When discussing small-market superstars, there are a few things we can be brutally honest about. First, free agency is not an option. Fellow All-Star-caliber players are not signing up to play in Oklahoma City or Dallas. History proves this. What superstars have ever left their small market to join another small-market team? The answer is almost never.
So, where does that leave small-market teams trying to hold onto their superstar for dear life ? The only way to get better is via trades and the draft. But, as the last decade has proven, superstars are only willing to wait so long before they bolt the team that drafted them and head off for greener pastures with ocean views. Need proof? Research the careers of James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Anthony Davis.
The Donovan Mitchell to New York melodrama playing out right now is only the most recent case of a superstar fed up with the mediocre ceiling of the team that drafted him. It makes sense that Mitchell would want to play in a large market with entrepreneurial opportunities (that is also home). After Mitchell, who’s next?
We look at five young superstars drafted into small-market cities and rank the likelihood of their eventual trade demand. To structure this ranking, we considered their current team’s draft capital, surrounding complementary talent, draft capital, the existence of a second star, and front office credentials.