Each NBA Team's Worst Trade of All Time
With a lack of big names moved at this year's NBA deadline, all 30 NBA teams are virtually assured of one thing: None of the deals made this year will be considered among the worst of all time.
No superstars and only one first-round pick was moved in the past couple of weeks, a sign that the new collective bargaining agreement is causing teams to be a bit more cost-conscious. It's also forcing general managers to think long and hard before making a decision that involves their most prized assets.
In the past, teams used to move big-name players and high draft picks with little to no thought of the long-term ramifications. And over the course of history, nearly every franchise has made a move that haunts it to this very day.
Atlanta Hawks: Traded Bill Russell
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Bill Russell is the greatest player in Boston Celtics history, but he was originally selected by the St. Louis Hawks with the No. 2 pick in the 1956 NBA draft.
Celtics coach and general manager Red Auerbach was so eager to land the 6'10" Russell that he traded All-Star forward Ed Macauley and promising rookie Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the second overall pick. While Macauley and Hagan helped lead the Hawks to the 1958 NBA title, Russell wound up bringing 11 championships to Boston.
Russell wasn't the only gem that the Celtics found in that draft: Future Hall of Famers Tom Heinsohn and K.C. Jones were also selected by the team in 1958.
Boston Celtics: Traded Joe Johnson
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Joe Johnson was the best of the three players Boston selected in the first round of the 2001 draft (Kedrick Brown and Joseph Forte were the other two), but the team sent him away near the end of his rookie year for two bench players (Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk).
The 2001-02 Celtics did take the New Jersey Nets to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the franchise would have been better off in the long term if it had held on to Johnson. The 6'8" guard is a six-time All-Star with a career scoring average of 17.7 points per game—not bad for a player who was given up on so early in his career.
Brooklyn Nets: Traded Dr. J
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While it wasn't technically a trade, the New Jersey Nets essentially gave Julius "Dr. J" Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers in order to move from the NBA to the ABA.
The Nets were one of four teams who joined the NBA in 1976 (Denver, Indiana and San Antonio were the others), but between the expansion fee and another $4.8 million that they had to pay the Knicks for sharing the same market, New Jersey was strapped for cash.
Their most prized asset was Erving, and the team was forced to move him to the Sixers, who bought his contract for $3 million.
Erving ultimately had his number retired by both the Nets and the 76ers, and is generally considered one of the greatest players in both ABA and NBA history.
Charlotte Bobcats: Traded Gerald Wallace
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The Charlotte Bobcats haven't been around long enough to make too many foolish moves, but they clearly dropped the ball with Gerald Wallace back in 2011.
Mere minutes before the trade deadline, the Bobcats sent Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and two protected first-round picks. It was a clear salary dump by the Bobcats as none of the players they acquired had much of an impact.
Wallace's production has fallen off a bit since the deal, but he's still a solid player who is one of the league's better defenders at the small-forward position.
Chicago Bulls: Traded Elton Brand
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Two years after the Chicago Bulls made him the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA draft—and after two 20/10 seasons—Elton Brand was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for center Tyson Chandler and forward Brian Skinner.
Chandler was the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, and along with Eddy Curry (whom the Bulls selected at No. 4), Chicago figured to have a modern-day version of Houston's infamous "Twin Towers" of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
But neither Chandler nor Curry worked out for the Bulls, and Brand would go on to earn two All-Star nods, and he even earned All-NBA honors in 2006.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Traded James Worthy
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A relatively minor trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers in February 1980 resulted in the Lakers receiving the Cavs' first-round pick of the 1982 NBA draft.
Cleveland went 15-67 during the 1981-82 season, and the Lakers ultimately wound up with the No. 1 overall pick that year, using it on University of North Carolina star James Worthy, a seven-time All-Star who played a key role in three Lakers' championships.
His shining moment came in Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals when he went for 36/16/10 against the Detroit Pistons en route to winning the Finals MVP award.
Dallas Mavericks: Traded Jamal Mashburn
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Knee surgery sapped some of Jamal Mashburn's explosiveness, but the 6'8" forward was still a deft scorer when the Dallas Mavericks traded him to the Miami Heat in 1997 for a package that centered around Kurt Thomas.
Injuries limited Mashburn to 180 games in four seasons with Miami, but he later joined the Charlotte Hornets and regained his 20 points-per-game scoring form. Meanwhile, the players the Mavericks received for Mashburn didn't do much of anything, and they all were gone over the course of a couple of seasons.
