Why Al-Farouq Aminu can veto a trade, but LeBron James can't
It sounds ridiculous, I know. But Al-Farouq Aminu has the right to veto any trade he is in next season.
So does Chris Andersen.
So does Andray Blatche.
And so do many others found further down the alphabet.
Meanwhile, LeBron James doesn't. Nor does Chris Paul. And nor does Dwight Howard. How come?
The terminology employed in the above description, the avoidance of the phrase 'no-trade clause,' is deliberate. Aminu et al do not have 'no-trade clauses' in the traditional sense, whereby a player has the right to veto any trade he is in for the duration of that contract, irrespective of Bird status.
The rights that this trio have, the rights to veto trades, function in the same way and thus are often reported as such, yet they are not the same. Nonetheless, while the differences between the two are largely circumstantial, understanding how the rights to veto for Aminu and friends come about explains how role players get what even some of the superest superstars can't.
'Traditional' no-trade clauses are rare, with only four of them currently in existence, belonging to Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett (who keeps his no-trade clause for any future trades he might be in, despite his acquiescence to the trade to Brooklyn).
To qualify 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 - Memphis, for example, could have given Mike Miller a no-trade clause in the one year minimum salary contract he signed with them this summer, due to the service time he spent there between 2003 and 2008. They didn't, however, and so only those four 'traditional' no-trade clauses exist.
Of course, none of that applies to Aminu, Andersen and Blatche. Instead, 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 or full Bird rights 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 these role players the veto status normally reserved only for stars. If it was unclear why LeBron James and Chris Paul didn't have trade veto status last year, but Devin Ebanks and Marreese Speights did, it's hopefully now clearer.
While largely a novelty, this clause can be important. It is a legitimate veto power, and was given its fullest and funnest effect five 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.
Speights himself is one such example, as he had to consent to his trade from Memphis to Cleveland last deadline, and Anthony Carter could have sabotaged the convoluted Carmelo-Anthony-to-New-York trade had he wanted to. These clauses, therefore, are not mere footnotes.
The full list reads:
Aaron Brooks (despite being waived, he will still have early Bird rights after this season, as he never changed teams as a free agent)
Francisco Garcia (despite being renounced to create cap room for Dwight Howard, Garcia's subsequent re-signing with Houston means that, having not changed teams as a free agent, his Bird rights are still intact)
Bernard James (same as Brooks)
Josh McRoberts (same as Garcia)
Furthermore, there is a third type of trade veto. In addition to these 13 players and the aforementioned 'traditional' four, Hawks guard Jeff Teague has a de facto no-trade clause this season via this third method.
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 with consent). This applies to Teague, who must consent to any trade in 2013/14, and who cannot be traded to the Bucks even if he wants to be. These 18 players - 4% of the league - yield the power to control their futures.
But you wouldn't have thought it would be this 4%.