With the NBA trade deadline having come and gone without much excitement, I've decided to provide some myself—with a look back on the three best deadline deals of the last 10 years.
Best is a word I use lightly when describing these trades because, with many of them, I could just as easily call them the worst. There's almost always a winner and a loser, especially when we look back in hindsight.
I've chosen the positive side here. No one likes hearing about the losers.
While rumors always swirl in the days leading up the deadline, rarely do we see any trades actually come to fruition—even more rarely do we see star players change teams.
However, it does happen.
In picking the best deadline deals since 2004, I primarily considered how much the trade improved the team immediately. While offseason trades typically come as a result of teams wanting to move in a new direction, trade deadline deals are almost always executed due to one side's desire to improve for their impending playoff run.
This isn't to say that I ignored deadline deals involving players that would go on to become key members of the teams they were dealt to. It just means that, when faced with choosing which trade to rank higher, I gave precedence to the one involving an immediate impact player.
Ray Allen to the Seattle SuperSonics (I cheated. This actually occurred in 2003, but I just had to include it)
Seattle SuperSonics get: Ray Allen, Ronald Murray, Kevin Ollie and a first-round draft pick (used on Luke Ridnour)
Milwaukee Bucks get: Gary Payton and Desmond Mason
The SuperSonics pulled off a miracle here, dealing the aging Gary Payton to Milwaukee for a then 28-year-old Ray Allen. While Allen didn't exactly lead Seattle to the Promised Land, they were the clear winners in this one. Payton would play a total of 28 games with the Bucks before leaving for the Lakers. Milwaukee hasn't made the postseason since.
Orlando Magic get: Anfernee Hardaway and Trevor Ariza
New York Knicks get: Steve Francis
This deal isn't so much about the players involved as it is about the contracts. Francis was owed $49 million over three years, so by getting rid of him, the Magic opened up enough cap space to sign Rashard Lewis that offseason. While Francis would continue his inefficient play in New York, Lewis would team up with Dwight Howard to lead Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals.
Kyrie Irving could have potentially been a Clipper
Cleveland Cavaliers get: Baron Davis and a first-round draft pick (used on Kyrie Irving)
Los Angeles Clippers get: Mo Williams and Jamario Moon
This was a move by the Clippers in order to clear cap space. However, when the pick they surrendered ended up being the first overall selection, it became more about the player that the Clippers would inevitably miss out on: Kyrie Irving.
One could argue that, had L.A. kept the pick and drafted Kyrie, Chris Paul would have never ended up with the Clippers.
So then the real question is: What would you rather?
A Kyrie Irving-Blake Griffin combination (brighter future and more cap flexibility this season and next due to Irving’d significantly cheaper contract compared to Paul's) OR the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin combo that is currently tearing it up out West.
Interesting scenario to ponder.
Los Angeles Lakers get: Pau Gasol and a second-round draft pick (used on Devin Ebanks)
Memphis Grizzlies get: Marc Gasol, Jarvaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown, and two first-round draft picks (used on Donte Greene and Greivis Vasquez)
Though this trade has become less cringe-worthy with the recent rise of Marc Gasol, at the time it was incredibly one-sided.
For the Lakers, Gasol made an immediate impact, becoming Kobe Bryant's right-hand man during Los Angeles' 2009 and 2010 championship seasons.
Detroit Pistons get: Rasheed Wallace and Mike James
Boston Celtics get: Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter and first-round draft pick (used on Tony Allen)
Atlanta Hawks get: Bobby Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, Chris Mills and first-round draft pick (used on Josh Smith)
Ideally, any time a winning team makes a trade deadline deal, it's for a player that will make them a championship contender. That is exactly what happened here.
Wallace arrived in Detroit and immediately assumed a starting role alongside Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace. The trade made the Pistons arguably the most balanced team in the league, and ultimately, it helped them beat the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the 2004 NBA Finals.
Out of all the trade deadline deals that have been executed in the last ten years, this one is by far the best. Also, unlike many deals where there is a clear winner and a clear loser, this one worked out fairly well for everyone.
The Pistons found their missing piece, the Hawks were able to draft the new face of their franchise in Josh Smith and the Celtics—by trading away Mike James—set the stage for Rajon Rondo to take over point guard duties a few years later.
Sound off in the comments below and share your favorite trade deadline deals. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @kbaker0506 and check out my other B/R articles here: http://bleacherreport.com/users/3217718-kendall-baker
Thanks for reading!