‘Traditional’ no-trade clauses in the NBA are possible, but rare, with only six of them currently in existence. They belong to Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, the latter three all getting one in the contracts they signed this summer. These vetos apply to any trades throughout the life of the contract, and are not lost if one trade goes through – Garnett, for example, keeps his no-trade clause for any future trades he might be in, despite his acquiescence to the trade to Brooklyn last year.
To be eligible for one, a player has to have spent eight seasons in the league, four of which must have been with the team with whom he is signing the new contract containing the clause. They don’t have to have been the four years immediately prior to the signing, however – Cleveland, for example, could have put a no-trade clause in the maximum contract LeBron James signed with them this summer, due to the service time he spent there between 2003 and 2010. They didn’t, however, and so only those six ‘traditional’ no-trade clauses exist. (It also matters not how long the contract is, as long as the criteria in the opening are met.) Devin Harris could also have done so with Dallas, which would have been a laugh, yet it is apparent why these devices are rare and reserved only for the best.
There also however exist some slightly more funky no-trade provisions, born out of salary cap technicalities, that give certain players no-trade powers that you would not be expecting. Cole Aldrich, for example, can veto any trade he is in, while LeBron cannot. And this probably needs explaining.
Aldrich et al have their rights to veto come from a technicality of Bird rights. Named after Larry Bird, the Bird exception allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents. Players who sign a one year contract, and who will have early Bird rights (meaning having gone two seasons without changing teams as a free agent) or full Bird rights (three or more) upon its expiration, will lose said rights if they are traded under that contract. Option years do not count until invoked, so one year contracts with one subsequent option year suffice here. (Note also that if the option IS invoked prior to the trade, the loss of Bird rights no longer applies, but the veto power is lost.)
As Bird rights are a valuable thing for a player to have, they are protected against this by having the option to veto any such trade. It is this rule that gives role players such as Aldrich the veto status you would expect to only reserved only for stars.
While largely a novelty, this clause can be important. It is a legitimate veto power, and was given its fullest and funnest effect six years ago. Only ever a throw-in to the trade that brought Jason Kidd to the Mavericks, Devean George decided he didn’t want to leave Dallas and exercised his right to veto the deal, much to the annoyance of the relevant fanbases. And while it has yet to ever be invoked since, it could have been. Marreese Speights is one such example, as he had to consent to his trade from Memphis to Cleveland at the 2013 trade deadline, and Anthony Carter could have sabotaged the convoluted Carmelo-to-New-York trade had he wanted to with his trade veto born out of signing a second consecutive minimum salary contract. These clauses, therefore, are not mere footnotes.
There is also a third type of scenario that gives rise to veto power. A restricted free agent who signs an offer sheet with a new team, then has it matched by his incumbent team, cannot be traded without his consent in the first season of the new contract, and cannot be traded to the team he signed the offer sheet with even if consenting. This applies to Gordon Hayward, who must consent to any trade in 2013/14, and who cannot be traded to the Hornets even if he wants to be. (In the event that a restricted free agent signs an offer sheet that is not matched, they have no trade veto powers with their new team.)
Arbitrarily, we will call the classic clauses “No-Trade Clauses”, the Aldrich-style mechanism “Bird rights trade veto”, and the matched offer sheet condition “Matched RFA Veto”. There follows a list of who has which as of the time of writing.
Bird Rights Trade Vetos:
Matched RFA Veto:
This is the list as things stand at the moment (16th August). There tends to be more Bird Rights Trade Veto eligible contracts signed later in free agency, as in the early days, more multi-year contracts are given out and rotations finalised, with the lower bench players being more likely to sign one year contracts and be signed later. We shall monitor the list as the season goes on.