The NBA Trade Deadline is in six days. If you doubted Steve Kerr’s ability to destroy the Phoenix Suns even more than he already has, then stay-tuned! Kerr’s insistence on moving Amare Stoudemire has garnered a lot of attention around the league. One of those teams reportedly interested is the Detroit Pistons. Last week I wrote about the peculiar situation that Joe D finds himself in with respect to the cap. He has millions to burn in a city that rarely, if ever, attracts basketball talent via free agency. Even with $35 million to spend, getting shut out in the “Summer of LeBron” is a possibility. With LeBron eyeing New York City and Dwyane Wade failing miserably at hiding his affinity for Chicago, the frenzy of teams going after the rest of the elite talent in 2010 will be fierce. Anything Joe D can do to avoid having to sell “playing basketball in Detroit” to players looking for sunnier destinations needs to be explored. The most obvious solution is to circumvent free agency all together and make a trade. Players don’t mind being traded to Detroit but nobody ever wants to sign (not re-sign) with Detroit. Stoudemire has already gone on record saying that he loves Detroit and its fans. That’s a start.
The problem with the whole “trade for Amare” thing is that we’re not talking about a run-of-the-mill player. We’re talking about Amare frickin’ Stoudemire. When “Amare” and “available” are used in the same sentence, NBA GMs gear up like sportswriters at a free buffet. Amare is an explosive, 26-year old, offensive juggernaut. He is virtually unguardable in the post and is extremely competitive. Simply having interest doesn’t differentiate the Pistons from any other team in the NBA. What might differentiate them is the ability to offer Rasheed Wallace or Allen Iverson’s expiring contract. Kerr has said that it would take the combination of an expiring contract and talented players to pry Amare from Phoenix. The problem the Pistons will have on closing a deal is that they might not be able to make the money work. Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince are good enough players to get a deal done but they make too much money. If the Pistons combined either with Rasheed or Iverson, the Suns would be taking on too much money to make the trade work. A third team could be sought but that complicates an already complicated situation. Complicated or not, Joe D should be doing whatever it takes—short of giving up Rodney Stuckey—to bring Amare to Detroit.
The Pistons could offer Rasheed, Amir Johnson, and a first round draft pick but that falls below Kerr’s absolutely insane asking price of “every good player you have.” Kerr obviously doesn’t understand that nobody ever gets top dollar for a superstar in a trade. Case in point, he asked the Grizzlies for Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Hakim Warrick in exchange for Amare. Rumors that he also asked for Jesus to be included appear to be unfounded. Kerr might not understand how things work in the NBA—that could be the understatement of the century—but his insistence on getting top-dollar for Amare has probably helped the Pistons. The Grizz have no doubt been turned off. Kerr reportedly asked Portland for LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and Raef LaFrentz’s expiring contract which is, like, wow! That has apparently turned Portland off.
With two of the early leaders in the Amare sweepstakes turning down borderline offensive offers, Miami and Chicago have become the leading candidates to land him. The Heat reduced their bargaining power by trading Shawn Marion to the Raptors. The Bulls, on the other hand, could put together a dynamite trade offer. “Could” is the key word there. The Bulls are no strangers to trade talks. Their failure to land Kevin Garnett from the T-Wolves two years ago ranks up there with Green Bay’s refusal to trade a lousy 4th round draft pick for Randy Moss as one of the worst front office decisions in sports history. Over the last few years the Bulls have not been close to breaking through as an elite team in the Eastern Conference which is something that KG would’ve all but guaranteed. Two years after blowing a KG-deal, they are in nearly the identical situation. Hoping for another bout of stupidity is probably too much to ask for. The Bulls front office knows they’re terrible. One would think they wouldn’t miss out on a superstar for a second time. Any deal that the Bulls put together will likely include Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden’s expiring contract and a third player. That third player is going to determine whether a trade gets accomplished. If it’s Andreas Nocioni, then Chicago clearly hasn’t learned anything. If it’s Joakim Noah, then Amare might be headed to Chicago.
With Marion out of the picture, Miami is struggling to remain a player. Phoenix reportedly doesn’t have interest in the Heat’s main bargaining chip: Michael Beasley. However, Miami is clearly trying to get a deal done and seem to be the most persistent of all the teams that are after Amare. If the Pistons can get a third team involved, though, I think they can make the best offer. Rasheed isn’t just an expiring contract. He would be a perfect fit next to Shaq in the frontcourt. Tayshaun—the Suns already have Jason Richardson so they might not want/need Rip—would add a stout defensive presence and give the Suns a legitimate shot at winning this year. Hopefully, Joe D’s persistence is greater than Pat Riley’s.
If talks with Phoenix on the Amare front fall through, Joe should think about offering Allen Iverson for Shaq. Shaq has been playing outstanding basketball this year and would be a godsend for the Pistons in the paint. His contract expires next season just in time for the “Summer of LeBron.” Joe mentioned that he would not make a trade that compromised his cap security for the 2010 free agent class. An Iverson-for-Shaq trade would do no such thing. Shaq would be a much better fit in Detroit than Iverson and Phoenix could get Shaq’s $21 million contract off the payroll next season. This move would help the Pistons avoid having to sign mid-tier free agents this off-season just to get over the salary floor. Right now, the Pistons have roughly $38 million tied up in nine players next season. The floor this season was roughly $44 million. Joe’s going to have to figure out how to sign five players for at least $6 million without messing up his financial position for 2010. Either way, the Suns appear to be the team the Pistons need to be talking to. Lucky for Joe D, the All-Star game is this weekend—in Phoenix!