Given recent reports that the Knicks basically shopped Amare Stoudemire to every team in the league "available for free," as The New York Times reported an unnamed team executive as quoting the asking price, I wondered if there was any way the Jazz, with all their cap room, might use the situation to their advantage.
It's an insane idea, I know, but it stuck in my head and wouldn't leave. So I fiddled around a bit and then some more and never saw anything that might work. Then DeMarcus Cousins trumped himself in Sacramento, I took the Amare hypothesis in a completely new direction and, viola! If the Jazz ever truly doubled down on building through youth, I think this just might make sense (but would take a lot of guts):
This proves it would work: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=c4cfsq2
Here's why I think each team might actually do this:
The Kings: That franchise is a mess, and their only real hope for the future--barring Thomas Robinson developing into a star, which is a long way off if it ever happens--is DeMarcus Cousins. I can't think of any team insane enough to want its future to hang on that egomaniacal adolescent, regardless of his talent. The Kings need stability and cohesion, something to build toward the positive. They also could really use some cap room that is currently absorbed in two bad contracts, Salmon's 3 year/8 million per and Garcia's 2 year/6 million per. With this trade, in exchange for Cousins, they would get back Al Jefferson and Anderson Varejao, two pros with borderline All-Star potential who would compliment each other fantastically. They would also shed the Salmon and Garcia contracts. They would be a better team with harder working, less selfish players, more maturity, and would still have potential in the form of Thomas Robinson, the Golden State pick, and Jimmer Fredette, who recently has the looks of a very solid scorer in the league.
The Cavs: With Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cavs have their back court of the future in place. What they're missing is a star big. Tristan Thompson was drafted on loads of potential, supposedly. (Never really was a fan, myself). That hasn't come close to panning out. Varejao is an excellent glue and hustle type player, the kind that can make the difference between winning and losing a championship on a very good team--but not capable of making a bad team great. With two young pieces in place, the Cavs may well be willing to take a risk on young, unstable Cousins because of his proven talent rather than risk another unproven big in the draft. With Irving, Waiters, and Cousins, the Cavs would have as close to a dead certain young big three as exists outside of OKC. Paul Millsap would replace all those glue-type attributes that would be lost in Varejao, and he's young enough to help the team in a year or two after they've jelled and start to make heavy playoff pushes. The 2015 1st might look like gratification too long deferred, until remembering that Cousins will have to be given a large contract the year before, and Irving will be looking to cash in right at that time. The chance to get a few cheep contracts in the draft makes a lot of financial sense. For a chance to land arguably the most talented young center in the league, as well as Millsap, I think the Cavs do the deal.
The Knicks: They get to dump Amare's contract, basically, which for that team is huge given the penalties they're set to incur over the length of his contract. The smaller bad contracts they'd take back in return are cheaper combined and one is only two years, making them much easier to dump in a trade than Amare's massive 20+ million price tag. Plus, being the Knicks, they could easily buy out one of the smaller contracts, if needed. As an added incentive, Randy Foye would find a perfect home on the Knicks, given his ability to hit the three at a very high rate when his feet are set. The Knicks would weigh the freedom from Amare's contract with the prospects of Novak and Foye both spacing the floor as Carmelo went to work and ink the deal.
The Jazz: It would be a gutsy move, no doubt about it. Stoudemire's contract would eat up basically all that flexibility Kevin O'Connor worked so hard to build. Giving that up for an injury plagued star clearly on the downswing seems madness. But would it be? Stoudemire is an injury risk, that's certain, but he would also free up time for Favors and Kanter, which is a big reason for doing any deal. If he did get hurt, well, more time for our guys, which isn't the very worst thing in the world. That being said, I'm not convinced Stoudemire's value on court is entirely behind him.
The Stoudemire everyone pictures now is the uncertain shell of a player reeling from having to play with Carmelo Anthony, a player who hogs the same spots on the floor as Amare and has an even higher usage rate. But look back before that and you see a player who posted no worse than 20 and 8 five years running, with a scoring high of 25 reached twice. As a clear first offensive option on the Jazz, why dismiss the chance that he might be nearer that than he ever was with Anthony? Given the sad history of free agent signings here in Utah, it is very possible that Stoudemire, even in his current uncertain state, would prove a better star to lead the team for the next few years than anyone else we could realistically get to come here. We may need to trade him in two years to make room for new contracts for Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, but it would be much easier to trade Stoudemire's contract with a single year remaining, as teams are often looking to free up cap space. And while Isaiah Thomas may not be the point guard of the future we've all dreamed of, think back to last year when he was getting playing time. It would at least be worthwhile to see what he brings to the table, and he's a far better prospect than anything the Jazz have lined up.
But the real reason to make the deal would be to swap Jefferson and Millsap for two prime picks in this year's draft. Currently, the Cavalier and Kings picks are projected as the 2nd and the 7th. Even if both teams improved after the trade, we'd almost certainly have two top ten picks. Add in our own pick, which I would guess would be somewhere in the low to mid teens, and that's three lottery picks. Our chances of landing the #1 pick overall would be as good as any other team, or there about. Even if we didn't, with that many picks, two of them being so high, we could almost certainly position ourselves to pick a possibly franchise changing player designed specifically for us: Shabazz Muhammad. We all know we need a first rate perimeter player to pair with Favors and Kanter and the Mr. Everything Master of None, Gordon Hayward. Muhammad is just that kind of player. At 19, he's averaging 17.8 points and 4.8 rebounds on 48% shooting overall and 47.6% from three. DraftExpress parallels him to James Harden. Imagine a lineup of a Harden-like SG, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter--with the Harden-esque SG being the youngest of them all.
Best of all, I think it certainly could happen. Currently, Muhammad is slated to go first in the draft, with five centers or power forwards coming after him. If the Jazz got a top three pick, Muhammad might fall to them if other teams preferred bigs like Nerlens Noel or Cody Zellar, say if the Wizards and Bobcats got the first two picks (which they honestly might). Even if Muhammad went #1, the Jazz could offer three lottery picks, including two top ten, for the pick. If they had to, they could even throw in Burks to seal the deal.
Crazy, I know, and certain not to happen. But if it did, I think every team would get what it wants. The Kings would gain maturity, stability, and the ability to win now and right a sinking ship. The Cavs would have in place a big three for the future. The Knicks would be unburdened from the Stoudemire contract that might sink them. And the Jazz would have their best-ever chance at the perimeter franchise player we've never had. For that, I would risk Amare Stoudemire and his contract.