The NBA Trade Deadline: Where Rumors Are Spelled A-M-A-R-E

If it's Februrary, then the Suns are in talks to trade Amare Stoudemire. This is just how the world works. Seasons change, the world rotates on the same axis, and every year, we hear that Amare Stoudemire is on the move. It's one of a few special pastimes of Trade Deadline season. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski runs down this year's contestants in the Stoudemire Sweepstakes:

After recent discussions with Amar’e Stoudemire’s agent that didn’t appear to destine a contract extension, the Phoenix Suns have increased their efforts to trade the All-Star forward, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday night.

League executives say the Suns have become more active initiating talks over the past few days, and believe the franchise will take the best offer for Stoudemire before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets are among multiple teams that have a strong interest in Stoudemire, sources say. The Arizona Republic reported Sunday night that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have also inquired about Stoudemire. [...]

As they did when shopping Stoudemire last season, the Suns want a combination of young talent, salary-cap relief and draft picks for him. Some teams are hesitant to trade for Stoudemire for fear he won’t want to re-sign with them this summer. The Minnesota Timberwolves lead that group of teams, sources say. The Wolves are mostly eyeing small forwards, including the Memphis GrizzliesRudy Gay the BullsLuol Deng and the Washington WizardsCaron Butler. No one is untouchable on the Wolves roster, sources say.

But where trade talks in the past have stemmed from the Suns' skepticism over Amare's role in building a contender and fostering winning chemistry in the locker room, the motivations are more tangible. Basically, Amare wants to get paid this summer--he'll be opting out of his current contract, set to pay him $17.7 million--and he wants some long-term security. The Suns probably aren't the team to offer that security, meaning they risk losing him to free agency if they choose not to trade him.

SB Nation's Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun, has a full breakdown of the situation. An excerpt from their excellent breakdown of the situation:

A few points to remember:

  • If the Suns were to wait and let Amare opt out and explore the market as a free agent they would only be about $5m to $10m under the salary cap and would not be able replace his $17m with another top notch player
  • For Amare, the market conditions implore him to opt out now if an extension agreement can't be reached with the Suns. There are about 10 teams who have been setting up their rosters to have significant cap space this summer. They simply can't, not spend that money and Amare is right there in group of high-profile free agents that some struggling team will sign. Next summer there's no telling if there will be as many buyers available
  • This doesn't even take into account Amare's natural desire to get a long term contract as soon as possible. Why wouldn't he turn down the final season at $17m to sign a longer team deal now. Amare can't risk playing out his final season when he could be injured again of even just see a decline in his performance. And lets not forget the entire NBA salary structure will be renegotiated in 2011 and all signs point to the owners seeking significant concessions from the players.
  • This is Amare's best chance to get the best possible long term deal. He would be a fool not to opt out this summer and the Suns would be foolish to let him walk which is why I've been fairly certain that he would be traded before this trade deadline.
  • Taken objectively, it would make sense for both sides to part ways. It's in Amare's best interest to opt out this interest, and it's in the Suns' best interest to trade him while they can still get some valuable assets back, as opposed to letting him leave in free agency. But trade him to whom?

    That's where the fun begins. As much as any year in recent memory, there are teams out there trying to swing big trades. Either to offload costly assets, or trying to pluck a superstar away from a team like the Suns—who are offloading a costly asset. The economic conditions in the NBA have set forth a pretty fascinating landscape as the deadline approaches. Roughly 3/4 of the league is losing money, so teams like the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets—basement dwellers with bloated payrolls—might be willing to part with some of their stars in exchange for financial relief.

    Then you have the expiring contracts. With a bumper crop of free agents hitting the market this summer (including Amare), plenty of teams view expiring contracts as the ultimate asset. If a contract comes off the books at the end of this year (Tracy McGrady's $23 million salary, anyone?), that frees up tons of cap room for teams this summer. Put it this way: if you're the GM an average NBA team, would you rather try to improve a roster full of long term contracts, or have the flexibility to sign a few players that completely change the face that same roster?

    It's not that flexibility guarantees that a GM will choose the right superstar to sign to a max contract (good luck to whoever signs Amare), but that the flexibility itself is what teams are lusting for these days. As the deadline looms, these mystical "expiring contracts" are almost as valuable as an All-Star power forward, like New Orleans' David West, just because it frees up GMs to make more dumb decisions (like giving New Orleans' Peja Stojakovic $65 million).

    It's this sort of circuitous logic that makes the trade deadline so much fun. And amidst all the maneuvering over the next few weeks—teams leaking rumors to try and manipul ate the market, transparent salary dumps, and maybe even a few blockbusters—we'll have you covered at SB Nation, with our NBA Trade Deadline Story Stream. Come here for all your trade news, rumors, and Knicks fan rants. All part of the annual trade deadline bonanza!

    But jokes aside, make no mistake: What happens between now and February 19th will most certainly have tangible effects on the landscape of the NBA as contenders push toward the playoffs. Will the Lakers, Cavs, and Celtics prey on some of the teams hemmorhaging money? Who'll land Amare? Will Golden State's insane management team offload either Monta Ellis or Anthony Randolph? Will anybody take on Tracy McGrady's massive contract?

    All questions that'll be answered over the next few weeks. Especially given the economic climate, this year's trade deadline brings more intrigue than ever. Should be pretty crazy!!!

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