Ask LeBron, who in the eyes of many, somehow went from being the best player in his sport to the second-best player on his team. Or ask Vince Carter, who suddenly went from 20-5-5 per game to barely worth an NBA contract. Or ask Yao Ming, who went from franchise centerpiece to trade bait in the snap of an ankle.
The NBA is a “What have you done for me lately?” business, where you’re only as good as your last week. So in using the term “untouchable,” remember that nobody is truly untouchable. Everybody from Shaq to Wilt Chamberlain has been traded before, and superstars will be traded again. A bad enough injury, one too many postseason flops, an embarrassing off-court transgression — a lot of things can make a guy suddenly available where he once seemed unavailable. That’s why players don’t believe in “loyalty” to an organization like they used to, because they’ve all figured out that organizations are only loyal when players are useful to them.
The idea of untouchables came up in the Dime office again this week when reports surfaced that Blake Griffin had been targeted by the Nuggets in their Carmelo Anthony trade talks. Apparently, Denver contacted the Clippers a few times about sending them ‘Melo in a package for Blake, and the Clippers weren’t trying to hear it. At all. Who else holds off-limits status in the League? Here are 10 guys that won’t be traded anytime soon:
KEVIN DURANT, Thunder
Not only is KD one of the three to five best players in the League and on pace to lead the NBA in scoring every year until his arm falls off, he actually embraces the small-town atmosphere of Oklahoma City and has fallen in love with his team and his teammates. The Thunder wouldn’t trade him for anybody right now. Not even home state hero …
BLAKE GRIFFIN, Clippers
Hollywood hasn’t seen a star shine so bright on the scene so soon like this since Justin Bieber — and for once the town’s shiny new sports star isn’t a guy who plays for the Lakers. The Clippers have made some head-scratching moves in the past, but trading Blake won’t be one of them.
DERRICK ROSE, Bulls
Every team is looking for a great point guard to carry them through the next decade, and the Bulls have arguably the best in the NBA right now in Rose, who is also a beloved hometown product. D-Rose is at least the best scoring PG in the League and is in contention for his first MVP award.
KOBE BRYANT, Lakers
Not even if he demands a trade. It’s not so much that the L.A. front office has an undying loyalty to Kobe, it’s that they see how their fans are unshakable in their love for Kobe and they won’t ruin that (until they have to). Especially since Andrew Bynum hasn’t yet established himself as a dependable future-of-the-franchise type, Kobe is going to be The Man for as long as his body holds up.
RAJON RONDO, Celtics
Even if you don’t think Rondo is the best player of the Celtics right now (although he is), he will only keep improving as KG, Pierce and Ray get older and fade away. Yes, Boston will have to surround Rondo with good scorers and the team can’t depend on him to put up 20 points a night, but there are only one or two PG’s in the League who run an offense better than Rondo. It would be like the Colts trading Peyton Manning.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Trail Blazers
With their history of injuries, the Blazers have to hang onto LMA as long as he’s healthy and looking like he can be a franchise guy. This season he’s been at his best and is playing like the true low-post threat Portland wanted in the first place.
DWIGHT HOWARD, Magic
Even as the League is increasingly designed for guards and wings, the franchise big man is still like a winning Powerball ticket. Especially now that he’s showing marked improvement in his offensive game, Dwight is staying in Orlando as long as he wants to be there.
AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE, Knicks
He wanted to come to New York and take on the challenge and stare down the spotlight. No matter what system the Knicks are running or who is playing point guard, they won’t give away a big man who can hit threes, create his own shot and demolish any defense in between him and the rim.
LEBRON JAMES, Heat
Why not Dwyane Wade? Because LeBron is the best player on the team, he’s younger, and he doesn’t have a history of injuries. If the Heatles ever start feuding and it came down to a “him or me” situation, Wade would end up leaving town.
ROY HIBBERT, Pacers
This spot used to be reserved for Danny Granger, but Hibbert is a young 7-footer who has shown enough improvement to where Indiana wouldn’t take a chance losing him anytime soon. Granger may or may not have plateaued. The exact location of Hibbert’s ceiling is still undefined.