More common than not in today's NBA landscape is seeing franchise players leave the team that drafted them in favor of a larger market and/or a more appealing situation in order to come closer to winning an NBA Championship. In the 2018 NBA offseason the likes of LeBron James (left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time) and DeMar DeRozan (traded from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs) left the teams they were drafted by via completely different scenarios. In James' case, he had decided the best move for himself and his family would be if he took his talents to Hollywood to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as opposed to resigning with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In Derozan's case, he was unwillingly and unhappily traded (mark your calendars for February 22, 2019 for DeRozan's return to his former stomping ground at the newly named ScotiaBank Arena).
DeRozan and James are far from the only players to leave the team that drafted them. In DeRozan's case many fans were hurt like DeRozan was when he was dealt because when you think of Toronto Raptors basketball one of the first names that comes to mind (if not the first name that comes to mind) is DeRozan. In James' case fans largely felt that he'd earned the right to decide where he played basketball for the 2018-2019 season. Situations and circumstances vary based on the player. Here, we look at ten players who should've stayed with the team that drafted them and ten that were right to leave.
20 Should Have Stayed: DeMar DeRozan
Selected ninth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, DeMar DeRozan played for the Raptors for nine seasons before he was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2018 offseason in a trade headlined by the disgruntled Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan did not choose to depart from Toronto; on the contrary, he was largely upset when President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri lied to him regarding if he was in trade rumors. Furthermore, Ujiri told DeRozan he was in the team's future plans which only added fuel to the fire. DeRozan holds an abundance of franchise records for the Raptors which include but are not limited to games played, points scored and field goals made. DeRozan will forever be a legend in the city dubbed the "6" by his good friend and rapper Drake.
19 Right To Leave: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant's decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors on July 4th, 2016 will forever be a polarizing decision to say the least. There are the majority of folks who feel Durant's decision to join a team who had just gone 73-9 in the regular season and was one win away from repeating as back-to-back NBA Champions is nothing more than a weak one. Then there are those folks who believe Durant was right to depart OKC as it gave him the best opportunity to win. Durant's played for the Warriors for two seasons now and he has two NBA Championships as well as two NBA Finals MVP awards to show. Durant didn't make a decision for the fans; Durant made the best decision for himself and the results loudly declare he made the right decision.
18 Should Have Stayed: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard looked to be the heir apparent to lead the San Antonio Spurs to the promise land once Tim Duncan had called it a career. Yet, the 2017-18 NBA season for Kawhi Leonard was one which pitted a disgruntled NBA superstar against the NBA's model franchise. Leonard had felt that the Spurs doctors had mishandled diagnosing his injuries and was also upset about Tony Parker proclaiming that his quad injury was much worse than Leonard's quad injury. Leonard demanded a trade in order to play in a larger market. He left a situation in San Antonio where he had the luxury of playing under one of the NBA's brightest minds in Gregg Popovich along with a winning culture that players yearn to be a part of. The grass isn't always greener on the other side, Mr. Leonard.
17 Right To Leave: Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett began his career in the Twin Cities in 1995 when he was selected fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves out of Farragut Academy. Garnett had the best years of his career in Minnesota as he was named NBA MVP in 2004 along with racking up four selections to the All-NBA First Team and nine NBA All-Star selections. Despite all of Garnett's personal success the Wolves struggled to establish themselves as a contender as they only made it out of the first round in one season during Garnett's original stint in Minny. Garnett was dealt to the Boston Celtics where he won the NBA Championship that had long evaded him in 2008 along with being a perennial contender more often than not annually with the C's.
16 Should Have Stayed: Tony Parker
When fans think of the San Antonio Spurs the first two names that come up are future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and Head Coach Gregg Popovich (and rightfully so). The next name(s) that come up are the other two key cogs associated with the forenamed Duncan and Popovich are Argentinian sharpshooting sixth man Manu Ginobili and the man who spearheaded the Spurs offensive attack for fifteen plus years, Tony Parker. Parker signed with the Charlotte Hornets in the 2018 NBA offseason in a decision that surprised many. Parker, now thirty-six likely does not have many years left and for him to don a jersey other than the customary silver, black and white of the Spurs at this stage in his career will be awkward for all parties (Parker included).
15 Right To Leave: Gordon Hayward
No one predicted the Utah Jazz would be a team that would be a playoff team let alone win a playoff series once Gordon Hayward decided to leave in favor of the Boston Celtics in 2017 NBA free agency. Hayward was the face of the Jazz and was coming off of his first NBA All-Star selection. However, Hayward saw an enticing and more favorable situation in Boston. For those who don't remember, Hayward and Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens came a mere favorable bounce away from upsetting the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils in 2010 to win the NCAA Championship. Stevens and Hayward didn't win an NCAA Championship- but, the Celtics have arguably the best odds sans the Warriors to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy not just in 2019 but for years to come.
