Every NBA Team’s Worst Trade

‘Tis the season for Woj bombs and trades.

The NBA has been turned upside down over the last week during what has so far been another turbulent free agency period.

Several teams like the Bucks have chosen to bolster their roster with some bright new additions, while the likes of the Thunder have sold out in hopes of a brighter future with a variety of trades.

Sometimes these moves can turn out to be a stroke of genius, but more often than not they leave a team worse off than where they started.

Here’s a look at Every NBA Team’s Worst Trade.

Atlanta Hawks

  • The Year: 1956
  • The Move: trading Bill Russell on draft day to the Celtics.
  • The Details: the then St Louis Hawks traded Russell, who they drafted with the second overall pick, to the Celtics in exchange for six-time All-Star center Ed Macauley.
  • The Fallout: Russell went on to win 11 NBA titles in Boston, while Macauley won his only NBA championship in 1958 before retiring a year later.  

Boston Celtics

  • The Year: 2017
  • The Move: trading for Kyrie Irving.
  • The Details: the Celtics shocked the world when they sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a future first rounder to the Cavs in exchange for Irving, who demanded a trade from Cleveland.
  • The Fallout: some might call this trade successful, but the fact remains the same: the Celtics still never made it past the Eastern Conference Finals during Kyrie’s two seasons in Boston. Don’t forget the chaos he caused in the locker room, either. On the plus side, Thomas turned out to be one of the great one-hit wonders after suffering through multiple hip injuries.

Brooklyn Nets

  • The Year: 2013
  • The Move: trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.
  • The Details: with their playoff window closing, the Nets take one last throw at the stumps by trading three unprotected first round picks to Boston for three of the NBA’s most polished veterans. Pierce and Garnett still had something left in the tank, but boy did they overpay.
  • The Fallout: the Nets come up short to the Heat in the Semi’s, while Boston eventually goes on to draft Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with the draft picks they received.

Charlotte Hornets

  • The Year: 1996
  • The Move: trading Kobe Bryant to the Lakers.
  • The Details: in one of the great draft day fleeces, the Lakers somehow talk the Hornets into trading the Mamba to Los Angeles in exchange for big man Vlade “Hops” Divac. To their credit, the Hornets just missed out on the playoffs a year earlier, so they probably felt like a star center might push them over the edge. For those that don’t know, the Lakers actually told the Hornets to draft Kobe in 1996 after striking an agreement days earlier.
  • The Fallout: do we really need to remind you? Kobe goes on to become one of the greatest NBA players to ever live, while the Hornets fade into further obscurity.

Chicago Bulls

  • The Year: 2006
  • The Move: trading LaMarcus Aldridge to the Blazers.
  • The Details: immediately after drafting Aldridge second overall in 2006, the Bulls trade his rights to Portland in exchange for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa.
  • The Fallout: the Bulls have had some real stinkers in the past, but this one is right up there. Aldridge has been a consistent big man across his 14-year career where he’s averaged 19.5 points a game. Considering the Bulls haven’t made the playoffs since 2017, they could use someof that.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • The Year: 1982
  • The Move: trading the No. 1 overall pick and Butch Lee to the Lakers in exchange for Don Ford and LA’s first round pick.
  • The Details: the Cavs joined the long list of teams to lose out to the Lakers when they sent their No.1 overall pick to LA in 1982.
  • The Fallout: the Lakers selected seven-time All-Star, 1988 Finals MVP and future Hall of Famer James Worthy first overall.

Dallas Mavericks

  • The Year: 1996
  • The Move: trading Jason Kidd to the Suns.
  • The Details: former Mavericks coach Jim Cleamons had great plans for his offence, only they didn’t include first round pick Jason Kidd. The Mavs shipped Kidd to the Suns along with Tony Dumas and Loren Meyer in 1996, returning Michael Finley, A.C. Green and Sam Cassell.
  • The Fallout: Finley and Cassell performed exceptionally well in Dallas, but watching Kidd cement his Hall of Fame legacy in New Jersey had to be tough.

