The NBA may have a problem on its hands and it’s not the level of competition or play on the court. But in the way that players are using contracts to get exactly what they want around the league. Player empowerment is something that has been around for awhile now but has picked up steam over the last decade or so. Giving power to the players to pick and choose where they want to play is a beautiful thing because it allows the athletes to have some control over their situation. However, it can become a problem when players use that control as leverage against the franchises.
It seems like almost every offseason or during the regular season, a star player forces their way out of a situation. Recently, we have seen players such as Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and others do this. The majority of players that do this tend to only have one season left on their current contracts so they let the team know that they will likely not be resigning. This allows the team to seek trade options, so they don’t lose the player in free agency for nothing.
However, this player empowerment becomes a player when players that have many years left on a deal that they signed, decide they want out. Paul George is the prime example of this because he re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a four-year deal, only to ask to be traded a season later. This type of issue sets a bad example around the league that players can essentially do whatever they want, no matter how many years they have left on their deal. The power is completely with the players and not with the teams at all.
James Harden forced his way out of Houston to Brooklyn and shortly after, then forced his way to Philadelphia. This causes teams to scramble and while sometimes it can be a good thing, can be taking the empowerment a little too far. Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio as well. Yet, both Davis and Leonard only had one year left on their deals.
The new trend that seems to be happening is that players will sign extensions with their current teams because they know that the team can give them the most money and then shortly after, ask for a trade. The next player that could do this is Bradley Beal, who is eligible to sign a max deal with the Washington Wizards. What is to stop him from doing so to make more money and then a season later, decide that he wants to leave the Wizards. The rise in player empowerment has been a good thing for the league but with this new trend happening, expect the next CBA to address this.