One of the big questions of the NBA offseason was what Amar'e Stoudemire was worth.
The Suns thought he was worth three guaranteed years with two more years guaranteed only if he hit certain playing time benchmarks in those first three seasons. The Knicks believed he was worth five guaranteed years, which some called desperate in light of Stoudemire's past knee problems. We're almost halfway through the season, so what's the verdict on Stoudemire's worth?
Survey says: About 235 points of winning percentage.
Last year, the Suns won 54 games and had a winning percentage of .659. This year they are scuffling along at 14-19, which means their winning percentage has dropped by, you guessed it, 235 points. The Knicks, on the other hand, have swung from .354 in 2009-10 to .588 in 2010-11. Thats 234 points if you're scoring at home (or even if you're alone), and that's just about the easiest way to evaluate the difference Stoudemire has had on the two teams that meet in Phoenix on Friday night.
There are other factors in the dueling change in fortunes, obviously, but the Stoudemire factor looms large in both places. The Knicks got a guy that can carry them down the stretches of games and a guy who forces double teams that create easy shots for his teammates. The Wall Street Journal ran the numbers this week and found that the Knicks are potting 50 percent of their threes from the left corner, a number that has a lot to do with how much attention defenses are forced to pay to the begoggled man in the middle.
In the desert, it's clear that Steve Nash misses his running mate a great deal. That's a bit funny, since the big slam on Stoudemire was that he was simply a product of playing with Nash. Raymond Felton didn't figure in that equation, of course, but those Amar'e-detractors should probably have waited to see what Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick did this season before slamming the man who saved the Knicks.
Nash can still play, though, and that's why there's renewed speculation that he's going to be traded. Naturally, some of that speculation involves the Knicks and Mike D'Antoni, but it is really hard to imagine Donnie Walsh turning his ship in that direction. A Nash deal would cost pieces needed to seriously improve the team, something that they'd still need if they were to trade Felton in for Nash. There's plenty of reason to doubt how big that upgrade would be, even if you concede Nash is the perfect man to run D'Antoni's scheme.
There was a time when we'd argue the other side. Nash would have filled the Garden with great joy if he decided not to take an extension with the Suns and whatever love we've shown for Stoudemire would have rained down on his floppy-haired head. It didn't happen, though, and now it feels about as wrong as having Isiah Thomas night during the next homestand.
Some things are meant to remain in the past, and the Nash-Stoudemire tandem is one of them. The Knicks may be building their future off a similar foundation, but the goal isn't to recreate the old Suns. It's to create something new and different and beautiful. That involves looking forward and it doesn't involve Nash.