Most Lopsided Trades in NBA History

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2012

Most Lopsided Trades in NBA History

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    Sometimes, even NBA teams get taken to the cleaners.

    With less than 36 hours until the 2012 NBA Trade Deadline and numerous players' futures still up in the air, we can't help but think back to deadlines past.

    In every deal, there is usually a clear winner and loser. On a few select occasions though, there is a pilferer and what we can only assume is an unwitting NBA executive.

    Striking an accord isn't easy, especially when dealing with unproven assets or heralded superstars.

    Consequently, there are a number of past deals that, to this day, continue to employ the "What were they thinking?" factor. 

Charles Barkley to Phoenix Suns (1992)

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    Phoenix Receives: Charles Barkley

    Philadelphia Receives: Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry

    Barkley won the MVP award in his first season with the Suns, while Hornacek was forced to hang on for dear life with the 76ers. Lang and Perry just kind of went along for the ride.

    In his prime, Hornacek was incredible, but by the time he hit Philadelphia, he was strictly an outside shooter and a defensive liability. The 76ers traded him away after only one season.

    Sir Charles went on to have some of the best seasons of his career in Phoenix, though. In addition to his MVP award, he was named to four All-Star teams.

    The move turned out to be a phenomenal one for the Suns, but a real dud for the 76ers.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Los Angeles Lakers (1975)

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    Los Angeles Receives: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley

    Milwaukee Receives: Junior Bridgeman, Dave Myers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters

    After being dealt from the Bucks for much less than a king's ransom, Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five championships and three league MVP awards with the Lakers.

    Milwaukee's hand was forced in the matter, as Abdul-Jabbar forced his way to a bigger market in what we now refer to as pulling a Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony.

    Unlike both the Nuggets and Clippers, though, when the Bucks traded their star, they got less than a lukewarm package in return.

Dominique Wilkins to Atlanta Hawks (1982)

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    Atlanta Receives: Dominique Wilkins

    Utah Receives: John Drew and Freeman Williams

    Understandably, the NBA was different in 1982. Yet that still doesn't explain this deal. 

    The Hawks found a future Hall of Famer in Wilkins, while the Jazz were left with a declining Drew and ineffective Williams.

    Ironically, a product of one of the worst trades of all time, Wilkins went on to become one of the most talented athletes to ever play the game.

Julius Erving to Philadelphia 76ers (1976)

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    Philadelphia Receives: Julius Erving

    New York Receives: Cash

    This is one of those moves that even the person who pulled the trigger knew was a massacre.

    Strapped for cash as they merged with the NBA, the Nets were essentially forced to trade Erving after they were unable to give him a raise.

    Erving went on to to win two All-Star MVPs, one championship and an NBA MVP award while with the 76ers.

    And the Nets watched from a distance, counting their bills, as Erving had a Hall of Fame career.

    Actually, that's not entirely true. The Nets were forced to put the money they obtained in the trade toward their expansion fees. So they watched, counting nothing. 

Robert Parish to Boston Celtics (1980)

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    Boston Receives: Robert Parish and fourth (Kevin McHale) overall pick in 1980 NBA Draft 

    Golden State Receives: First (Joe Barry Carroll) and 13th (Rickey Brown) overall picks in 1980 NBA Draft.

    Was Red Auerbach ever not the man?

    With this trade, the Celtics established a front line for the next decade. It was also the driving force behind three NBA championships.

    Golden State, on the other hand, got a solid scorer in Carroll and a short-tenured athlete in Brown.

    The price Boston paid here was a bargain for the two future Hall of Famers they got in return.

Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas Mavericks

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    Dallas Receives: Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity

    Milwaukee Receives: Robert "Tractor" Traylor

    Perhaps it was because there wasn't a place for a big man who could score from all areas of the floor back in 1998. Or maybe the Bucks were simply feeling generous.

    For whatever reason, Milwaukee basically handed over Nowitzki to the Mavericks. 

    Traylor—may he rest in peace—never lived up to his potential, and that's an understatement. Garrity is an afterthought now, but even his career yielded more results than Traylor's.

    Nowitzki, though, is a perennial All-Star, league and finals MVP, and a future Hall of Famer.

    Needless to say, Dallas struck NBA gold here. 

Scottie Pippen to Chicago Bulls (1987)

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    Chicago Receives: Scottie Pippen and 20th (Jeff Sanders) overall pick in 1989 NBA Draft.

    Seattle Receives: Olden Polynice, 35th (Sylvester Gray) overall pick in 1988 NBA Draft and 18th (B.J. Armstrong) overall pick in 1989 NBA Draft.

    Scottie Pippen helped lead the Bulls to six championships alongside Michael Jordan, while neither Polynice, Gray or Armstrong averaged in double-figures for their careers.

    Needless to say, none of the players the Supersonics received went on to greatness. In fact, Armstrong was the only one that went on to breach mediocrity.

    Pippen, on the other hand? In addition to his six championship rings, he played himself into the NBA Hall of Fame.

    Not bad for a guy who was acquired for basically peanuts. 

Pau Gasol to Los Angeles Lakers (2008)

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    Los Angeles Receives: Pau Gasol and Devin Ebanks

    Memphis Receives: Marc Gasol, Donte Greene, Greivis Vasquez and Javaris Crittenton

    Marc Gasol is really coming into his own for the Grizzlies, but even he is not enough to eclipse this colossal beatdown of a deal.

    Since acquiring Pau Gasol, the Lakers have made three NBA Finals appearances, emerging as champions twice, including the year they pulled the trigger on this deal.

    Marc has yet to reach his full potential, but Pau, at least at one point, established himself as a top-10 player in the league.

    Unless Pau's younger brother proves to be the second coming of, well, Pau, and helps lead Memphis to a multitude of championship victories, Los Angeles is the clear winner of this accord.

    By a landslide. 

Bill Russell to Boston Celtics (1956)

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    Boston Receives: Bill Russell 

    St. Louis Receives: Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley

    While with the Celtics, Russell won 11 championships, five league MVP awards and was selected to 12 All-Star teams.

    Hagan and Macauley went on to have stellar careers, helping St. Louis to a championship while snagging a handful of All-Star appearances, but Russell's immense success all but eclipsed any they had.

    When considering who the greatest player to ever play the game was, Russell gets more than his fair share of votes. Macauley and Hagan are not even a part of the conversation.

    That says it all.

Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles Lakers (1996)

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    Los Angeles Receives: Kobe Bryant

    Charlotte Receives: Vlade Divac

    Nothing against Divac—except for his flopping—but the Lakers effectively robbed the Hornets blind in 1996.

    Los Angeles sent a proven veteran in Divac to Charlotte in exchange for a young and unproven Bryant. And the Lakers never looked back.

    This deal not only brought in one of the eventual greatest scorers of all time, but it freed up enough cap space for the Lake Show to sign Shaquille O'Neal. The marriage between him and Bryant didn't end well, but it was great while it lasted.

    Five championship rings, 14 All-Star selections and an NBA MVP award later, it's safe to say the Lakers made out like bandits.