Denver Nuggets

  • The Year: 1980
  • The Move: trading a future first and second round pick to the Blazers for T.R. Dunn.
  • The Details: looking to make a push to the playoffs, the Nuggets sent a first and second rounder to Portland in exchange for guard T.R. Dunn.
  • The Fallout: Dunn enjoyed a consistent eight seasons in Denver, but the Blazers walked away the real winners when they used their draft pick to select future 10-time All-Star Clyde Drexler 14th overall.

Detroit Pistons

  • The Year: 2008
  • The Move: trading Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
  • The Details: after losing the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cavs 4-2, the Pistons chose to move in a new direction by trading Billups and McDyess to Denver for an ageing Iverson, who had only one year left on his contract.
  • The Fallout: AI got off to a hot start in Detroit scoring 24 points in four of his first five games, but he quickly fizzled out as the Pistons stumbled their way to an early first round exit. Billups, meanwhile, averaged a career-high 19.5 points-per-game in his second season with the Nuggets.

Golden State Warriors

  • The Year: 1998
  • The Move: trading Vince Carter to the Raptors on draft day.
  • The Details: in case you missed it, Vinsanity was actually drafted fifth overall in the 1998 draft by the Warriors, only to be traded not long after to the Raptors for fourth overall pick Antawn Jamison.
  • The Fallout: Carter was later named Rookie of the Year in 1999 before making the All-Star team on eight straight occasions between 2000-2007. To be fair, Jamison enjoyed a successful career in his own right, but the Warriors still failed to make the playoffs up until 2007.

Houston Rockets

  • The Year: 1996
  • The Move: trading for Charles Barkley.
  • The Details: after winning back-to-back championships in 94 and 95, the Rockets gave up Robert Horry, Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant and Sam Cassell for Chuck’s services in one last-ditch effort to claim another title.
  • The Fallout: there’s no doubt Barkley is one of the all-time greats, but looking back, it’s fair to say the Rockets overpaid for the future Hall of Famer. Barkley failed to play a full season in his four years with Houston where he also averaged less than 20 points.  

Indiana Pacers

  • The Year: 2014
  • The Move: trading Danny Granger to the 76ers for Evan Turner.
  • The Details: the Pacers wound up securing the first seed in the East back in 2014, but they suffered a major loss on their way to the top when former General Manager Larry Bird chose to trade Granger to Philadelphia for two complete misfits in Turner and Allen.
  • The Fallout: Granger was the voice and the leader of the Pacers’ locker room and his absence was felt immensely during Indiana’s eventual Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat. Unfortunately, his career fizzled out in Los Angeles and Miami through injury, while Turner played a measly 27 games for the Pacers before being traded to Boston the following year.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • The Year: 2011
  • The Move: trading Baron Davis and an unprotected first round pick to the Clippers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
  • The Details: with Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin in the fold alongside Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul, the Clips decided to make a big push for the postseason by trading with the now LeBron James-less Cavs.
  • The Fallout: in what seemed to be a fairly harmless trade, the Cavs would go on to draft Kyrie Irving first overall with the unprotected pick they received, while the Clippers only made it as far as the Conference Semi’s.

Los Angeles Lakers

  • The Year: 2004
  • The Move: trading Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat.
  • The Details: fed up bickering with Kobe and Phil Jackson, as well as the ongoing contract drama, Shaq was immediately shipped to the Heat in 2004 in what remains one of the biggest trades in the history of the NBA.
  • The Fallout: in a way this worked out okay for both sides. The Lakers lost the greatest center to play the game, but in return, they did receive a key role player in Lamar Odom. Shaq, on the other hand, won his fourth title with the Heat in 2006.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • The Year: 2008
  • The Move: trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers.
  • The Details: welcome Memphis to the club, everybody! The Grizzlies sent their star center and a second round pick to the Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie and Javaris Crittenton.
  • The Fallout: Gasol went on to become a legend in the purple and gold winning back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. The Grizzlies kinda came off second best, but they did receive the rights to Pau’s brother Marc, who went on to make three All-Star games in 11 seasons with Memphis.

