Amar'e Stoudemire joining LeBron James in Cleveland?

As Thursday's NBA trade deadline fast approaches, the hottest rumor surrounds a megadeal involving the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Multiple sources are reporting that a trade sending Suns' forward Amar'e Stoudemire to Cleveland for center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and forward J.J. Hickson is near completion. 

The addition of Stoudemire would serve two very important purposes for the Cavs. In the near term, adding Amar'e would position Cleveland as a virtual front-runner for the NBA Championship. Already possessing the league's best record of 43-11, the Cavs would gain a player averaging 21.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season.

In the long term, this transaction would serve as a significant bargaining chip in Cleveland's quest to re-sign superstar LeBron James. James is in the final year of his contract and is waiting until this upcoming offseason to decide if he will stay in Cleveland or sign with another team. 

The Cavs have already offered James the league maximum contract.  So, his decision rests more on what team provides him the best chance of winning.  The New York Knicks are in position to offer James a massive contract this offseason. But, if James favors winning over endorsement exposure, adding Stoudemire places the already strong Cavs way ahead of the struggling Knicks in that department.

Stoudemire could become a free agent after this or next season. Reports indicate that he would sign a long term deal with Cleveland, if he knew James was in for the long haul as well.  

The Suns, who are in clear salary dump mode, see Hickson as a strong, young player for the long term. Ilgauskas and his $12 million salary would probably be released shortly after the trade's completion.   This move would allow the Suns to gain further salary cap flexibility. 

Ironically, Ilgauskas would almost certainly re-sign with Cleveland, after this move took place.

James and a frontcourt of Stoudemire, O'Neal, Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao, would be an absolute force to reckon with.

Stay tuned to for the latest news involving the NBA trade deadline.