Denver Nuggets: Traded Pick That Turned into Clyde Drexler
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The Portland Trail Blazers didn't know it at the time, but when they traded shooting guard T.R. Dunn to the Denver Nuggets in 1980, the 1983 first-round draft pick that they received would turn into the far more talented Clyde Drexler.
Dunn played 11 more seasons in the NBA after that trade (10 for Denver), but he never averaged more than 8.2 points per game. Drexler, of course, is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history (20.4 points per game), and teamed with Hakeem Olajuwon to lead the Houston Rockets to the 1995 NBA title.
Detroit Pistons: Traded Billups and McDyess for Allen Iverson
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The Detroit Pistons' move to bring in Allen Iverson seemed like a good idea at the time (he had an expiring contract and the third-highest scoring average in NBA history), but it never really came together in the Motor City. Iverson only lasted 54 games with the Pistons before he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009.
The move to Denver revitalized Chauncey Billups' career, and the cap money that Iverson freed up after leaving Detroit was used to foolishly sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Golden State Warriors: Traded Wilt Chamberlain
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With the San Francisco Warriors in dire financial straits at the 1965 All-Star break, the team traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for three players and $150,000 cash.
It would prove to be an extraordinarily lopsided deal.
It was Chamberlain's second tour of duty in Philadelphia: The Warriors played in the City of Brotherly Love until relocating to the Bay Area in the 1962-63 season. Chamberlain was a star before the move, and picked up right where he left off, averaging 34.7 points and 22.9 rebounds in the second half of the 1965 season.
Chamberlain continued to put up the same type of "video-game numbers" that he did as a member of the Warriors, and he led the 76ers to a then-record 68 wins and the 1967 NBA title.
Houston Rockets: Traded Richard Jefferson
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At the 2001 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets traded the rights of Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong to the New Jersey Nets for the draft rights of Eddie Griffin.
While Anderson only lasted three seasons, Jefferson eventually blossomed into a 20-point per game scorer, and Collins has been extremely solid as a journeyman center for 11-plus seasons.
Griffin was the No. 7 overall pick, and many thought that he would light the world on fire after averaging a double-double during his only season at Seton Hall. Griffin never lived up to his potential, however, and he passed away in a car accident at the age of 25.
Indiana Pacers: Traded Alex English
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It must have been a fit of nostalgia that led the Indiana Pacers to trade for George McGinnis in 1980. After all, the 6'8" forward did lead them to back-to-back ABA championships in 1972 and 1973.
However, the Pacers gave up a bit too early on the career of a young scorer named Alex English, a player who would go on to average 25 points or more for seven straight seasons with the Denver Nuggets.
English made eight All-Star teams after the trade while McGinnis only played two more full seasons after hanging it up following the 1981-82 campaign.
Los Angeles Clippers: Traded Baron Davis
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Baron Davis had two years and nearly $27 million left on his deal in 2011, and the Los Angeles Clippers were anxious to move him as soon as humanly possible.
So the team decided to send him and a first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The Clippers only made one mistake, however: The pick that they sent the Cavs was completely unprotected.
The ping-pong balls bounced Cleveland's way at that spring's draft lottery, and the Cavs wound up with the No. 1 pick, which they would use to select Kyrie Irving. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the Clips will be regretting that deal for many years to come.
Los Angeles Lakers: Traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami Heat
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were the most dominant tandem in the game, but it was clearly time for the two to part ways after the 2004 season. So the Los Angeles Lakers sent O'Neal to the Miami Heat in exchange for three players and two draft picks.
O'Neal was still a 20-and-10 player at the time of the deal, and he played an integral role in Miami's 2006 title run.
The Lakers didn't make out too badly, however: One of the players they got in return for Shaq was Lamar Odom, and without him, LA may not have captured back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Memphis Grizzlies: Traded Steve Francis
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Steve Francis was not in any way, shape or form going to play for the Vancouver Grizzlies, and he made his feelings known almost immediately after the team took him No. 2 overall in the 1999 NBA draft.
Two months later, Francis found himself in Houston after a three-team, 11-player deal between the Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic. Francis would excel in Houston (he made three All-Star games), and was one of the league's most explosive point guards in the early part of the 2000s.
