NBA Trade Rumors: Biggest Deadline Deal in Each Team's History
Now that Carmelo Anthony has landed in New York, fans of the other 29 teams are concocting scenarios by which their clubs can upgrade by Thursday's trade deadline.
History has shown, however, that some teams are much more successful than others at finding the right player while still trying to win games with their current rosters.
Herein, a compilation of the biggest moves made in each franchise's history, at (or occasionally before) the trade deadline, to reshape the roster during the season.
30. Charlotte Bobcats Add Kareem Rush
Just weeks into their inaugural season, the Charlotte Bobcats decided to make a roster move, picking up athletic Lakers reserve Kareem Rush in exchange for draft picks. Rush appeared in just 81 games as a Bobcat, though he did average double figures in scoring in that time.
He makes this list largely by default; to date, this has been Charlotte’s only midseason trade in franchise history.
29. Los Angeles Clippers End the Benoit Benjamin Experiment
By 1991, everyone associated with the Clippers knew that Benoit Benjamin was never going to live up to his No. 3 position in the 1985 draft. He had given L.A. a competent starting center for most of those years, but nothing more than that.
Rebuilding as they so often have, the Clippers looked to convert their seven-foot center into potential for the future. At the trade deadline, they shipped Benjamin to Seattle for similarly mediocre C Olden Polynice and two first-round picks.
For a rarity, the Clippers guessed right on when to sell Benjamin; he only had one year as a starter left in him before injuries ruined his effectiveness. The draft picks they obtained didn’t pan out, but they had at least given themselves a chance to improve.
28. Atlanta Hawks Get Toni Kukoc
By 2000-01, the Hawks had fallen from relevance in the Eastern Conference and were looking to rebuild around young guard Jason Terry. Looking to remake their lineup, they took advantage of their best trade asset, veteran shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo.
At the deadline, the Hawks sent Mutombo and Roshown McLeod to Philadelphia for Toni Kukoc, Theo Ratliff, Nazr Mohammed and Pepe Sanchez.
Having converted Mutombo into two veteran centers and a second scoring option, Atlanta gave itself a chance to recover, though ultimately the trade failed to halt the Hawks’ slide.
27. Washington Wizards Bring in a Full Lineup
In 2000-01, the Wizards were suffering through a 19-63 season and looking to move the team in a new direction. At the deadline, they pulled the trigger on an eight-player deal with Dallas, sending star forward Juwan Howard to the Mavs along with reserves Obinna Ekezie and Calvin Booth.
In exchange, the Wizards got forwards Christian Laettner (pictured), Loy Vaught and Etan Thomas, along with guards Hubert Davis and Courtney Alexander.
The rebuilding effort didn’t exactly go as planned, as none of the five newcomers ever established himself as a full-time starter in Washington, but the effort to make a sweeping change certainly succeeded.
26. Boston Celtics Add Vitaly Potapenko
In 1999, during the throes of Rick Pitino’s ill-fated stint in Boston, the Celtics were still searching for the starting center they hadn’t had since dealing Robert Parish five years earlier. With a surplus of backup-caliber centers, Boston looked to trade for someone with more potential.
They looked to Cleveland, where 23-year-old Vitaly Potapenko was languishing on the bench. They picked up the young Ukrainian for Andrew DeClercq and a conditional draft pick.
Potapenko didn’t turn out to be Boston’s center of the future, but he gave them three workmanlike seasons before departing for Seattle.
(For all the Celtics’ brilliant trading history, very few of their midseason moves have turned out well.)
25. Toronto Raptors Trade for Every Point Guard in Basketball
During the 1997-98 season, then-Raptors GM Isiah Thomas was unable to acquire an ownership stake in the team. He resigned as GM, and his protégé, point guard Damon Stoudamire, asked for a trade out of Toronto. A week before the trade deadline, the Raptors obliged.
The initial trade of Stoudamire sent him, along with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers, to Portland for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, draft choices and cash.
