TooAthletic Takes

Jimmy Butler forced his way out of Minnesota, Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, and now Paul George (with an assist from Kawhi Leonard) is a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.  When it comes to the NBA offseason, any year can become a free agency year for a player, and all a team can do is blow up their plans and go along for the ride.

In a sport where “max contracts” means five years is the limit and your earning potential has a known ceiling, the only leverage NBA players have left is being able to stand in the corner, hold their breath and tell their team to trade them, or they will be unhappy.  History has shown when a situation like this arises, the only thing a team can do, or at least has done so far, is comply with the player’s request and trade them, and in the process blow up their own plans and start all over again.  With stories now coming out that franchises are now upset that players use their power too much to go play with their friends, the conversation will likely start about what teams can do to stop it – the stark reality is that the answer is not much at all.

Sure, teams can deny a player’s request to be traded, leaving the franchise with a player who doesn’t want to be around in a locker room full of other players who will end up disliking that player and not trusting team management.  Imagine if the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t accept the five first round draft picks and the rights to swap two more with the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Paul George, a player who wanted to join his friend Kawhi Leonard … Would you really want Paul George or any other player on your team knowing that they are unhappy and you weren’t able to get back anything for him after having that kind of offer on the table?  The fans of any team would go crazy, and rightly so.

Are we going to get to a point where teams are forced to ask for a no trade clause in their contract from a player?  How long will even the average player or an agent take before they stopped laughing at a team president or general manager after a request like that?  Can the NBA work out a deal with the players in the next collective bargaining agreement that says max contract players can’t be traded for a certain number of years during their five year deal?  Sure, but if I’m on the other side of the table, I will be asking for a lot in return for a concession like that; and the price will likely be too high for the franchises to stomach.

At the end of the day the management team for any NBA franchise can be blindsided by a trade request from any superstar at any time; and unlike the NFL, where players can be cut and lose the remaining salary on their contracts, NBA contracts are guaranteed.  So the only way to deal with a player in today’s game seems to be give them what they want despite what your future plans were.  In the future, will NBA teams have players agree not to request a trade while under a max contract?  I doubt it, which means teams should begin writing their plans on an Etch-A-Sketch to make it easier when their superstar wants to leave and join his buddy on another super team.

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