Stoudemire's surge opens draft debate
Amaré may have been best pick from 2002
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 17, 2007 12:00 AM HOUSTON - The seven players drafted directly in front of Amaré Stoudemire don't even belong in this conversation, let alone on an NBA court (see ex-pros Jay Williams, the 2002 No. 2 pick; Nikoloz Tskitishvili, the No. 5; and Dajuan Wagner, the No. 6.
For the sake of this debate, skip from where Stoudemire was drafted ninth overall by Phoenix to the No. 1 spot - watch out for Mike Dunleavy's stack of money by the Golden State bench. If the draft was a do-over, does today's matchup have the Suns visiting a Houston team led by Stoudemire instead of Yao Ming?
Yao is out with a broken right tibia, which could make Stoudemire the West All-Stars' top center and prompt All-NBA first-team consideration for the Suns' 24-year-old standout.
Stoudemire does not mind Yao's absence, given the 8 inches and 75 pounds of difference between the two. Stoudemire has shot 38 percent in 10 career games against Houston. Just the same, Yao has been run off the court in most of his recent games against Phoenix.
Head-to-head matchups and international popularity aside, has Stoudemire's resurgence made him the better 2002 pick?
"Ooo, gosh, wow, hooo, man," TNT analyst Doug Collins said, pondering a question that has gone from moot to tricky in two months. "Probably with the way the game is played today, I would take Amaré - the rules with up-tempo and the way they're pushing the ball. Fifteen years ago, I'd take Yao because it was more the decade of the centers. Whoever you got, you'd be happy with."
Even Houston fans must wonder "What if?" with Stoudemire, especially when the Rockets are winning more often since Yao's injury this season despite the career-best numbers he put up before it.
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is a biased observer, but given the same draft scenario, he turned without hesitation to Tuesday's three-on-three scrimmage coach/referee and said, "This guy," for whom he would take.