Anderson—who refused to report to Toronto—was then flipped to the Celtics, along with Zan Tabak and Popeye Jones, for Chauncey Billups, Dee Brown, Roy Rogers and John Thomas.
In addition to replacing Stoudamire with three new, less expensive options (Williams, Billups and Brown), the trade helped make the Raptors the league’s youngest team.
24. Memphis Grizzlies Exchange Gasol Brothers
During the 2007-08 season, the perennially struggling Grizzlies were looking to clear salary cap space in an effort to restructure their lineup.
Star big man Pau Gasol, holder of many career records with the club, also held its biggest contract, under which Memphis would owe him $49 million over the next three years.
Days before the February 2008 trade deadline, the Grizzlies sent Gasol to L.A. in exchange for the rights to his younger brother Marc (pictured), along with Kwame Brown’s expiring contract, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and draft picks.
Although none of the other players in the deal are still with Memphis, Gasol has been a competent starting center for the (relative) bargain price of under $3.5 million a year.
23. Orlando Magic Free Darko
In 2005-06, the Magic knew they had the nucleus of a contender in Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, both in their second years in the league. As the trade deadline approached, an injury-plagued Orlando squad was hovering on the fringes of the playoffs.
Looking to add depth to their talented roster, the Magic sent journeyman center Kelvin Cato to Detroit (along with a draft pick) for little-used Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo.
The new additions would fit perfectly in Orlando, sparking an eight-game winning streak that narrowly missed getting the Magic into the postseason.
22. Portland Trail Blazers Add Damon Stoudamire
In 1997-98, the Trail Blazers were trying to revamp a roster that had struggled in the playoffs in recent seasons. They hired Mike Dunleavy as head coach before the season and signed PF Brian Grant to team with young Rasheed Wallace.
During the season, Kenny Anderson’s struggles led the team to look for other options at the point, and they found one in Toronto. Shortly before the trade deadline, the Blazers sent Anderson to the Raptors, along with Gary Trent, rookie Alvin Williams, draft picks and cash.
Portland got standout PG Damon Stoudamire, in addition to oft-traded SF Walt Williams and PF Carlos Rogers.
Stoudamire, who bounced back and forth between the starting lineup and the bench as a Blazer, proved to be a talented player upon his return to his hometown. Though his arrival helped to usher in the “Jail Blazer” era in Portland, he did give the club solid on-court performances while he lasted.
21. Seattle Supersonics Bring in Ray Allen
In the 2002-03 season, the fate of free-agent-to-be Gary Payton was a major storyline in Seattle.
With Payton’s relationship with Sonics management deteriorating and the Sonics falling from playoff contention, Seattle realized it needed to get some value for its longtime superstar before his likely departure left them with nothing.
At the trade deadline, they shipped Payton to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Desmond Mason, but it wasn’t just a desperation trade. In return Seattle got All-Star SG Ray Allen, along with journeymen Kevin Ollie and Flip Murray.
Though Allen will be more remembered for the trade that took him from Seattle than the trade that brought him there, he gave the Sonics just over four seasons of 20 ppg scoring.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves Get Terrell Brandon
After the Minnesota Timberwolves returned from the 1999 lockout, they were looking for a trade to take Stephon Marbury off their hands. The young Marbury had clashed with Minnesota coaches and demanded a trade so that he could play a bigger role in the offense elsewhere.
The Timberwolves finally arranged a three-team exchange of point guards in which Marbury headed to New Jersey (along with Chris Carr and Bill Curley), while Terrell Brandon joined Minnesota (along with Brian Evans and draft picks) from Milwaukee.
For a team with a history of finding itself on the wrong end of trades, the Timberwolves got a pleasant surprise in this case. Brandon gave them two full seasons (and parts of two more) of strong point guard play before injuries forced him into retirement.
He also saved the team the headaches his predecessor had caused.