14 Should Have Stayed: Dwyane Wade
In fairness to Dwyane Wade, he never wanted to leave South Beach in favor of the Windy City in 2016 NBA free agency. On the contrary, Wade felt slighted by the Heat's head honcho, Pat Riley, as he had taken pay cuts in years past (most notably to bring Chris Bosh and LeBron James to Miami in 2010). Now, Wade felt it was only right for him to get paid for his financial sacrifices in past years. Riley had lowballed Wade and he decided to leave Miami in favor of his hometown Chicago Bulls. To this day seeing Wade in that Bulls jersey (and Cleveland Cavaliers jersey) is awkward and to this day Riley laments letting the greatest player in franchise history leave under his watch.
13 Right To Leave: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving sent shockwaves across NBA circles when he requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 offseason after hearing that the Cavaliers had trade discussions centered around him. In addition, Irving wanted to step out of the shadow of LeBron James and show he could lead a team to the promise land with him being the face of the franchise. Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics where he had a bittersweet first season that was cut short due to injury. Irving is surrounded by a core that is one of the league's deepest featuring veteran All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Al Horford and young and promising future All-Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics will be at the top of the East for years to come.
12 Should Have Stayed: Karl Malone
Arguably the greatest duo in NBA history to never win an NBA Championship, Karl Malone and John Stockton were the epitome of a Point Guard and Power Forward establishing chemistry on the NBA hardwood that infuriated the opposition. The two played for the Utah Jazz from 1985-2003 and from 1984-2003 respectively. However, in 2003, Stockton decided to call it a career and retired. On the other hand, Malone decided his playing days weren't over. Malone inked with the Los Angeles Lakers in order to join forces with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Payton. Malone did end up making it to the NBA Finals with the Lakers, but he did not end up winning the NBA Championship that had alluded him his whole career as the Detroit Pistons defeated the Lakers 4-1. To this day, Malone in a Lakers jersey is an awkward sight.
11 Right To Leave: Paul George
When Paul George had informed the Indiana Pacers he was requesting a trade in the 2017 NBA offseason as he did not plan on resigning with the club in 2018 NBA free agency, GM Kevin Pritchard obliged. George was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade that surprised any and all who had the slightest interest in the NBA. George had gave his all to the Pacers and felt that the team who looked to be in rebuilding mode was not the best team for him to be a part of at this stage in his career. George fit well next to the face of the Thunder franchise, Russell Westbrook in his first season in OKC. George inked with the Thunder for four more seasons and alongside Westbrook look to be a contender for the foreseeable future.
10 Should Have Stayed: Ray Allen
While Ray Allen was a integral piece to the Boston Celtics winning their last NBA Championship in 2008, he isn't exactly met with the same acclaim and praise as the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are met with. The reason for this is Allen decided to leave the Celtics in free agency in 2012 and "took his talents to South Beach" to align alongside Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. To make matters worse, the Celtics had just lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Allen did win an NBA Championship in his first season with the Heat and hit one of the most clutch shots in NBA history in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. However, Allen is largely the least remembered "big 4" member in both Boston and Miami. Many Celtics fans have still not forgiven Allen and notably Garnett and Rondo have not.
9 Right To Leave: Al Horford
Al Horford may have won back-to-back NCAA Championships during his tenure as a Florida Gator, but in the summer of 2016, Horford had decided if he were to win an NBA Championship he'd have to jump ship from Atlanta as the team was looking to rebuild. As a result, Horford inked a four-year $113 million dollar deal with the team with the most NBA Championships, the Boston Celtics. Horford had enjoyed playoff success with the Hawks, but if he wanted to continue to enjoy playoff success for years to come he'd have to do so in a different city. Horford has the luxury of playing with young promising talent in Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum along with playing with the All-Star duo of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. The future in Boston is arguably the brightest in the NBA for years to come.
8 Should Have Stayed: LaMarcus Aldridge
When LaMarcus Aldridge decided to leave the Portland Trail Blazers in favor of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2015 NBA free agency period many thought that the Spurs would be the team to beat in the 2015-16 season. For one, it looked like the Spurs had replaced the aging Tim Duncan with a younger and albeit less polished but certainly formidable big man. Furthermore, the Spurs also had one of the league's most promising young players in Kawhi Leonard holding down the Small Forward slot. Aldridge has been a focal part of the Spurs offense as he was in Portland, however, a juggernaut by the name of the Golden State Warriors (along with other powerhouses such as the Houston Rockets) stand firmly ahead of the Spurs. With Leonard now in Toronto, Aldridge's decision to depart Portland may be a regrettable one in retrospect.
