With the NBA Draft come and gone free agency will soon be upon us and it’ll be a big summer once again with so many stars potentially on the move. One of the biggest moves of this free agency period already happened with Anthony Davis leaving New Orleans for Los Angeles. The Pelicans got a haul of a trade and the buzz is already building with Zion Williamson now a Pelican. Zion has to replace AD but David Griffin doesn’t have very long to do some serious winning.
Anthony Davis demanding a trade to leave for greener pastures, actually a bigger market, is a reminder of how short teams have to try and win. After the rookie deal there’s not a player that will turn down the restricted big money deal, but after that the money goes by the wayside bigger cities, championships and more stardom calls. Even if you navigate the crap shoot of the draft and get a star, you better win quickly or else you’ll be trading your star.
AD is the most recent but he won’t be the last. Most of this big free agent class will all leave before signing that third huge contract, and Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard all forced their way out of town beforehand. Kemba Walker is another free agent this summer who will likely pass on the third contract with his original team. Dwight Howard, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward are stars that left town for greener pastures as well.
There are some that stick around, like Devin Booker and Russell Westbrook, but what have they won? They can’t get free agents to get there, though give the Thunder credit for acquiring Paul George, but we can all agree that Phoenix is going nowhere in a hurry. Some will try and grind it out, Damian Lillard made waves when he said it’s Portland forever for him, but will he win a championship?
Living in Utah the next big star to watch is Donovan Mitchell. They’re a team competing and trying to win a championship but they made the Mike Conley trade to try and maximize the time they have with him before those seven years run up. Maybe he will be loyal and stick it out with the Jazz like other stars around him, but the odds are against him. Can the Utah front office beat the odds and deliver a championship?
No one is cheering against these small market teams, but the truth is in this age of player movement the bigger market’s call seems to win out way more often than not. If you can draft a star, a tall task already, can you win with them? The Philadelphia 76ers sucked their way through ‘the process’ and would seem to be in a pretty good position but even after the trades for Butler and Tobias Harris they didn’t even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Then contracts get expensive and teams start making decisions.
The Raptors just won with a mostly homegrown team, but traded for Kawhi to take them over the top. The Spurs built their teams and are seemingly the exception to the rule. Drafting a Hall of Famer in Tim Duncan and having possibly the best coach to ever take the sideline. Golden State alway sbuilt a champion but it was the signing of Kevin Durrant that took them back over the top. In the modern era it’s about the stars; the big three in Boston, Miami, Cleveland trading for Durant, signing Shaq for the Lakers. Drafrting a core goes a long way but it’s the signing/trading for a superstar that puts the team over the top.
The chances of winning an NBA championship are already long, but if you’re a small market the odds just get even tougher without the ability to bring in free agents. During those two contracts your stars get recruited and the call of teaming up to try and win a championship seems to win out. Zion is a Pelican star now, but as soon as this season tips off David Griffin has seven years to build a champion. Even with all the picks they’ve acquired it’s a challenge, just look at how Danny Ainge failed to pull the trigger to put Boston over the top even with Kyrie Irving.