19. Golden State Warriors Become Don Nelson’s Team (Again)
In the 2006-07 season, veteran head coach Don Nelson made his return to Golden State, replacing Mike Montgomery. It took until midseason, though, for the Warriors’ on-court personnel to be changed to match.
In January, the Warriors transformed their lineup by sending Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod to Indiana. In exchange, Golden State got Stephen Jackson (pictured), Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell.
By bringing in up-tempo offensive players like Jackson and Harrington, Golden State was able to ride Nelson’s high-scoring style all the way to the postseason (their first such trip since 1994).
18. Kansas City Kings Acquire Reggie Theus
Entering the 1983-84 season, the Chicago Bulls were looking to rebuild with new coach Kevin Loughery at the helm. Hoping to win with high-pressure defense, Loughery benched three-time All-Star Reggie Theus, who had never been an asset as a defensive player.
Theus, unsurprisingly, chafed at his newfound reserve status and agitated for a way out of Chicago. The Bulls obliged, sending him to the Kings at midseason for journeyman center Steve Johnson and draft picks.
Johnson continued his undistinguished career in Chicago, while Theus gave the Kings four seasons of outstanding offensive play.
17. Dallas Mavericks Pick Up Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz
By 2001-02, the Mavericks had acquired the core of a strong team in Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley but needed to find the right supporting cast. At the trade deadline, they made their move, sending Juwan Howard, Tim Hardaway and Donnell Harvey to Denver.
In exchange, Dallas got instant-offense PG Nick Van Exel and shot-blocking specialist Raef LaFrentz, as well as reserves Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Avery Johnson.
The next season, the Mavericks finished with what was then the best record in franchise history at 60-22 and made their second-ever trip to the conference finals before falling to San Antonio.
(No team has made as many elaborate, multi-player deals in the last decade as Dallas. So far, this one has brought the best results, but if Dallas ever makes it out of the Western Conference playoffs, some other trade will likely take its place.)
16. Indiana Pacers Add Detlef Schrempf
In the late 1980s, the Pacers teams that would become a playoff fixture were still under construction. After drafting Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in consecutive seasons, Indiana was still struggling midway through the 1988-89 campaign.
With veteran center Herb Williams made superfluous by the arrival of Smits, the Pacers dealt him to Dallas for little-used forward Detlef Schrempf.
Williams turned out to have just two more good years left in him before injuries turned him into a slow-moving, low-value bench player. Schrempf would win a Sixth Man of the Year award and make his first All-Star team in Indiana.
15. Charlotte Hornets Land Eddie Jones
Following the 1999 lockout, the Hornets got off to a slow start that triggered the resignation of coach Dave Cowens. New coach Paul Silas, looking to improve the team’s defense, got an ideal present at the trade deadline.
The Hornets sent scoring machine Glen Rice, recovering from elbow surgery, to the Lakers (along with J.R. Reid and B.J. Armstrong). In return, the Hornets got defensive stopper Eddie Jones and veteran big man Elden Campbell.
Jones was a great fit for Silas’ team, helping to spark a 22-13 run upon his arrival and leading the league in steals the following season. Campbell, too, would give the Hornets three solid years before being traded.
14. New Jersey Nets Steal Vince Carter
This one happened a while before the deadline, but it was too much of a theft to ignore.
Prior to the 2004-05 season, the New Jersey Nets had lost Kenyon Martin to free agency. After the team started slowly that year, team president Rod Thorn looked for a way to bring his team back to the up-tempo offense that had served Jason Kidd and company so well in winning three straight division titles.
He found it in one of the game’s most exciting offensive players, Vince Carter, who arrived from Toronto that December in exchange for a retiring Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and draft picks.
For a negligible price, the Nets added Carter for his final two All-Star seasons plus most of a third during the trade year, making the playoffs all three times.
13. Milwaukee Bucks Bring in Bob Lanier
By the middle of the 1979-80 season, the Bucks had failed to find a top-tier center to replace Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, traded four years earlier. Looking to rally a promising young team, management looked for a veteran to fill the large, Kareem-shaped hole in the lineup.