The Grizzlies' hands were tied from the jump, but they could have avoided a messy situation had they taken someone (Baron Davis, perhaps?) who wasn't so opposed to making the trip across the border.
Miami Heat: Traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns
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For a team that has been around for as long as the Miami Heat, they really don't have many bad trades to their credit. Dealing Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns in 2008 for Shawn Marion was probably their worst move, but the deal worked out for both teams.
O'Neal gave the Suns a much-needed interior presence, and Marion was solid during his brief stint in South Beach. Neither of them helped lead their new teams to playoff glory, but O'Neal and Marion didn't embarrass themselves, either.
Milwaukee Bucks: Traded Dirk Nowitzki for Robert Traylor
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Widely regarded as one of the worst trades of all time, the Milwaukee Bucks traded the draft rights to Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert "Tractor" Traylor.
The Mavericks have long had an affinity for foreign players, and they struck gold with Nowitzki, a perennial All-NBA talent who led the franchise to the 2011 NBA championship.
Traylor, conversely, had a decent but largely uneventful seven-year NBA career during which he averaged 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Traded Sam Cassell
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I'm sure there was a legitimate reason for the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade their second leading scorer in 2005, but Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers weren't nearly the equal of Sam Cassell.
Cassell promptly went out and averaged 17.2 points per game in 2005-06, while Jaric averaged just 7.8 points in his first year after leaving the Los Angeles Clippers.
This trade could get even worse for the Timberwolves in the coming seasons: In addition to Cassell, Minnesota sent a heavily-protected No. 1 pick to the Clippers. That pick finally was conveyed this year—two teams and seven years later—in the form of Austin Rivers.
New Orleans Hornets: Traded Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac
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Kobe Bryant wanted nothing to do with the Charlotte Hornets, who drafted him with the 13th overall pick in 1996. Fortunately for him, they wanted little to do with him as well: They had agreed prior to the draft to select Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers, who offered Vlade Divac in return.
It turned out to be a horribly one-sided deal, of course: Divac was a very solid player for Hornets and later the Sacramento Kings...but Bryant is a five-time NBA champion and quite possibly one of the 10 greatest players who ever stepped onto a basketball court.
Would he have accomplished what he has if he had stayed in Charlotte? We'll never know the answer to that question, and neither will the Hornets.
New York Knicks: Traded Latrell Sprewell to Minnesota Timberwolves
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A four-team deal in the summer of 2003 sent Latrell Sprewell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Keith Van Horn. Rumor has it that Knicks' owner James Dolan's personal issues with Sprewell were the impetus for the trade, and the move ended Sprewell's exciting five-year run under the Broadway lights.
Van Horn lasted all of 47 games in New York before he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2004, while Sprewell helped guide the Minnesota Timberwolves to the franchise's first and only appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Traded Scottie Pippen
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Olden Polynice played for 14-plus seasons and put together a very respectable NBA career in which he grabbed more than 7,000 rebounds.
Unfortunately, that pales in comparison to the player he was traded for at the 1987 NBA draft: small forward Scottie Pippen. Seattle selected Pippen with the No. 5 overall pick, but swapped selections with the Chicago Bulls (with the option to swap first-round picks in 1989).
After six titles, seven All-Star nods and a plethora of All-NBA and All-Defensive honors for Pippen later, it turned out to be one of the worst trades in NBA history.
Orlando Magic: Traded Ben Wallace for Grant Hill
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Truth be told, this wasn't a typical deal, but rather a sign-and-trade. But in either case, the Orlando Magic technically traded Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Grant Hill.
Hill was an unrestricted free agent who had already planned on signing with the Magic in the summer of 2000, but Orlando worked a trade with Detroit so that both teams could make the deals work under the salary cap.
Either way, it looked like a steal for Orlando: Hill was coming off a season in which he averaged 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists. But he could never stay healthy with the Magic, playing just 200 games in six years.
Meanwhile, the raw Wallace blossomed into a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who found his way onto five All-NBA teams.
Philadelphia 76ers: Traded Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns
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At the end of the 1991-92 season, Charles Barkley clearly didn't want to be a member of the Philadelphia 76ers any longer. But while the Sixers knew that they had to move him, it's still a mystery as to why they gave him up at such a discounted rate.
The 76ers traded Barkley to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. Barkley was a six-time All-Star and in the prime of his career when the trade was made, and the only value that Philadelphia received in return was Hornacek, who scored 19.1 points per game in his lone full season with the Sixers.