Miami Heat

  • The Year: 2008
  • The Move: trading Shaquille O’Neal to the Suns.
  • The Details: after slumping to the bottom of the standings in 2008, the Heat traded Shaq to Phoenix for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.
  • The Fallout: obviously Miami gave up on the 34-year-old Shaq a little too early. The big man had a bounce-back two years later with the Suns where he averaged 17 points a game and over eight rebounds.

 Milwaukee Bucks

  • The Year: 1975
  • The Move: trading Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers.
  • The Details: Milwaukee won its only title with a young Kareem in the lineup back in 1971, but for whatever reason, the Bucks were happy to trade him away to the Lakers three years later in return for a handful of no-name players.
  • The Fallout: Kareem went on to win five more titles during his time in Los Angeles, while the Bucks came up short in the playoffs on a number of different occasions over the coming years, clearly lacking that star talent.

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • The Year: 1996
  • The Move: trading Ray Allen to the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • The Details: the Wolves used the fifth overall pick in the draft to select UConn guard Ray Allen, a move that would have paired him with Kevin Garnett long before they got together in Boston. Unfortunately, GM Kevin McHale chose to trade Allen immediately following the draft to Milwaukee in exchange for Stephon Marbury’s draft rights.
  • The Fallout: Allen made 10 All-Star games across his 16-year career with Seattle and Boston and also won two titles. Marbury demanded a trade from the Wolves in 1999 before bouncing around the league to limited success.

New Orleans Pelicans

  • The Year: 2011
  • The Move: trading Chris Paul to the Clippers.
  • The Details: Paul spent the first six years of his career in New Orleans before things came to an abrupt end in 2011 when he demanded a trade. The Pelicans obliged, sending Paul to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and the right to swap first-round picks in the 2012 draft.
  • The Fallout: it’s always tricky to come out on top when a star player expresses his desire to leave. Still, the Pelicans received very little in return for Paul’s services as Kaman and Aminu hardly turned into the contributors New Orleans was hoping for. Paul, on the other hand, has been named to since seven All-Star Game’s since he left New Orleans and is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

New York Knicks

  • The Year: 2005
  • The Move: trading a handful of players and draft picks for Eddy Curry.
  • The Details: the Knicks, like they always are, were in complete turmoil in 2005 following Patrick Ewing’s departure a few years earlier. To live things up, New York sent Jermaine Jackson, Tim Thomas, Mike Sweetney and draft picks to the Bulls for their former first round center and Antonio Davis.
  • The Fallout: Curry refused to submit a DNA test to the Bulls to assess a potential heart condition, so the Knicks probably should have taken that as an early warning sign that things weren’t okay. Curry played only two full season in New York, while all those draft picks eventually turned into LaMarcus Aldride and Joakim Noah.

Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Super Sonics

  • The Year: 1987
  • The Move: trading Scottie Pippen to the Chicago Bulls.
  • The Details: the Sonics take the cake for the worst draft day trade after they sent fifth overall pick Scottie Pippen to the Bulls in a move that would alter the course of history.
  • The Fallout: What can we say? Pippen went on to become Michael Jordan’s famous right-hand man where he won six titles in a Hall of Fame career with the Bulls.

Orlando Magic

  • The Year: 2016
  • The Move: trading Ersan Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis to the Thunder for Serge Ibaka.
  • The Details: looking to snap their three-year playoff drought, the Magic went chips in on OKC big man Serge Ibaka in what can only be described as one of the most lopsided trades in team history.
  • The Fallout: whether he starts or comes off the bench, Ilyasova has been one of the most consistent forwards over the last 15 years. Oladipo is regarded as one of the craftiest guards in the game and has enjoyed large amounts of success in Indiana alongside Sabonis over the last few years. Considering the Magic have bounced out in the first round of the playoffs over the last two years, all three of these names could have been put to good use.

Philadelphia 76ers

  • The Year: 1992
  • The Move: trading Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns.
  • The Details: appearance number two for Chuck after some wild antics on and off the court forced Philly’s hand to trade him to Phoenix back in 1992.
  • The Fallout: Barkley and the Suns clicked immediately as the future Hall of Famer averaged 25.6 points in 1993 on the way to his first and only MVP. The Sixers, meanwhile, spent seven seasons in the doldrums before returning to the playoffs in 1998.