Shortly before the deadline, the Bucks traded struggling center Kent Benson to the Pistons to get Bob Lanier.
Though well on the downside of his Hall of Fame career, Lanier brought a veteran steadiness that helped the Bucks gel into a perennial playoff team for the next decade.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers Add Larry Nance
In 1987-88, the Cavs were trying to build a serious contender around second-year stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. The biggest obstacle was their lack of a second interior option to keep the fragile Daugherty from having to carry too much of the load in the low post.
The Phoenix Suns had the solution.
Cleveland sent Ty Corbin, Mark West, Kevin Johnson and draft picks to Phoenix in exchange for high-flying PF Larry Nance and backup forward Mike Sanders.
Nance would anchor the Cavs down low for the next six years, earning two All-Star nods and helping Cleveland become a consistent playoff team for the first time in its history.
11. Utah Jazz Bring in Jeff Hornacek
By the 1993-94 season, the pairing of John Stockton and Karl Malone had established the Jazz as a consistent playoff team, but one that had yet to make it out of the Western Conference in the postseason.
Looking for some new options, the Jazz traded one of their best complementary players, SG Jeff Malone, to Philadelphia in exchange for ex-Sun Jeff Hornacek (acquired by the Sixers in the Charles Barkley deal) and reserve guard Sean Green.
Hornacek would prove to be the last major piece the Jazz needed and would be a key starter on their two NBA Finals teams in 1997 and 1998.
10. Los Angeles Lakers Pick Up Pau Gasol
In 2007-08, with presumptive center of the future Andrew Bynum still trying to find his rhythm as a pro while battling injuries, the Lakers were looking for a post presence. They zeroed in on sharpshooting Spaniard Pau Gasol, whose skills had moved him out of the Memphis Grizzlies’ price range.
Days before the trade deadline, the Lakers sent a package of assets—Kwame Brown’s expiring contract, guards Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie, the rights to Gasol’s brother Marc—to Memphis for Gasol.
Gasol made his presence felt immediately in Los Angeles, helping the Lakers return to the Finals in 2008 and playing a vital role in their back-to-back titles the next two years.
9. Houston Rockets Hold Phi Slamma Jamma Reunion
By 1994-95, Clyde Drexler’s brilliant career in Portland had run its course, and the Blazers were fading from relevancy in the West. Drexler (pictured) wanted to finish his career with a contender, and that February, the Blazers found the perfect fit.
In exchange for veteran PF Otis Thorpe heading to Portland, Drexler (along with SF Tracy Murray) went back to Houston, where he and Hakeem Olajuwon had starred in college, to rejoin Hakeem on the Rockets.
Clyde the Glide’s return couldn’t have been better timed, as Houston took down the Orlando Magic to win their second NBA title in as many years.
8. Denver Nuggets Steal Alex English
In 1979-80, the Nuggets had started the season on a seven-game losing streak, and things didn’t get much better from there. With little to play for, the team was looking to build for the future as the trade deadline approached.
When the Indiana Pacers asked for the return of fading star George McGinnis, Denver was happy to oblige.
In return, Denver got a young small forward named Alex English.
McGinnis would last just two more seasons in Indiana. English would play 11 years in Denver, finishing as the Nuggets’ all-time leading scorer.
7. Phoenix Suns Land Kevin Johnson
As the February 1988 trade deadline approached, the Suns appeared to be dead in the water at 16-35. Desperate to rebuild their club, Phoenix traded former All-Star PF Larry Nance to Cleveland along with reserve forward Mike Sanders and a draft pick.
They hit the jackpot.
In exchange for Nance, who became the last piece of the Cavs’ playoff puzzle, the Suns got a solid reserve in SF Ty Corbin, a future starter in C Mark West and a future All-Star in Kevin Johnson, their point guard and face of the franchise for the next decade.
