The 15 Worst NBA Trades Ever
There's so much talk of sign-and-trades and deals to get under cap space—and it's only going to get more heated over the next week.
So we figured we'd take a step back and give NBA execs a little perspective on what can go wrong if you focus too much on the now and not enough on the later.
You'll see some lists out there that give you the five worst trades of all time. Some might even give you 10.
We here at Bleacher Report believe you're worth more than that. That's why we've supersized the list to give you a whopping top 15 worst trades of all time.
If only some of these teams got that much value out of their deals.
15. Billups for Iverson (2008)
This is too recent and hasn't led to championships on either side.
I think it holds up all time though for the massive misjudgment of value.
By association, I guess we should include every team that's given up on Chauncey Billups. It's stupid. The guy is a winner.
This was just another piece in the dismantling of a once-proud franchise in Detroit. You thought you could get something out of a used-up AI and you didn't do your homework.
14. 76ers Trade Barkley to Suns (1992)
I know that Sir Charles had likely worn out his welcome in Philly. It was just too many years of being close but ultimately getting nowhere with Barkley.
Add in all the gambling stuff that we learned about later and it was likely time to go. But if you're Philly, you have to get more than Andrew Lang, Archie Clark and Jeff Hornacek.
Don't get me wrong, I love me some Hornacek. It just wasn't enough.
13. Cavs Trade Picks For Richard Washington and Jerome Whitehead (1980)
The full deal: Cleveland trades Bill Robinzine, a 1983 first-rounder and a 1986 first-rounder to Dallas for Washington and Whitehead.
Washington was somewhat useful, averaging 9.1 ppg in a year and a half with the Cavs.
Whitehead? Not so much. He was cut three weeks after the trade.
The Mavs turned the deal into Derek Harper in 1983 and Roy Tarpley in 1986, two very productive NBA players.
This is why long-time Cleveland fans are so manic about LeBron. They dealt with this kind of idiocy for way too long.
12. Pacers Trade Pick For Tom Owens (1981)
This is probably unfair to the Pacers. It seems like a meaningless deal.
Indiana dealt away a 1984 first round pick to Portland for Tom Owens.
That pick turned into Sam Bowie, one of the worst mistake picks in NBA history.
In retrospect though, the Pacers gave away a pick that could have been Michael Jordan for a mediocre role player that played one year with the team.
11. Suns Trade DJ to Celtics For Rick Robey (1983)
You look at this and you say, "That's not very sexy."
Dennis Johnson was never the sexiest guy on the stat sheet or in the headlines.
But he went on to lead the Celtics to two titles in 1984 and 1986, a key component that elevated Bird, McHale and Parrish.
He finally got his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame after his death.
Robey averaged 4.7 points for the Suns. Good times.
10. Cavs Trade Butch Lee and Pick to Lakers (1980)
Another one of those deals that is more about future earnings. It was symptomatic of the Ted Stepien era of ownership in Cleveland.
The full trade was Butch Lee and the 1982 first-round pick to Los Angeles for Don Ford and the 1980 first-round pick.
The Cavs traded away the future for what turned into Chad Kinch, a guy that averaged 2.8 ppg for the team. Ford was slightly better with 3.8 ppg.
Meanwhile, the Lakers became the first and only defending champ to have the first pick in the draft. They took James Worthy, which only helped them to more greatness.
Top 50 All-Time guy for 6.6 points per game. Whoops.
9. Rockets Trade Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins to Nets (2001)
Brandon Armstrong also went to New Jersey.
All this for Eddie Griffin. The comedian by the same name probably could have been more productive in the league. He certainly would have been more entertaining.
Funny to actually see the Nets on the right side of history. Jefferson and Collins helped the Nets get to the Finals.
8. Celtics Turn Joe Barry Carroll Into Parish and McHale (1980)
This is why the Warriors are the Warriors and the Celtics are the Celtics.
It's not like Joe Barry Carroll was a stiff. He went on to four seasons of 20-plus points per game.
But the Warriors wasted the first-rounder they got from Boston and they dealt a star center in a league desperate for centers.
The Celtics made Robert Parish a Hall of Famer. And they took the Warriors' third pick of the draft and turned into the third piece of the Big Three.
7. Blazers Trade Moses Malone (1976)
If you're Portland, how in the world do you waste a pick in the ABA dispersal draft on a star like Malone if you're just going to deal him away?
They got a first rounder from the Buffalo Braves. But then Buffalo turned around and got TWO first-rounders from Houston for Malone.
6. Nets Send Dr. J to Philly (1976)
Sixers owner FItz Dixon called Julius Erving "the Babe Ruth of basketball".
It's tough to argue. The Nets traded an all-time legend to Philly for $3 million at a time when they were in financial straits.
Sorry, there's no excuse.
If you're too young to really know about Dr. J, hit the Web. You will see Jordan before Jordan.
Erving was that magical on the court.
5. Bucks Trade Dirk Nowitzki For Tractor Traylor (1998)
Pat Garrity was also sent to Dallas in the deal.
Garrity for Traylor would have been a head scratcher. Throw in a guy that evolved into a superstar and you have an all-time bonehead deal.
Oh by the way, that's an MVP trophy Dirk's holding.
4. 76ers Trade Wilt To Lakers (1968)
Philly has had their share of terrible deals and this is by far No. 1.
You have another legend here. Maybe there's a sense that he's aging for he's still Wilt Chamberlain.
You have to get more than Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. Collectively the three averaged about 40 points per game over the next couple seasons.
No matter. You likely wouldn't have known that if I hadn't checked Basketball Reference. Wilt's a top 5 all-time player.
3. Bucks Trade Jabbar For Stiffs (1975)
You would think that Milwaukee may have learned something from Philly dealing Wilt. That didn't happen.
The Bucks dealt Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters and Dave Meyers.
Again, Winters and Meyers combined for 30-plus points per game over the next few years.
But it's Jabbar, man. It's just idiotic to let this guy go. There's plenty that say the Bucks had to make the deal, that they were going to lose Jabbar for nothing and they maxed what they could get.
Still, you just don't deal an all-time legend in his prime.
2. Seattle Trades Scottie Pippen to Chicago For Olden Polynice (1987)
I have never been a gigantic Pippen fan, but there's no arguing what he did for Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Does that all add up to a spot on the Top 50 of All Time list? No.
But boy, this was a ridiculous example of boneheaded talent evaluation.
Polynice was one of those guys that every franchise thought they could make into a star. It never happened.
1. Charlotte Trades Kobe Bryant to Lakers For Vlade Divac (1996)
I get it. He was a kid. But every NBA talent scout said he was The Kid.
This is classic George Shinn. What would possess a team to think that Divac is going to be the final piece of a championship puzzle and Bryant isn't?
I don't care if you're thinking for the now. Divac was never the answer.
It's just one of the many moves that made Charlotte fans want to boot the team out of the city.
That Bryant guy, he's gone on to some solid work.