The 10 Most Untouchable NBA Players
The National Basketball Association is a superstar-driven enterprise. Plain and simple, teams that feature the biggest and brightest stars compete year-in, year-out for championships while the rest of the league seemingly runs in place.
Cream of the crop talent not only drives the product on the floor but also the entertainment aspect that puts proverbial butts in seats and drives the revenue that every professional sports league craves. Finding those one or two players that drive a market and contribute to both the growth of the team and, in many ways, the home city isn’t an easy task but one that many NBA teams have accomplished.
Holding on to these players is crucial and, barring an unforeseen trade request, there are certain players that organizations around the league simply refuse to talk about or even consider in trade scenarios.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the most crucial and untouchable players in the game today:
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
One of just a hand full of NBA players to feature a no-trade clause in his contract, Kobe Bryant has to be considered the most untouchable player in the game today. The fact that Bryant controls his own destiny should be the top reason, as the NBA veteran in the midst of his 17th season has stated repeatedly that he wants to finish his career in purple and gold.
Bringing to the table five NBA championship rings, multiple Most Valuable Player awards (one in the regular season and two in the NBA Finals) and leading the Lakers in scoring virtually every season he’s been there makes Bryant untouchable. Also, when you consider that Bryant has a whopping $60 million owed to him over the last two years of his contract, it’s safe to say the Black Mamba isn’t going anywhere.
2. LeBron James, Miami HEAT
While LeBron James doesn’t feature a no-trade clause like a few other players on this list, the HEAT superstar isn’t leaving South Beach any time soon. With the reigning Finals MVP leading the way at third in the NBA at scoring per game (27.3), sixth in field goal percentage (56.5 percent – highest among the top-35 NBA scorers) and tied for 11th in assists per contest (6.9), Miami is looking like the top team in the East once again.
Arguably the best all-around player in the game today, James has about as good of a chance at getting traded as NBA All-Star Saturday Night has at being exciting.
3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Still just 24 years old and not yet in the prime of his career, Kevin Durant is the best player on the defending Western Conference champs in Oklahoma City. One of the most humble NBA stars despite the monumental stature of his game, Durant is fully entrenched in the OKC community and even played an intramural flag football game with local college kids just a few seasons ago at Oklahoma State University.
The current NBA league-leader in scoring at 29.2 points per contest, and reigning scoring champion overall three years running, a case could be made for Durant – not James – as the NBA’s best player. Like James, Durant is the best player for a Thunder squad on the short list of NBA contenders in 2012-13.
4. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Almost assuredly the next young NBA star to break his way into the upper-echelon of players in the league, Kyrie Irving continues to turn heads at just 20 years old. Carrying the underwhelming Cavaliers on his back all season long, Irving is sixth in the NBA in scoring – averaging 23.5 points per game – while still coming into his own as a point guard on the professional level.
Using All-Star weekend to provide the backdrop this past week for his coming out party as a key piece to the future of the NBA, Irving’s ceiling is sky-high and it would be nearly impossible for the Cavs to find equal value for their young budding superstar. Irving is guaranteed to remain in Cleveland for at least the next three seasons and the smart money says the Cavaliers match any offer made for him before the 2015-16 season.
5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Another one of the illustrious few in the NBA with no-trade kickers in their deals, Dirk Nowitzki has been the heart and soul of the Mavericks over the course of his 15-year NBA career. Despite Nowitzki battling injury and working his way back into form, and the fact that Dallas is floundering at just 23-29 on the season, Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban continues to label the 12-time All Star as untouchable.
Like Bryant, Nowitzki has also won multiple MVP awards, one during the course of the Mavericks 67-15 run in the 2006-07 season and another as the seven-foot sniper led Dallas to its first NBA title in 2011. Realistically, with Nowitzki averaging some of the lowest numbers of his career across the boards and having veto power, Dallas getting any kind of respectable return from their superstar at this point in the season isn’t a possibility or an option.
6. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
At 36 years old, Tim Duncan is the elder statesmen on this list but there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that the four-time NBA champion will close out his career in San Antonio. The first, and most obvious, reason that Duncan will never be traded from the Spurs is the simple fact that he is another player on this list that features a no-trade clause in his contract. Putting up his best number in years – over 17 points, nearly 10 boards and almost three blocks per contest – certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Duncan isn’t going anywhere he doesn’t want to play and it’s utterly apparent that San Antonio, the team with the best record in the West and the place he’s called home for over 15 years now, is where he’ll retire.
7. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Perhaps the most heavily marketed player in basketball, Blake Griffin is a goldmine both on and off the court for the freshly successful, and long time “other” Los Angeles team, the Clippers. Not only does Griffin’s high-flying style get fans jumping out of their seats, the star power and excitement he represents keeps season ticket holders paying for seats as well.
As talented as he is as a player, and as excellent as he could very well be with some seasoning, Griffin is a marketing supernova that keeps Clippers’ revenues high and, probably most importantly in L.A., owner Donald Sterling’s pockets heavy.
8. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Because of a freak injury that happened during the opening round of the 2012 NBA playoffs, many fans seem to have forgotten just how dominant 2010-11 NBA MVP Derrick Rose is on the court. Rose, who’s expected to make his return to action at some point in the next week or so, was clearly one of the best players in the game before suffering a torn ACL last April.
Much like every other player on this list, a talent like Rose comes along very rarely and trading the team’s MVP isn’t something that Chicago would even consider.
9. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
To understand why Tony Parker is on this list, you only have to look at the Spurs’ track record of not trading their superstars. With Parker’s illustrious resume playing next to the River Walk, there’s about as good of a chance for the former Finals MVP to get traded as a person NOT finding good Tex-Mex in San Antonio. It’s simply not a realistic possibility.
Being the best player on a team that’s cruising at a modest 30 games over .500 at 42-12 on the season doesn’t hurt, either.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Perhaps the most unheralded player in the NBA, LaMarcus Aldridge continues to play elite-level basketball in Portland for the Blazers. A top-10 NBA scorer for the season, Aldridge is the only player in the NBA to average more than 20 points and to grab more than 8.5 rebounds per contest – something even some the most avid NBA fans probably aren’t privy to.
The backbone of the rebuilding effort in Portland (which, to nearly everyone’s surprise, has transitioned much more smoothly than expected), Aldridge has to be considered among the few NBA stars that are a lock to stay with their respective clubs.
What does your top-10 untouchable list look like? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!