In the past decade or so, the NBA has seen its fair share of superstar trade demands, with those demands usually being met. Kevin Durant requested a trade out of Brooklyn last year, and we’ve watched the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis, to name a few, request trades. For years, the norm was that those players gave a list of teams they’d prefer to be traded to, with that usually being honored.
Damian Lillard and James Harden are the latest players to demand trades from teams. However, unlike all those that came before them, Lillard wasn’t sent to his previously preferred destination, the Heat, and Harden remains on the Sixers into training camp. Howard Beck of The Ringer opines that these two situations, in particular, prove that the NBA’s so-called “superstar empowerment era” has its limits.
Beck writes that the assumption all summer was that Lillard would end up in Miami. As mentioned, Durant requested a trade out of Brooklyn, naming Phoenix as his sole preferred destination, and he was dealt there at February’s deadline. According to Beck, front offices and league executives see this as a good thing.
One Eastern Conference executive said “teams are taking back control,” according to Beck, with another longtime general manager saying “it is a significant event that [Lillard] didn’t land where he wanted.”
Beck notes that these executives aren’t against player empowerment, but that the widespread trade requests by superstars were destabilizing to team’s progress. There have been 14 trade requests by who Beck defines as superstars in the last five years, including three from Harden.
Ultimately, the limit for these superstars comes with the “one team or nothing” approach, Beck reasons. While it worked out for the Suns, who had Mikal Bridges to send to Brooklyn in the Durant move, it diminished the market in the case of Lillard. “I think his chances of ending up in Miami would have been much greater [if he opened up the request to more teams],” one agent said to Beck.
We have more odds and ends from the basketball world:
- In an annual survey of EuroLeague general managers conducted by BasketNews, more than half (53.8%) predicted that Real Madrid center Edy Tavares would be the next EuroLeague player to go to the NBA. Last year, general managers picked Vasilije Micic to move to the NBA, and he eventually did, signing with the Thunder this offseason. Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report tweets that the Trail Blazers had significant interest in Tavares this offseason, but a significant buyout kept him in Madrid. The BasketNews report actually states that Portland actually submitted an offer, but with Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams on board, it’s unclear if they’ll continue interest. James Nnaji, Guerschon Yabusele, Marko Simonovic and Khalifa Diop also received votes. Tavares previously holds 13 games of NBA experience with Atlanta and Cleveland from 2015-17.
- In an annual piece (ESPN+ link), ESPN’s Zach Lowe put together his list of five intriguing players to watch out for in the 2023/24 season. Lowe avoids superstars, rookies and second-year players for the most part in his rankings. LaMelo Ball, Devin Vassell, Josh Giddey, Ayton and Immanuel Quickley are the five names Lowe selects to watch out for, with each having a chance to take their respective teams to the next level. I highly recommend reading the piece in full, as Lowe provides detailed breakdowns on each player.
- Following up on his piece about teams likely to overachieve, The Athletic’s John Hollinger broke down five teams that he believes will fall short relative to Vegas win total over/unders. Hollinger expects the Kings and Thunder to win fewer than 44.5 games, the Magic to win fewer than 36.5 games and the Bulls to win under 37.5 games. Of note, Hollinger also doesn’t think the Suns will reach their projected total of 52.5 wins, despite adding Bradley Beal and depth in the offseason. Hollinger reasons that health is a concern and that while he thinks they are certainly contenders in the postseason, the regular season might be bumpy.