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Amare Stoudemire: High risk, high reward

The calculus through which Danny Ferry is factoring a potential trade for Amare Stoudemire is dizzying. Chris Broussard, Brian Windhorst and Chad Ford have each explored the moving parts -- what it means for LeBron James' future in Cleveland, the financial considerations for both the Cavs and Suns, whether there would be enough shot attempts to go around for all the scorers, and Stoudemire's status this summer. The list is inexhaustible.

For those who follow the Cavs closely, there's sincere ambivalence about the prospect of Stoudemire joining the team. When the rumors surfaced a few weeks back, John Krolik of Cavs: the Blog articulated those feelings:

On the one hand, it’s Amare. This could be the move that would make the league’s most dangerous offensive player the leader of the league’s best offense. On another hand, he doesn’t look like a good fit on either offense or defense. Plus, the Cavs are only now getting used to their one big acquisition, and do seem to be rolling on all cylinders. On a third hand, possibly an elbow, most of Amare’s perceived flaws don’t look very bad at all on paper. But then again, that’s what people were saying when the Magic signed Vince Carter. Ugh.

That's three hands, an elbow (and an 'ugh' for good measure), and each concern seems just as plausible as the one that precedes it.

Krolik went to the painstaking task of examining the variables Stoudemire would introduce on both ends of the floor for Cleveland. Among his most compelling findings about Stoudemire:

  • "He’s one of the best shooting power forwards from the 10-15 foot range and the 16-23 foot range this year." How good? Stoudemire is an impressive 51.4 percent shooter from 10-15 feet and 45 percent from 16-23, putting him in the top echelon of the League. He might not be as stretchy as Antawn Jamison, but Stoudemire is actually a better overall jump shooter than the Wizards forward.

  • There's a popular perception that Shaquille O'Neal's presence in Phoenix hurt Stoudemire's production, and Cleveland would be ill-advised to reunite the two big men. Krolik counters, as J.A. Adande did this week, that the numbers refute this claim. "Despite the fact that the Suns have replaced Shaq with three-point bomber Channing Frye and opened up the paint for Amare, his numbers at the basket remain identical to where they were last season. He takes 46 percent of his shots at the rim, up 1 percent from last season. He shoots 66.8 percent at the rim, up exactly 1 percent from last season. And his foul drawing rate is 18.2 percent, which is actually a little lower than it was last season. Whatever it was that caused Amare’s effectiveness at the basket to drop last season, it looks like it wasn’t Shaq."

  • Spend some time checking out various statistical metrics, and you'll discover something interesting: "Anderson Varejao is the second-best player on the Cavaliers. It’s true. Say it aloud. It’ll help it sink in ... How would Andy be able to play next to Amare? They would both need too many minutes to never play with each other. Almost all of Varejao’s offensive game is predicated on him setting the screen up high and/or cutting around the hoop and looking for easy baskets. When Amare’s in the game, it would be foolish not to use him in the high pick-and-roll offensively and try to set him up with as many dunk opportunities as possible. Andy can’t stretch the floor in those situations. Will there be enough space for Andy to be effective in the same lineup as Amare and LeBron?"

  • Stoudemire is a lousy defender by most measures. The Suns are 3.5 points better when he's on the bench and opposing power forwards have put up a player efficiency rating (PER) of 20.2 against Stoudemire this season. That kind of performance won't get the Cavs where they want to go and Stoudemire would have to step it up on the defensive end of the floor: "For Amare to be effective defensively alongside of Shaq, he’d have to be active on the perimeter, show on pick-and-rolls, and discourage opposing teams from hitting easy jumpers as Shaq sags back to shut down the paint. With Amare’s knees, it’s an open question whether or not he could handle that responsibility even if he had the desire to do so. And it’s a very open question whether he’ll ever develop the desire to do so."

That's a lot to consider for the Cavaliers. It seems unthinkable to pass up an opportunity to upgrade your roster with one of the most devastating pick-and-roll masters in the league. But Stoudemire would introduce a series of unknowns into a Cleveland outfit that's humming along as we enter the final two months of the regular season.

What's Stoudemire been up to lately? I was able to catch his performance against Sacramento a couple of weeks back. Stoudemire put up a line of 30 points and nine rebounds against the Kings. That's the good news. But he was also the primary culprit in giving up a 31-point, 7-rebound performance to Donte Greene, who was playing power forward for the Kings in Jason Thompson's absence.

The game offered viewers the full breadth of Stoudemire's game, its best and worst qualities -- the explosiveness and the disinterest, the silky mid-range jumper and the troubling tendency to get beaten to the ball beneath the glass. Stoudemire is a confounding -- but spectacular -- talent: