys and Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres, but it couldn’t hurt to kick the tires on Stoudemire. The Spurs could offer Stoudemire more than the minimum (unlike the Mavericks and Clippers), but it’s unlikely that would happen.
Suns: The Suns have some nice players in the frontcourt, including Wright, the Morris twins, Miles Plumlee and the up-and-coming Alex Len. But Phoenix could use more help, especially with Len dealing with an ankle injury. The Suns are hanging on for dear life as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and perhaps Stoudemire would feel even more rejuvenated after returning to Phoenix and its renowned training staff. The Suns are under the cap and could offer more than the minimum.
Warriors: Stoudemire has links to Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry from their days in Phoenix, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for the Warriors to pursue the big man other than that, which is likely why ESPN has reported that there has been little pursuit. Perhaps signing Stoudemire would help mitigate another Andrew Bogut injury, but Golden State has been fine with Bogut out of the lineup this season. David Lee could also be traded to save money for Draymond Green’s next contract, however, I can’t see that kind of trade happening until the offseason.