Amare Chooses the Big Apple

Steve O Speak

Amare Stoudemire became the first big name free agent to leave his former team (though I guess a sign-and-trade is still possible) as he agreed to a 5 year $100 million deal with the New York Knicks on Monday. While so far there has been favorable reaction to this deal, and I will admit there are plenty of merits, this is a move I firmly believe the Knicks will regret.

On the positive side Amare was easily a top 10 free agent and one of the top 4 big men on the open market. Stoudemire can also play some center, especially on a run and gun team like the Knicks which gives him added benefit. In many ways the Knicks are the best team for him, since they are run by his former coach Mike D’Antoni. Stoudemire should fit in perfectly in the system run in New York, and should continue to put up All-Star caliber numbers. The problem isn’t with Stoudemire, or how he fits into New York, but rather with the contract itself and whether or not the Knicks are in any better position.

For me Stoudemire isn’t a max contract guy. He is a very good player, and an All-Star, but he isn’t at that elite level. Now I realize that sometimes you overpay a little, but this is too much. Amare isn’t worth $20 million a year, he was overpaid last year at $16 million and is now vastly overpaid at $20 million. When you had very similar power forwards available such as Carlos Boozer and David Lee on the market and will likely sign for a few million less a year, I think the Knicks made a bit of a mistake. What makes it even worse is Stoudemire comes with some serious injury risks. He has had both major knee and eye problems in his career and either one could be career threatening. I don’t see how you justify giving $100 million over 5 years to a player with that kind of injury history.

What’s also troubling is for all the talk of the Knicks clearing this cap room for two years to make a big splash in free agency, and the Knicks big move was to sign Amare Stoudemire to essentially replace David Lee. Now Stoudemire might have quite a bit more in name recognition, but that is about all he has over Lee. Stoudemire and Lee are very similar players, both are 27, and and PF’s/C’s that excel off the break or the pick and roll, and neither is too apt at defense. Both players are big men with range and fit perfectly in the Knicks system. While Amare has an advantage in athletic ability, Lee is the better rebounder and has a much better work ethic. Lee still has the potential to improve on his horrid defense, where at this point what you see is what you get with Stoudemire. While we don’t know yet what Lee will get, I can’t imagine it will be more than around $14 million a year over 5 years, which will be a $30 million savings for a player with a clean bill of health.

I can’t give the Knicks credit for overpaying to fill a position that they already had filled. And as for the belief that having Amare will help them land another big name free agent, don’t bet on it. For one thing I don’t see Bosh, James or Wade coming to NYC. And for another Lee would have been a better teammate for them in the first place, given his unselfish style of play. Stoudemire might look like a flashy signing for the Knicks, but it didn’t really make them any better. Given the injury history and how much they overpaid I think the Knicks will regret this contract like they have so many others.

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