A trade that has been tossed around the NBA for years, Amar’e Stoudemire for Pau Gasol, straight up, might not be too far off from becoming true.
Both power forwards are two of the best in the league at their position, but at this point in their careers, it is time for a change in scenery. With one who has been battling countless injuries, to another that has lost his role in an organization that is going in a completely different direction, the swap would make a ton of sense, and might be the best trade the NBA has seen in a while.
Amar’e Soudemire, 30, is recovering from a knee injury, and has not played a single game in the regular season for the new-look New York Knicks. A team that has had multiple “new-looks” these past few years, it seems that they have finally found the “look” that they have been searching for, the “look” that has them tied for second in the Eastern Conference with the Brooklyn Nets. Carmelo Anthony is having an exceptional year, and has really up’d his game from previous seasons – and he’s playing power forward. The reigning Defense Player of The Year, Tyson Chandler is picking up where he left off, and has been a force in the post. Ronnie Brewer, Jason Kidd, and Raymond Felton are all meshing well together, and have put together an excellent back court. The “look” was supposed to be the Melo-Stat combo for years to come, but the “look” for Stoudemire now might be from the bench.
When healthy, Amar’e is one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league, but it’s obvious that he has lost some pep-in-his-step. With Chandler taking up most of the space for Stoudemire to work with, Amar’e put up low numbers last season, and often did much better, and scored in the paint more regularly when Chandler was on the bench. This isn’t the first time Stoudemire has had is style cramped. When Shaquille O’Neal joined the Suns, Stoudemire put up his lowest scoring numbers since his rookie season.
If Amar’e is serious about winning a championship, he has to accept his role of a sixth-man, if her were to stay with New York. Lamar Odom and Manu Ginobli have done it; do you see a theme there?
Pau Gasol is a deer-in-the-headlight in the Los Angeles Lakers offense. Gasol is not performing the way he should, and has performed, and the only reason why he is not getting ridiculed for it is due to the Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni situation. When D’Antoni didn’t play Gasol in “crunch time” during the Memphis Grizzlies a couple of games ago, it was a clear indication that when it matters, Gasol will not be playing in the near future. It’s also an indication that he really does not fit in the Lakers new offense, and the statistics give a clue as to why.
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Gasol ranked number three among power forwards in Player Efficiency Rating, averaging 18 points, to go along with 10-11 rebounds, and shooting no worse than 52.9 percent from the field. In the 2011-2012 season, Gasol ranked No. 8 among power forwards in PER, seeing his average dip down to 17.4 and 10.4 ‘bounds, but still shooting above 50 percent from the field. Still solid, but enough drop to open eyes. So far this season, Gasol is averaging a career-low 13.4 points per game, and shooting a staggering 43.4 percent from the field, his worst shooting average since his rookie year. Oh, and he’s ranked No. 32 among power forwards in PER, in the middle of Markieff Morris and Glen Davis. Who? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.
This new style of offense is forcing Gasol to take more jump-shots, which is straying away from what Gasol does best, scoring in the paint. In former coach Phil Jackson’s final year, Gasol attempted 226 long 2’s, from outside 16 feet. This year, he’s on pace to attempt 450 long 2’s, and 100 fewer dunks/layups at the rim. He also shot 11 three’s in his first 4 NBA seasons combined. Last year, he shot 28. He’s on pace to attempt 36 this year.
It’s evident that the run-and-gun, up tempo offense is not working out for Gasol, especially with his tendinitis in his knees. It’s also obvious that Stoudemire has lost his spotlight in New York, especially with their success thus far. So why not make the swap?
D’Antoni has coached Stoudemire for two different franchises (Suns, Knicks), could three times be the charm? Stoudemire knows the D’Antoni offense well and is a more versatile player in that sense than Gasol. Gasol on the other hand would mesh well with this Knick defense, and would immediately create the “Knick” name of the “New York Twin Towers,” alongside Chandler.
In sports, it’s known that you never want to mess up the “mo-jo.” Whether you’re catching a pitcher, and the pitcher has been in a groove, or you’re playing the basketball game 21 with a few friends, and you’re hot from the free throw line, you never want to mess it up. With the Lakers slowly gaining back their respect in the Western Conference, and the Knicks off to their best start in years, why would you want to mess it up? Make the swap, it would make things interesting.