Amare Stoudemire retiring from the league evokes some powerful memories of that time that the Warriors almost mortgaged their future to acquire him.
The story goes that both the Warriors and Suns were enamored with Stephen Curry prior to the 2009 NBA Draft.
Don Nelson was coaching the Warriors at the time, and had made it clear that Curry was the guy he wanted if available with the number 7 pick that the Warriors were stationed with.
Nelson deserves a lot of credit for his foresight, and he has long been one of the most under-appreciated coaches in NBA history.
Amar'e Stoudemire has signed a contract with the Knicks and announced that he'll retire, the club announced.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 26, 2016
He was ahead of his time with his small ball lineups, and although never equipped them with players who were particularly lengthy for their size or committed to playing defense, it was still a precursor to a style that has helped the Warriors win a championship as well as set the single season wins record.
Yes, Nelson was notoriously difficult for players to coexist with, and was captivated by Shawn Bradley more than he should’ve been, but there’s a reason that he has the most head coaching wins in NBA history.
Drafting Curry was arguably the first major decision that lead to the resurgence of this franchise, and trading that pick away would’ve likely continued years of dysfunction.
Steve Kerr was the general manager of the Suns at the time, and was looking to trade Stoudemire to move into the lottery, presumably to draft Curry.
Stoudemire was a 3x All-NBA Team member at that point, and formed one of the most explosive pick-and-roll attacks in the NBA along with Steve Nash.
He was ultra athletic, but never showed much discipline on the defensive end. He was an exciting option, but a player with some notable flaws.
The Warriors thought that he could be the missing piece to returning to relevance. They were dangling that number 7 pick along with what was speculated to be Anthony Randolph to try to lure Phoenix into trading their all star big man.
It seems ridiculous now, but at this time, there was still a lot of intrigue towards the type of player that Randolph would become. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and the athletic 7-footer was seen as a rim protector with huge potential to become a force in the league.
The trade was extremely close to being accepted, but the Warriors backed out of it when it became clear that Curry was going to be available at the number 7 pick for them.
Sometimes the best trades are the ones that don’t materialize, and this one would have been disastrous. A lot like the Klay Thompson for Kevin Love deal, this non-trade was the best decision that could have been made from Golden State’s perspective.
Not only did Curry eventually become a back-to-back MVP winner, but Stoudemire had just one season remaining on his contract. Considering that this was back when the Warriors weren’t exactly an attractive franchise to play for, he likely would have bolted after just one season.
I shudder to contemplate how things would be different today if this trade had happened. NBA players are largely a product of their environment, and while it’s impossible to know if Curry would have reached the level he’s at now with different players around him, he’d likely still be hovering around star status.
He would have gotten a chance to learn the point guard position from Nash. There’s not many better mentors than him.
A concern with Curry coming out of college was his ability to translate to the NBA as a point guard, because although he looked more natural as a shooting guard in college, he’d be severely undersized for that position in the pros.
He polished up his point guard skills in Golden State, and there’s no reason to assume that it wouldn’t have been the same in Phoenix with Nash teaching him the ropes.
Each draft pick and roster transaction significantly alters a franchise’s course. If the Warriors did make the Stoudemire trade, there’s no guarantee that they draft Ekpe Udoh the next season, who was involved in the eventual trade that landed the Warriors Andrew Bogut.
Maybe they aren’t in a position to draft Klay Thompson the season after that, and then Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green in 2012.
The championship roster being built can be traced back to that 2009 draft, and the Stoudemire trade would have sent this franchise in a completely different direction.
We congratulate Stoudemire on a terrific career, while also being thankful in hindsight that he didn’t spend any of that career with the Warriors.