Perry never averaged double figures in the years after the trade, and Lang was released in the summer of 1993.
All Barkley did after leaving the 76ers was make five All-Star teams and win the NBA's MVP award while leading the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals.
Phoenix Suns: Traded Jason Kidd to the New Jersey Nets
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Two of the best point guards in the NBA traded places when the Phoenix Suns' Jason Kidd was shipped to the New Jersey Nets in the summer of 2001 in exchange for Stephon Marbury.
Kidd already had a reputation of making the players around him better, and that's exactly want he did, as he led the Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances. And even at the age of 39, Kidd remains a serviceable point guard for the New York Knicks this season.
Marbury had two-and-a-half good seasons in Phoenix, but he never got them (or any other team for that matter) over the hump. He's still starring these days in the Chinese Basketball Association, however—his second act overseas is turning out far more fruitful than his first did here in the States.
Portland Trail Blazers: Traded Moses Malone
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The Portland Trail Blazers selected Moses Malone with the fifth overall pick in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft, but then traded him to the Buffalo Braves (who later became the Los Angeles Clippers) for a 1978 first-round pick.
The Braves would compound the mistake six days later by trading Malone to the Houston Rockets for two first-round picks. So not only did Portland grossly underestimate Malone's value at the time, they clearly had no idea that he would blossom into one of the most dominant big men in NBA history.
Malone led the league in rebounding six times, won three MVP awards and was the final piece of the puzzle for the Philadelphia 76ers as they brought home the 1983 NBA championship.
Sacramento Kings: Traded Oscar Robertson
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In 1970, the Cincinnati Royals traded Oscar Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks—a move that surprised many NBA fans. The reasons behind the move are still unclear more than 40 years later, but it's obvious that the Royals parted ways with Robertson long before they should have.
Robertson wasn't the same player who averaged a triple-double in 1962, but he was still one of the best playmaking swingmen in the league, and he teamed with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Dandridge to lead the Bucks to the 1971 NBA title.
San Antonio Spurs: Dennis Rodman Traded to the Chicago Bulls
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A 34-year-old, Dennis Rodman had enough of the San Antonio Spurs, so he welcomed a trade to the Chicago Bulls in October 1995.
Sadly for the Spurs, they only managed to get Will Perdue in return for a player who had led the league in rebounding for four consecutive seasons.
Rodman would play in Chicago for exactly three years: He led the NBA in rebounding each of those years, and the Bulls would parade around Grant Park with the Larry O'Brien Trophy in their possession for three consecutive summers.
Toronto Raptors: Traded Vince Carter to New Jersey Nets
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Vince Carter was the first transcendent NBA star north of the border, but after Carter's production fell off drastically at the start of the 2004-05 season, the Toronto Raptors were all but forced to move him.
The New Jersey Nets gave up three players and two first-round picks for Carter, and the swingman was suddenly revitalized once he joined forces with Jason Kidd.
Alonzo Mourning was part of the package that the Nets sent to Toronto, but he was so adamant about not playing for the Raptors that the team was forced to waive him two months later.
Utah Jazz: Traded Dominique Wilkins
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It's strange to think about it, but Dominique Wilkins could have been a member of the Utah Jazz.
They were the team who selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft. But he wasn't eager to move to Salt Lake City, so the team sent him to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for John Drew, Freeman Williams and cash.
Wilkins averaged nearly 18 points per game as a rookie, and he would go on to average 21 points or more for each of the next 11 seasons. "The Human Highlight Film" made nine All-Star teams in his career, and he was a mainstay on the All-NBA teams of the late '80s and early '90s.
Drew actually averaged 21.2 points during the 1982-83 season, but he was waived by the Jazz in December 1984 due to problems with cocaine addiction.
Washington Wizards: Traded Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings
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If trading Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe sounds lopsided, the fact is that it was a fairly even swap when it happened in the spring of 1998.
Richmond was fresh off of a season in which he averaged more than 23 points per game, but he did happen to be 32 years old.
Webber, on the other hand, was 25 and just entering his prime. When healthy, Webber was a consistent 20-and-10 threat with the Kings, and he nearly led them to the 2002 NBA Finals.
While his Hall of Fame credentials are debatable, there's no doubt that Webber was one of the best power forwards in the NBA during the early part of the next 100 years.