Phoenix Suns

  • The Year: 1983
  • The Move: trading Dennis Johnson to the Celtics.
  • The Details: Johnson was named to two All-Star Games during his three year career in Phoenix, but a few disagreements with coach John MacLeod eventually saw him traded from the Suns to a Celtics team desperately lacking defence.
  • The Fallout: Johnson won his second title a year later in Boston before adding a third in 1986. His No. 3 now hangs in the rafters at the TD Garden.

Portland Trail Blazers

  • The Year: 1976
  • The Move: trading Moses Malone to the Buffalo Braves
  • The Details: Moses Malone was chosen by the Blazers in the 1975 ABA dispersal draft, but his future in Portland didn’t last long. The Blazers chose to flip Malone two months later to the Buffalo Braves for a draft pick that they used on Rick Robey.
  • The Fallout: Long story short, Malone spent only one season in Buffalo before he was traded to the Rockets. He would go on to play 19 years in the NBA, winning three MVP trophies and the 1983 Finals.

Sacramento Kings

  • The Year: 2015
  • The Move: trading Isaiah Thomas to the Suns.
  • The Details: not wanting to pay Thomas, they instead chose to send him to the Suns in a sign and trade that included his new $28 million contract.
  • The Fallout: Thomas would go on to enjoy almost MVP-like success (albeit very briefly) in Boston after being traded again from Phoenix. Looking back on his injury history, the Kings may have dodged a bullet, but after averaging 20.6 points in his final season with Sacramento, who knows what could have been.

San Antonio Spurs

  • The Year: 1993
  • The Move: trading Dennis Rodman to the Bulls for Will Perdue.
  • The Details: with Horace Grant out the door, the Bulls went in search of a new power forward that could intimidate the likes of the Pistons and the Knicks. With two titles already to his name, the 34-year-old Rodman was the perfect fit for Chicago, but obviously a massive loss for a Spurs team that had lost the Semi-Finals to the Suns only a year earlier.
  • The Fallout: Rodman would go on to add another three titles to his resume in a famous four-year stint with the Bulls that wasn’t without drama. Perdue spent most of his 13-year career as a backup center where he averaged no more than eight points a game.

Toronto Raptors

  • The Year: 2004
  • The Move: trading Vince Carter to the Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams and Eric Williams.
  • The Details: Carter fell out of sorts with Toronto’s upper management in 2003 and consequently asked for a trade during the offseason. After some back and forth between agents and the team, the Raptors finally obliged, sending him to New Jersey in exchange for a few less-than productive names.
  • The Fallout: losing the face of a franchise is tough, just ask Cleveland. Plenty of Toronto fans took to the streets to burn Carter’s jersey when the Nets visited the Air Canada Centre the next season. Things only got worse when Toronto missed the playoffs in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Utah Jazz/New Orleans Jazz

  • The Year: 1979
  • The Move: trading Kenny Carr, Freemen Williams, Sam Worthen and their first round draft pick to the Lakers for Gail Goodrich, Essie Givens and Jack Givens
  • The Details: lots to digest here, but the important part is this: the draft pick.
  • The Fallout: the Lakers would draft Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft out of Michigan State. Magic would go on to win five titles and three MVP awards, while the Jazz failed to make the playoffs up until 1983.

Washington Wizards

  • The Year: 1998
  • The Move: trading Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe.
  • The Details: after an All-Star season in 1997, the Wizards surprisingly shipped Webber to Sacramento in exchange for a couple of footnotes.
  • The Fallout: Webber wasn’t fussed on the idea of playing for Sacramento originally, but he actually went on to enjoy the most success of his career with the Kings. Webber earned All-Star honours in four consecutive seasons between 2000-03 and also had his No. 4 retired by the team. Washington, meanwhile, saw only average production out of Richmond as they failed to make the playoffs between 1998-2004.

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