Getting Amar’e Stoudemire now at the veterans’ minimum of $1.5 million is a Pat Riley master stroke, and it’s proof of the Miami Heat’s continued reputation as a franchise that’s never far from striking it rich.
I’ll be interested now to see if Hassan Whiteside, the 7-foot shot blocker with all the raw skills, can keep Stoudemire on the bench more than half the time.
There’s quite a gap in their ages – Whiteside just turned 26 and Stoudemire is 32 – but their stat lines aren’t as different as you might think in some categories.
Look at last year’s per-game averages.
Player Mins Pts Reb Blks
Whiteside 23.8 11.8 10.0 2.6
Stoudemire 21.1 11.5 5.6 0.6
Whiteside you figure will improve, especially in the development of his offensive skills, but overall it’s a matter of the Heat hoping he will become the player that Stoudemire was in his prime. There’s no guarantee on that, even though Amar’e went through the same kind of rapid development.
As a 20-year-old NBA rookie, Stoudemire averaged 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds for Phoenix. By his third pro season he was an All-Star, and by his ninth he was an Eastern Conference All-Star starter alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose.
In between was the free-agency summer of 2010, when Stoudemire got a five-year deal just under
$100 million to join the New York Knicks. The Knicks met with LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, too, and Stoudemire actually believed there was a good chance that one or more of them might join him in New York.
“I feel great about being a pioneer and showing my leadership,” Stoudemire said on the day he signed his Knicks contract. “Playing with LeBron would be great. But again, I’m not sure what his decision is and where he’s leaning. If he’s leaning more toward New York, then that’s a great start for us.”
Of course, “The Decision” settled all that later in the week, setting the Heat up for a championship run and leaving Amar’e atop a Madison Square Garden molehill instead of a mountain.
Look ahead to next summer, though, and try to guess whether Whiteside will be worthy of the same kind of max contract money that Stoudemire once was.
When Stoudemire got his jackpot deal, he was coming off four straight seasons averaging 20 points or better.
Whiteside still needs to learn a few things from this guy before he thinks about becoming him.