7 Right To Leave: Chris Paul
To this day, the height of the Clippers success was when the team was spearheaded by Point Guard Chris Paul and to a lesser degree big man Blake Griffin. In the 2017 offseason Paul had determined that the Clippers had reached their pinnacle and if he wanted to win an NBA Championship he'd have to leave"The City of Angels." Fortunately for Paul, he was a free agent and in a sign and trade which had the likes of Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams heading to "La La Land," Paul found himself a member of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were one game away from reaching the NBA Finals in Paul's inaugural season in "H-Town" and many fans argue that had Paul played in Game 6 and/or Game 7 of the WCF the Rockets would be in the NBA Finals and not the Golden State Warriors. The duo of Harden and Paul showed out in year one and have fans excited for what they can do in year two.
6 Should Have Stayed: DeMarcus Cousins
If you were to ask the New Orleans Pelicans front office they'd tell you they offered DeMarcus Cousins a two-year deal worth $40 million to resign him. But, Cousins adamantly denies such an offer was made. Cousins sent shockwaves throughout NBA circles when he decided to join the defending two-time NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in a move which screamed "the rich get richer." Cousins move has been widely criticized to the point that many attribute it to being a more cowardly move than when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State. The Pelicans featured without a shadow of a doubt the scariest front court with Anthony Davis alongside Cousins and also had key cogs such as Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic on their roster. It will be harder for Cousins to receive respect as a Warrior then it was for Durant.
5 Right To Leave: Shaquille O'Neal
The Orlando Magic looked to be one of the NBA's most promising franchises in 1996 as they featured a blossoming guard by the name of Penny Hardaway alongside a force in the paint who was quickly becoming one of the league's most dominant players, Shaquille O'Neal. For reasons unknown to anyone other than the Orlando Magic brass, the Magic decided to lowball O'Neal in contract negotiations in the free agency period of 1996. O'Neal instead signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as General Manager Jerry West was more than willing to offer O'Neal a seven-year deal for $121 million. Despite the ups and downs that O'Neal experienced with fellow superstar teammate Kobe Bryant, the duo won three straight NBA Championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002; the Orlando Magic have not won an NBA Championship in franchise history.
4 Should Have Stayed: Dwight Howard
It's hard to believe, but it's been six years since Dwight Howard sported an Orlando Magic jersey. Since then Howard has played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets. That's four teams in six years and Howard will be playing for his fifth team in seven years in the 2018-219 NBA season as he'll line up alongside the likes of Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr and John Wall as a member of the Washington Wizards. Injuries along with not exactly being deemed a good fit in the forenamed stops has led t0 Howard going from the NBA's best Center to one who is no longer regarded in such high acclaim. Howard clashed with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles; Howard didn't mesh with James Harden in Houston; he was dealt for pennies on the dollar from Atlanta to Charlotte. Howard's success outside of Orlando has been very minimal.
3 Right To Leave: Steve Nash
During the free agency period in the 2004 NBA offseason, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban had decided against resigning the team's starting Point Guard, Steve Nash (a move he's referred to as his biggest NBA mistake). Nash signed with the Phoenix Suns and immediately turned them into a contender. Not to mention, Nash won back-to-back MVP's in his first two seasons in "The Valley of the Sun." Unfortunately for Nash, the Suns were never able to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy and never even made it to the NBA Finals. Nash racked up six All-Star selections alongside three All-NBA First Team selections during his time as a Sun. Fortunately for Nash he proved he was well worth the six-year deal for $63 million- a number Cuban was unwilling to pay for the Canadian PG.
2 Should Have Stayed: Hakeem Olajuwon
To be fair to Hakeem Olajuwon it wasn't exactly his decision to leaveHouston, but to be fair to the Houston Rockets, they did offer him a one-year deal worth $13 million in the 2001 offseason which many considered to be above market value for the aging Olajuwon. Olajuwon decided against signing the deal and was dealt to the Toronto Raptors where he spent one season before calling it a career. Olajuwon is widely regarded as the greatest player in Rockets history and led the franchise to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995- the franchise's only NBA Championships up to date. Olajuwon, then 38, was on the decline and it was his first and only season in which he averaged single digit points (7.1) and a career low in rebounds (6.). Fortunately, most don't remember Olajuwon played for the Raptors and this is likely something Olajuwon is happy that fans do not remember.
1 Right To Leave: LeBron James
When LeBron James brought his talents back to Cleveland by signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, fans were stunned. James adamantly proclaimed that his goal was to deliver an NBA Championship to the people of Northeast Ohio and in 2016 James did just that. James made a promise and he delivered and in 2018 when he'd decided the best move for him was to leave Cleveland once again in favor of the Los Angeles Lakers, fans were a lot more receptive and the backlash was minimal (if that). James will now get a chance to lead a young and promising core which features the likes of Lonz0 Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma in the NBA's ultra talented Western Conference. James is made for challenges and his quest to lead the Lakers to the promise land is just the next challenge that's placed in front of him.