In recent years, the NBA has seen a spike in publicly demanded trades from players, some of which have years left on their contracts. The Pacers have not been immune to this with recent trade demands from players like Paul George as well as rumored ones with Victor Oladipo.
This is not a new phenomenon, with players such as Wilt Chamberlin and Kareem Abdul-Jabber demanding trades from franchises towards big markets. So in some way, this has always been present and will always be present. And that may not be a bad thing.
What we don’t want is there to be too much power in the hands of either party. And one could make an argument that for too long front offices have had too much power to the players’ detriment. But unfortunately, the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction now.
In recent years there have been an increase in public trade demands with ESPN listing out the following examples in a recent article:
"Irving’s and Durant’s demands followed a recent trend of high-profile NBA players asking to be traded, from Jimmy Butler with the Minnesota Timberwolves to Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans, to Paul George with the Oklahoma City Thunder, to Russell Westbrook with the Washington Wizards, to Irving doing it once before with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017. Not to mention James Harden with the Brooklyn Nets just last season, putting the first crack in the foundation of Brooklyn’s supposed superteam that never fully formed."
But if you take a closer look, you start to see a more interesting development.
Trade demands disproportionally impact small market teams
Irving demanded to leave Cleveland. Butler demanded to leave Minnesota. Paul George demanded to leave Indiana and Oklahoma City. Westbrook demanded to leave Washington. And where to the players go?Irving went to Boston. Butler went to Miami. Paul George went to Los Angeles. Westbrook also went to Los Angeles.
It’s a mass exodus from small markets to big markets. So how does this game end? Where is the inevitable conclusion to this trajectory we are on?
We already know that younger people are more often fans of players rather than teams. A study by Nielsen polling showed that younger fans are more loyal to individual players than to teams. And what does this mean for the NBA, if all of the big-name players are moving to the big-markets, and all of the fans are following players not teams?
That, my friends, is the death of the small market franchise.
The NBA has a problem on their hands, one they are choosing to ignore. We will see how that plays out for them in the coming decades. My guess? They will come to regret ignoring the plight of over half of their league.