NBA and Player Mobility
For years, fans of the NBA have dealt with the heartbreak of their favorite player leaving their team. Through free agency decisions and trades, players and franchises have continuously showed viewers that professional basketball is not just a game, it is also a business. However, many claim that loyalty has been scarce within the NBA over the past several years.
The most notable example is in 2010 when LeBron James made his infamous decision. During his ESPN special "The Decision", James announced that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and signing with the Miami Heat in free agency. After "The Decision" aired, the league was left with the understanding that the Heat would be a powerful team in the Eastern Conference, as James had joined forces with all-stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. This move was not only a defining moment for James' career but also set the scene for what the NBA would become in the following years.
During James' four years with the Heat he made four consecutive NBA finals appearances, winning two consecutive titles. The overall success of Miami during this time seemed to inspire a new era in the NBA, the era of the "super team". The correlation between NBA super teams and the increase in player mobility is simple. It is easier to win by recruiting free agents than by waiting for young players to develop. This has resulted in what could be described as a free-for-all between players and their franchises as both fight to find fast ways to win championships.
From a franchise perspective it is easy to see this as nothing more than business. For example, last year the Toronto Raptors decided to trade their star player Demar Derozan for NBA sensation Kawhi Leonard in an attempt to make a breakthrough in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Despite publicly stating that he did not want to be traded, Derozan found himself being traded to the San Antonio Spurs. This season, Harrison Barnes was traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Sacramento Kings during a game. This sparked a response via social media fro, none other than Lebron James.
"So let me guess this is cool cause they had to do what was best for the franchise right," James stated on his rant via Instagram.
James goes on to talk about how he believes franchises should start being more honest with their players. However, many players treat their franchises with this same mentality. . Perhaps the most notable incident of this in recent history can be seen when all-Star Kevin Durant decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors during his 2016 free agency. Durant, widely considered to be one of the best players in the NBA, left the Oklahoma City Thunder after he began to feel dissatisfied with the organization. The Warriors on the other hand were just coming off a historic 73-9 win loss record with the help of three all-stars in Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. It became evident to fans that Durant joining the Warriors was the start of a dynasty.
Two years and two championships later, Durant and the Warriors continue to dominate the NBA. With the recent addition of Demarcus Cousins, the Warriors remain the favorites to win the NBA Finals. Now more than ever players are scrambling to get into prime position for a championship run. Many players are beginning to grow impatient with their teams and it is becoming more common to see star players requesting trades out of losing franchises in hopes of finding title contention elsewhere.
However, at the end of the day the NBA is a business, and from a business perspective you can not blame either the players or the franchises. After all, in the NBA the ultimate goal is to win championships. This does not make up for the lack of competition within the league. NBA super teams make the post-season playoff race anti-climatic and predictable. Leaving us the question, has player mobility become an issue in the NBA?