The New York Knicks are in an awkward position heading into this offseason after yet another disappointing end to their 2011-12 season.
The Knicks faced a Miami Heat team in the playoffs that was infinitely better than them on both sides of the court. Amar'e Stoudemire played atrocious the first game, then suffered a self-inflicted injury after a rough second game loss. The injury to his hand forced him to sit out the third game, leaving it to Carmelo Anthony to avoid going down 0-3 against the soon-to-be NBA Champions.
In the end, Stoudemire came back to play the last two games of the series, but at that point the series was already over.
During Stoudemire's second season with the Knicks, he proved that the injury bug had gotten to him, and that he just isn't the player he used to be. For the first time since 2006, he was not elected as an NBA All-Star. Stoudemire's 2011-12 season statistics waned in every major category, averaging 17.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds. Compared to his first season in New York where he average 25.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds, the former All-Star's productivity has clearly dipped.
It also seems that Stoudemire's demeanor has taken a turn for the worst. The aforementioned hand injury was a result of frustration after taking a beating from the Heat in the playoffs. Punching the glass fire extinguisher box was a dumb move, putting both his career in jeopardy and handicapping his team for the rest of the playoffs.
Most recently, Stoudemire was caught verbally attacking a fan on Twitter. A fan tweeted at the Knicks power forward that he needed to make up for last season's poor performance. Stoudemire angrily replied by direct messaging him with derogatory slurs. The NBA eventually fined him $50,000 for the social media outburst.
These examples of his irrational behavior show that Stoudemire is a frustrated player. It could be due to the fact he's been battling through injuries the past few seasons, which have led to the decline of his All-Star caliber play. Or it could be the incessant scrutiny that comes from playing in the limelight of the most critical city in the United States.
Either way, this leads many to believe that Stoudemire and the Knicks are simply no longer a fit for each other. New York is a city that thrives on both superstar talent and likeable personalities, present among beloved athletes Derek Jeter and Eli Manning. Stoudemire is not even a fan favorite among the Knicks anymore. The inspirational Jeremy Lin and the offensive genius that is Carmelo Anthony are now the faces of the Knick franchise; not Stoudemire.
The Knicks are due to pay Stoudemire more than $60,000,000 over the next three years, which makes it nearly impossible to draw big time free agents to New York. Stoudemire is essentially a money-sucking black hole at the power forward position, and sooner than later, fans will be calling for his head.
The best solution for the Knicks is to trade Stoudemire for a player with a smaller salary. Other teams are wary of Stoudemire's massive contract and plaguing injuries, so the Knicks might have to include future draft picks as incentives. By freeing salary cap, they can also attract notable free agents to build around Anthony, Lin, and center Tyson Chandler.
A trade involving Stoudemire would have to include teams with enough cap room to eat his salary, while the Knicks will look to receive younger and more promising talent in return.
One trade that would work for both parties is sending Stoudemire to the Toronto Raptors for younger forwards James Johnson and Amir Johnson. The Raptors receive an established starting power forward in Stoudemire, while the Knicks get two prospects capable of higher production if given more playing time.
Another trade that could work for the Knicks is trading with the Cleveland Cavaliers for power forward Tristan Thompson. Thompson had a pretty disappointing rookie season on the inexperienced Cavaliers team, but could be a quality starter in future seasons. In order to send Stoudemire to Cleveland, the Knicks would likely need to eat the contracts of Luke Walton and Daniel Gibson in return.
As long as the Knicks receive quality young players in return for the frustrated Stoudemire, trading the former All-Star power forward will put the Knicks one step closer in getting to the NBA Finals.