NBA Trades: The 20 Most Uneven Deals in NBA History

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2011

NBA Trades: The 20 Most Uneven Deals in NBA History

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    The NBA trade deadline has now come and gone, and it was one of the wackier ones we've seen in distant memory. Of course, that doesn't stop us from already putting out the grades and the winners and losers of the day.

    We all know trades are an inexact science, and hindsight is always 20/20. And in the grand scheme of things, the Baron Davis for Mo Williams trade probably won't be remembered in the annals of NBA history.

    (Okay, I got through the necessary clichés).

    But there are those trades that live forever in NBA infamy; the ones that make some fans smile and others shake their head. The ones that sent one franchise toward a championship and sent the other toward the cellar.

    I'm talking about the most uneven trades in NBA history, and here are the top 20.

Honorable Mention: Deron Williams to New Jersey (2011)

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    New Jersey receives: Deron Williams

    Utah receives: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, a 2011 and 2012 first round pick and cash

    You've got to hand it to the Nets; they weren't afraid to make a splash. First owner Mikhail Prokhorov is able to spike up the price for Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks are forced to cave.  Then he takes Deron Williams, one of the premier point guards in the game to upstage them on the day Anthony makes his MSG debut.

    Even when James Dolan wins, he loses.

    Either way, it's a big risk and the Nets are betting Williams doesn't opt out of his contract and become a free agent, meaning the Nets gambled their future on a rental. Prokhorov seems to feel he can sell Williams on the Nets. 

    Only time will tell.

20. Steve Nash to Dallas (1999)

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    Dallas received: Steve Nash

    Phoenix received: Martin Müürsepp, Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells and 1999 first round pick (Shawn Marion)

    The Suns sold the young Nash early in his career as he was stuck behind Jason Kidd in Phoenix, sending him to Dallas for a couple of young players.

    There was only a slight problem with that. Müürsepp and Wells never played a game for the Suns, and Garrity was traded after one season in Phoenix to Orlando, where he became a serviceable bench player and journeyman for his three-point ability. The trade would've been a complete disaster if it wasn't for the first round pick, which the Suns used to draft Shawn Marion.

19. Chauncey Billups to Denver (2008)

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    Denver received: Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb

    Detroit received: Allen Iverson

    Allen Iverson was struggling in Denver and the Nuggets were spinning their wheels.  Meanwhile, the Pistons were reaching the back end of their championship window and starting to get older. Trying to spark the team, Detroit parted with Chauncey Billups, among others, to land the talented Iverson who was still a scorer then.

    The move paid dividends for Denver, who reached a level of success rarely seen in franchise history before he and Carmelo Anthony were traded to New York. The Pistons meanwhile limped into the Playoffs, lost to Cleveland and have been in a nosedive ever since.

18. Jason Kidd to New Jersey (2001)

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    New Jersey received: Jason Kidd, Chris Dudley

    Phoenix received: Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman, Somailia Samake

    Dudley, Newman and Samake were basically a wash, but the real crux of the deal was Marbury for Kidd. The Suns were a consistent playoff team but were never able to get over the top with Kidd.  The Nets were just looking for an identity and trying to break the losing culture in New Jersey that'd hung over the franchise since Derrick Coleman.

    Marbury did his thing in Phoenix but only lasted a couple of seasons in the desert before getting traded to New York. Kidd went to New Jersey and completely changed the course of the franchise, helping the Nets to their first ever NBA Finals in 2002.

    Not to mention he also launched the careers of Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson.

17. Dominique Wilkins to Atlanta (1982)

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    Atlanta received: Dominique Wilkins

    Utah received: John Drew and Freeman Williams

    The Jazz selected Wilkins in the third round of the 1982 NBA Draft, but Wilkins refused to play for the Jazz. So the Jazz shipped Wilkins off to Atlanta for Drew and Williams. Atlanta also sent cash to the Jazz.

    Drew and Williams played a combined four seasons for the Jazz, while Wilkins became the Human Highlight Reel.  He was one of the most electrifying players in the game, ending up in the Basketball Hall of Fame and is arguably the best player in Atlanta Hawks' history.

