The immediate future of the NBA changed forever on Saturday as Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision was immediately followed by an epic trade involving Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers.
With fans screaming for parity, this is one of the biggest trades in the recent history of the NBA – leaving the 2019 Championship race wide open as the Western Conference just got a whole lot more interesting.
As we saw this season with the Toronto Raptors, trades of this magnitude often lead to rings, which got us here at Ladbrokes thinking about some of the top blockbuster trades in the NBA’s long and illustrious history.
Anthony Davis to Los Angeles Lakers
A six-month wait finally came to a close in June as former Pelicans star centre Anthony Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With February’s trade deadline fast approaching, Davis requested a trade from the Pelicans, telling the team he would not sign a contract extension ahead of the 2019/20 season.
After declining Los Angeles’ initial offer, the deadline passed with the Pelicans announcing Davis would play the rest of the season with the team.
Just two days after the Finals, Davis was traded to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, as well as three first-round picks and the Lakers’ No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 Draft. He’ll now team up with LeBron James as the pair hope to bring a 17th title to Tinseltown.
Paul George to Los Angeles Clippers
In what can only be described as the most chaotic week in NBA history, fans watched with bated breath as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a host of other top names found a new home just hours into the free agency period.
As the dust began to settle, one name remained outstanding though: Kawhi Leonard.
The Lakers were the firm favourite to land Kawhi, while a potential return to Toronto also looked a chance. In typical Kawhi fashion, news broke late on Saturday afternoon stating he intended to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers instead.
In a bizarre turn of events, Kawhi’s headline was immediately followed by another: Paul George had been traded to the Clippers to join him.
In exchange, the Clippers sent Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and four unprotected first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers, meanwhile, can no longer be considered the Lakers’ little brother with two of the NBA’s purest shooters on the roster.
After stating his desire to sign with the Lakers prior to the 2017 season, George finally finds himself in Los Angeles. Rumour also has it Kawhi never would have signed with the Clippers if a trade for George wasn’t completed.
Kawhi Leonard to Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio Spurs
A disgruntled Kawhi Leonard requested a trade in June 2018 following another injury-plagued season in San Antonio.
After reported disagreements with coaches and staff, things quickly escalated a month later as the Spurs willingly obliged, trading Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poltl and a first-round pick.
At the time the deal was huge for a number of reasons. Not only were the Raptors a questionable fit for a lively personality like Kawhi, but the small marketability in Toronto was also a concern for one of the NBA’s top stars.
DeRozan also voiced his frustrations on Instagram, as one of the Raptors’ most beloved stars found himself in a new uniform almost overnight.
In the end, alls well that ends well – at least for Kawhi. The Raptors’ 2019 NBA Championship victory capped off one of the most successful one-year tenures in NBA history, while DeRozan averaged his lowest points total since the 2014/15 season.
Chris Paul To Houston Rockets
Already the subject of one of the more controversial moments in NBA History when his move to the Lakers was nullified by Commissioner David Stern, Paul’s eventual exit from Los Angeles would make plenty of headlines of its own.
Heading into this most recent offseason, Paul was traded for a haul of players and picks to team up with fellow superstar James Harden in Houston. The two are looking to end a 22 year title drought for the franchise and they have certainly had their moments so far.
Lebron James To Miami Heat
This was painted as a free agent signing – who could forget the infamous Decision special – but the Cleveland Cavaliers eventually agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat.
The Heat gave up five future draft picks to acquire LeBron and this is a deal that really did end up working for both sides – Lebron helped the Heat to a pair of NBA Championships and the Cavaliers were able to put together a strong enough team to later lure Lebron back and win a Championship of their own.
Kevin Garnett To Boston Celtics
In 2007, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, cash, Boston’s 2009 first-round draft pick and the 2009 first-round pick that the Timberwolves had previously traded to Boston.
Garnett combined with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to lead the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship and the Celtics would be rewarded again when they traded Garnett, Paul Piece and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans as well as first round picks in the 2014, 2016 and 2018 NBA Drafts.
Shaquille O’Neal To Miami Heat
Shaquille O’Neal left the Los Angeles Lakers to join the Miami Heat in 2004 in exchange for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first round draft pick.
O’Neal combined with Dwayne Wade to turn the Miami into a genuine Championship contender and the pair helped deliver the Heat a maiden NBA Championship in 2006.
Wilt Chamberlain To Los Angeles Lakers
Wilt Chamberlain was the best player in the NBA when he basically forced the Philadelphia 76ers to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers and Archie Clarke.
The Lakers side was already packed full of talent, but it took them a number of years before they finally won the NBA Championship in 1972.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar To Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks and won a NBA Championship with the franchise, but it was at the Los Angeles Lakers that he really left his mark.
The Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman and Abdul-Jabbar had an immediate impact.
It wasn’t until Magic Johnson joined the Lakers that they won another Championship, but Abdul-Jabbar finished his time with the Lakers with an incredible five rings!
Carmelo Anthony To New York Knicks
Another trade now looks likely for Carmelo Anthony and it is easy to forget how big a deal it was when he along with Chauncey Billups were traded to the New York Knicks in a multi-player deal that also included the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It is fair to say that Anthony has not had the happiest times with the Knicks and this trade has been a fairly lacklustre one for both sides.
Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas Mavericks
Turns out the Bucks didn’t learn from their Kareem Abdul-Jabbar mistake, because 23 years later, they somehow managed to trade away a future Hall of Fame forward named Dirk Nowitzki.
The 7-foot German was drafted by Milwaukee with the ninth overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, right before the Bucks decided to move up to the sixth spot by trading Nowitzki to the Mavericks.
As an interesting side note, Steve Nash was also involved in that same trade, while Nowitzki would go on to earn MVP honours in 2007, followed by an NBA Championship four years later before retiring in 2019.
Pau Gasol To Los Angeles Lakers
The Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers along with a second round 2010 NBA Draft pick for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gaol and first round draft picks in both 2008 and 2010.
Gasol proved to be the missing piece that the Lakers needed and he played a key role in their NBA Championship wins in 2009 and 2010.
Patrick Ewing To Seattle SuperSonics
Patrick Ewing played with the New York Knicks for over 15 years and it is often forgotten that he also had stints with both the Seattle SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic.
Ewing was traded to Seattle in 2000 in a deal that saw the Knicks pick-up a variety of players and draft picks from SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
Ewing did not have a great deal of success with the SuperSonics and ended up finishing his career with the Magic.
Chris Webber To Golden State Warriors
The Orlando Magic selected Chris Webber with the first pick of the 1993 NBA Draft and they immediately traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and three first round draft picks.
This deal worked out in the short-term for both sides, but Webber ended up falling out with coach Don Nelson and the Warriors were forced to trade him to the Washington Bullets who later sent Webber to the Sacramento Kings, which is where he had the majority of his success.
Bill Russell To Boston Celtics
This is often considered the most important trade in the history of the NBA.
The St Louis Hawks drafted Bill Russell with the third pick of the 1956 NBA Draft – after the Rochester Royals passed on him with the number one pick due to negotiations with the Boston Celtics – and was traded to the Celtics for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan.
Russell was named NBA MVP on five occasions during his incredible career and he helped the Celtics win the NBA Championship on 11 occasions from 1957 to 1969.
Kobe Bryant To Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers and it is often forgotten that he was actually drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.
Bryant never had any interest in playing for the Hornets, which they knew, and they agreed before the draft that they would draft Bryant to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
Bryant went on to win five NBA Championships with the Lakers and the Hornets are still chasing their maiden NBA Finals appearance.