This is the first of a two-part article looking at the rapid pace of change in the NBA. Part 1 looks at individual players.
Mario Chalmers was just the latest. Though he’s always played the “little brother” role for the Miami Heat, he was actually one of the longest-tenured players for one team in the entire league. In fact, there are only 13 players in the Association who have been with the same franchise* longer than Chalmers was to get berated by Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Mafia.
(*a necessary distinction in the cases of Nick Collison and Kevin Durant, both of whom began their careers with the dearly departed Sonics.)
While they aren’t exactly headed for the Ring of Honor with their respective teams, the recent exodus of stalwarts such as Jameer Nelson, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Roy Hibbert, Jason Thompson, Ty Lawson, Gerald Henderson, Channing Frye and Ersan Ilyasova has caused the number of teams without a single player acquired in the 2000s (or prior) to skyrocket. Add in the flashier transactions that saw Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge don a different jersey for the first time, and we’re up to 17 franchises that have turned over their entire roster since 2010.
The NFL is the league known for constant turnover, but the NBA has gotten its desired impact with its NFL-influenced CBA. Only nine current players have spent a decade uninterrupted in their current location (LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kirk Hinrich all returned to their original teams after years spent elsewhere), and that figures to be cut by at least a third as soon as next summer should Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and Udonis Haslem cease swimming upstream.
The complete list of the mere 26 players remaining still on the team with which they finished the Aughts:
A couple of striking things from the table:
-The only players who fit the criteria and are on teams they did not make their debut with: Matt Bonner and Zach Randolph (an odd couple if there ever was one). That just two veterans acquired before 2010 haven’t changed teams and/or retired seems unfathomable.
-Rondo and Aldridge turned out the lights on the 2006 NBA Draft, marking three years without a draftee remaining from those classes (2004-2006). A twist of fate here or there and that streak could extend, seeing as Class of 07 members Durant, Noah and Conley could all change zip codes next summer before hitting the 10-year Club.
The volume of players spending a decade in one place probably isn’t that different from prior generations (the closest approximation to that is looking up players who spent their whole career with one franchise), except in this age of advanced sports science, one would think that the longer primes of stars would facilitate them staying put, especially with the need to flee to a marquee television market alleviated in the League Pass Era, yet that’s not the case. For every Ginobili who takes discounts to stick around or Dirk Nowitzki who stays through the lean years, there’s a Vince Carter, racking up DNP-CDs in relative anonymity for his sixth team, or Paul Pierce, somehow wearing his third new uniform in three years.
That’s not to say there’s anything morally wrong about such things (after all, players rarely have power over who drafts them in the first place, and not everyone receives Tim Duncan’s kind of luck), just that it’s weird to think about an NBA where Al Horford, with all due respect to him, is the longest-tenured member of a team. There simply isn’t a young superstar who’s a lock to be around for over 15 years. The clock is ticking on Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC. No one could truly be surprised if Anthony Davis wanted to force his way out of New Orleans should they continue to have a lackluster supporting cast around him. Stephen Curry might be the best bet, except he entered the league older than most superstars, and he’s so unique that it’s hard to know how his game will age.
The lesson as always: enjoy Duncan, Kobe and Dirk while they’re still around.
Part 2 will run Monday, examining the larger impact of these trends on team-building and the league as a whole.