16. Baron Davis to Golden State (2005)

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    Golden State received: Baron Davis

    New Orleans received: Speedy Claxton, Dale Davis 

    Davis rose to stardom with the Hornets, but he was also getting frustrated with the organization and the coaching staff. Mired in a horrific season in New Orleans, the Hornets shipped him off to an equally disappointing Golden State for a couple of journeymen in Claxton and Davis. 

    Davis immediately clicked in Golden State, and the Warriors all of a sudden became a hot team in the NBA.  Don Nelson's up-tempo offense helped the franchise rise in the West again, buoyed by a memorable playoff run in 2006-07 with Davis right in the middle of it.

    The Hornets limped down the stretch in 2005, although they did catch some good fortune when they drafted Chris Paul with their first round pick.

15. Julius Erving to Philadelphia (1976)

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    Philadelphia receives: Julius Erving

    New Jersey receives: $3 million

    The Nets had a young star in Erving as they entered the NBA in 1976, but the Knicks forced the Nets to pay a fee to enter the league. After the fee, Nets ownership wasn't able to hold a promise to Erving to give him a raise if the Nets entered the NBA, according to the New York Daily News. 

    Subsequently, Erving held out and the Nets had no choice but to sell his contract to the 76ers, who sent $3 million in return to the Nets. Erving went on to be an NBA Champion and a star in Philadelphia; the Nets gained the aura of losing that has followed them during most of their NBA existence.

14. Rasheed Wallace to Detroit (2004)

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    Detroit receives: Rasheed Wallace, Mike James

    Atlanta receives: Zeljko Rebraca, Bobby Sura, 2004 first round pick (Josh Smith)

    Boston receives: Lindsey Hunter, Chucky Atkins, 2004 first round pick (Josh Smith)

    The Rasheed Wallace trade might go down as the Mike Piazza trade of the NBA. Wallace was traded twice in the span of mere days. First, Wallace was shipped off from Portland to Atlanta.  After only playing one game (and what a game it was) the Pistons came calling.

    Not too long after, Wallace was sent to Detroit as part of a three-team deal. The Pistons acquired the missing piece to lock in the lineup that would upset the Lakers and win the NBA Finals in 2004, and take the Spurs to seven games in the 2005 Finals.

    The Hawks and Celtics were left with spare pieces; the only value coming from the picks. Boston's pick turned into Tony Allen, while Atlanta's pick was used on Josh Smith.

13. Wilt Chamberlain to Philadelphia (1965)

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    Philadelphia receives: Wilt Chamberlain

    San Francisco receives: Connie Dierking, Paul Newmann, Lee Shaffer and cash

    Chamberlain was rarely able to turn his statistical feats into team accomplishments, usually because of Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. So when the Warriors (formerly in Philadelphia) fell into financial trouble and struggled in 1965, San Francisco shipped Chamberlain back to Philadelphia to the re-named 76ers for the three players and cash.

    Dierking left the Warriors after the season, Newmann played two and a half more years in San Francisco and Shaffer retired instead of going to the Warriors. Chamberlain continued to dominate in Philadelphia and finally won a championship in 1967.

    The team the 76ers beat?  The Warriors.

12. Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas (1998)

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    Dallas receives: Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity

    Milwaukee receives: Robert Traylor

    At the time of the 1998 Draft, Robert "Tractor" Traylor was one of the hottest prospects coming out of college, where he had been dominant at Michigan. Traylor, Nowitzki and Garrity were all highly-sought prospects in that draft.  There was a network of trades to make sure Milwaukee got Traylor and Phoenix got Garrity, the players each team desired.

    Traylor was taken sixth by Dallas, and Milwaukee selected Nowitzki and Garrity. Milwaukee then traded the two picks to Dallas, who shipped Garrity off to Phoenix.

    Phoenix and Milwaukee ended up with two busts. Dallas ended up with Dirk and Steve Nash, the cornerstones that made the Mavericks one of the league's premier teams today.

11. Shaquille O'Neal to Miami (2004)

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    Miami receives: Shaquille O'Neal

    Los Angeles Lakers receive: Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, a 2006 first round pick (Joran Farmar) and a 2007 second round pick (Renaldas Seibutis)

    Ah, the good old days of the Shaq/Kobe feud.

