Analysis: How Teams, All-Stars Part Ways

With the All-Star Game set for this evening in Orlando, home of Dwight Howard for who knows how much longer, there’s no better time to take a look at recent All-Stars and how some of them ended up changing teams.

The new collective bargaining agreement reached at the end of last year’s lockout included provisions designed to incentivize a free agent’s loyalty to his team and encourage trades.  We heard plenty about putting teams back in control of their players’ destinies in the wake of LeBron’s 2010 decision and the Melo-drama of last season. And, thanks in large measure to Mark Cuban, we continue to hear about that.  Nonetheless, among the 56 players who made All-Star teams during the previous CBA, from 2005/06 to 2010/11, there were three times as many who were traded away from their teams than there were who left as free agents.

That doesn’t mean some of those 21 traded All-Stars didn’t exert pressure on their teams to trade them. Yet in every one of those trades, the teams ultimately made the decision to part ways, and received compensation in return (in some cases, another All-Star). There were also four more All-Stars who were involved in sign-and-trades or extend-and-trades, hybrid moves in which players and teams all wield varying degrees of influence over the transaction. Only seven All-Stars simply left their teams via free agency.

The six-year period we’re looking at here is a relatively small sample size, and doesn’t take into consideration players who made All-Star teams before the 2005 CBA was in effect or account for transactions that have occurred under the terms of the new CBA, like the Chris Paul trade. It doesn’t include players who will leave their teams in the future, either. It’s an unscientific study, but it does reveal that teams have had greater control over top-level talent in recent years than they’ve let on.

Here are a few more findings:

  • The study covers players who were selected to appear in at least one All-Star Game, even if they didn’t play or were late additions to the roster. Ten of the 56 total All-Stars represented multiple teams, and Allen Iverson was an All-Star for three different franchises — the Nuggets, Pistons and Sixers.
  • The majority of the All-Stars were still on the roster of the last team they represented in the All-Star Game when the CBA expired last year. That group of 33 players includes Yao Ming, who didn’t announce his retirement until July of last year despite missing the entire 2010/11 season.
  • One All-Star and his team parted ways in an unusual fashion. The Sixers released a statement on March 2, 2010 stating that Iverson would not be returning to the team. Iverson’s page on Basketball Reference states that he was released by the team on that date, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Iverson, who hasn’t played a game in the NBA since, still counts as a cap hold on the Sixers roster for the two-year veteran’s minimum of more than $850K.
  • Among players who did not remain with their teams, there wasn’t too much time between their All-Star selections and the date of separation. Those players finished an average of 2.18 seasons with their teams after appearing on All-Star rosters. Two of the quickest departures occurred last season, when Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were traded two and three days, respectively, after the All-Star Game.
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