Oh, and they got the draft pick that turned into Dan Majerle, just to make it even better.
6. Chicago Bulls Acquire Bob Love
Another early-season move, this one would define the Chicago franchise for years.
In the 1968-69 season, the Bulls were just two years removed from expansion and trying to find their identity. Having hired defense-first coach Dick Motta, they decided to part ways with defense-last, if high-scoring, Flynn Robinson, for whom they’d traded the previous year.
In late November, Chicago sent Robinson to the Bucks for young forward Bob Love and point guard Bob Weiss.
Love, who had never before averaged double figures as a pro, scored 21 ppg for Chicago the following season and made his first All-Star team a year later.
5. Miami Heat Add Tim Hardaway
The 1995-96 Heat had already made the league’s biggest trade before the season opener, acquiring Alonzo Mourning from the Hornets. New coach and GM Pat Riley was rebuilding the team from the ground up, and one of the key acquisitions was new point guard Hardaway.
At the 1996 deadline, Riley sent veteran big man Kevin Willis and PG Bimbo Coles to Golden State in exchange for Hardaway and Chris Gatling.
By the end of the following season, Miami was 61-21 and had its first-ever division title. Hardaway and Mourning would go on to lead them to a total of four consecutive division championships.
4. San Antonio Spurs Get Their (Ice) Man
Technically, this is an ABA trade, but the NBA would feel its effects for years.
In 1974, the Virginia Squires (like so many ABA teams) were having money problems. Even after selling Julius Erving to the Nets the previous offseason, owner Earl Foreman needed an infusion of cash.
The best resource he had left was second-year guard George Gervin, who had just made his first All-Star Game. On the day of that game, the Squires announced that Gervin had been sold to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Squires disbanded just before the ABA merged with the ABA. Gervin would go on to win four NBA scoring titles as a Spur.
3. Detroit Pistons Acquire Rasheed Wallace
Prior to the 2003-04 season, Pistons GM Joe Dumars initiated a radical reshaping of his team. He fired reigning Coach of the Year Rick Carlisle and brought in Larry Brown and traded for a new starting PG in Chauncey Billups.
As the trade deadline approached, the Pistons needed one more piece to cement their status as a playoff contender. Dumars shipped reserves Zejlko Rebraca and Bobby Sura, along with a first-round pick, to the Atlanta Hawks.
In exchange, he got Rasheed Wallace, who immediately became Detroit’s starting power forward. Not only did the Pistons make the playoffs with ‘Sheed, they won their first NBA title since the Bad Boys days.
2. New York Knicks Land Dave DeBusschere
This trade was another pre-deadine coup too big to leave off the list.
In the mid '60s, the lone point of optimism for the struggling Detroit Pistons was future Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere. The Knicks had been trying to pry him away for years, and when Paul Seymour took over the Pistons' coaching duties in 1968, they finally got their chance.
In December of that year, they sent future Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy, along with guard Howard Komives, to Detroit in exchange for DeBusschere.
They would not be disappointed.
A star rebounder (despite his 6’6” frame) and lockdown defender, DeBusschere would be a perfect fit for the team-oriented Knicks style. Just two years after his arrival, New York brought home the NBA title, the first of two DeBusschere would earn in a Knicks uniform.
1. Philadelphia 76ers Bring Wilt Chamberlain Home
In 1964-65, the San Francisco Warriors were struggling on the court and losing money at the gate. Their most valuable asset was superstar center Wilt Chamberlain, whose 30.1 ppg average that season was actually the lowest of his career to that point.
The Philadelphia 76ers, who had moved from Syracuse the season before, coveted Chamberlain not only for his immense talent but also for the drawing power he would have as a Philadelphia native.
In one of history’s most lopsided trades, the Sixers got Wilt at the All-Star Break for Connie Dierking (who would become a fine NBA center only after the Warriors traded him away), Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash.
Chamberlain would win his second MVP and bring Philly its first NBA title in 1967.
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