Two years removed from a power shift that witnessed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sign in Brooklyn and Kawhi Leonard land with the LA Clippers, the NBA has seen superstar free-agency movement come to a standstill.
The days of Durant being recruited in the Hamptons or Leonard holding up free agency for days as teams await his decision are all but over for now, as multiple All-Star players have chosen to bypass free agency in favor of signing long-term contract extensions with their current teams.
The question teams are asking now is if this is a shift in how the league does business, or just a short-term blip.
“You are naive to think that the best way to build your roster is through free agency and not the draft and trades,” one Western Conference GM told ESPN. “Preserving cap space and waiting for that next great player to become available will get you fired.”
After a multiyear run of unprecedented superstar movement, the league’s top players are staying home more often than not. Of the 33 players who made the All-Star team in 2020 or 2021, just five of them — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Julius Randle — joined the team they represented at All-Star Weekend via free agency. Kyle Lowry and James Harden are the only two players from the top 35 of last season’s NBArank who have since changed teams, and both were traded (though Lowry was a sign-and-trade deal in free agency).
And this isn’t a trend that looks to be reversing anytime soon.
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