    Before Shaq wanted Kobe to tell him how his backside tastes, there was just a plain old dislike (or whatever it was between the two of them). Whatever it was, it was obvious that they couldn't co-exist on Phil Jackson's court anymore.

    So after the 2004 NBA Finals, Shaq was sent to Miami for a bounty of players, including a young Caron Butler and Lamar Odom. The second round pick turned out to be an international player, but the first round pick turned into Jordan Farmar. 

    Shaq and Dwayne Wade combined to form a lethal duo and eventually won a title in 2006. The Lakers scuffled, but eventually made it back to the top and Farmar and Odom became big parts of the recent Lakers' squads.

10. Vince Carter to New Jersey (2004)

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    New Jersey receives: Vince Carter

    Toronto receives: Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning and 2005 and 2006 first round picks (Joey Graham, Renaldo Blackman)

    At the time, Vince Carter was (and probably still is) the best player ever to wear a Toronto Raptors uniform. But he was also growing frustrated with the ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and was becoming disgruntled with the organization as rumors started of Carter demanding trades and butting heads with coach Sam Mitchell.

    So finally, the Raptors traded Carter to New Jersey, and the Nets sent back an aging Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first round draft picks. So what happened? Carter was rejuvenated with Kidd and Richard Jefferson in New Jersey. 

    Meanwhile in Toronto, the Williams duo were pedestrian, Alonzo Mourning never reported and was bought out, and the two first round picks turned into Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman.

9. Kevin Garnett to Boston (2007)

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    Boston receives: Kevin Garnett

    Minnesota receives: Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two 2009 first round draft picks (Wayne Ellington, Jonny Flynn)

    Few times in the history of sports has a team given up so much and gotten so little in return like the Timberwolves did for their franchise star. They thought they got a bevy of young talent for the "Big Ticket" and the best player ever to play for the T-Wolves.

    What the Timberwolves actually got was a bunch of young NBA journeymen who were all busts (save for Jefferson) and Theo Ratliff's eternally expiring contract.

    Meanwhile, the Celtics proved everyone right: tanking does work in the NBA.

8. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Los Angeles (1975)

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    Los Angeles Lakers receive: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walt Wesley

    Milwaukee receives: Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers, Junior Bridgeman

    Lew Alcindor had already changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he asked for a trade out of Milwaukee.  It was shocking to see Abdul-Jabbar traded in the prime of his career with Wesley for four players.

    Bridgeman and Winters went on to have nice careers, with Winters eventually head coaching the Vancouver Grizzlies.  Smith and Meyers, on the other hand, never materialized with the Bucks. Meanwhile Kareem added the trademark goggles, and became star of the basketball court and the scene-stealing Roger Murdoch in Airplane! 

    Roger, Roger.

7. Bill Russell to Boston (1956)

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    Boston receives: Bill Russell

    St. Louis receives: Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan

    Perhaps it was the genius of Red Auerbach that he recognized the talent of Bill Russell and the potential of a center both defensively and offensively. Perhaps it was also his foresight in knowing what type of player Russell could be. 

    Either way, it was a gamble to give up both Hagan and Macauley to get Russell.  Macauley ended up in the Hall of Fame and he and Hagan beat the Celtics for the1958 NBA Title.

    Despite the loss, Boston ended up with one of the best players in the history of the game.  And so the legend of the Celtics began.

6. Oscar Robertson to Milwaukee (1970)

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    Milwaukee receives: Oscar Robertson

    Cincinnati receives: Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk

    Robertson was already an established star, but the franchise in Cincinnati was starting to slip, so Bob Cousy was brought in as a head coach. It's believed, according to rumors at the time, that Cousy was jealous of the attention Robertson was getting. So before the 1970-71 season, Robertson was shipped off to Milwaukee.

    Robertson combined with Lew Alcindor to become a dynamic duo for the Bucks, while the Royals continued to flounder and eventually packed up and left the Queen City.

5. Charles Barkley to Phoenix (1992)

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    Phoenix receives: Charles Barkley

    Philadelphia receives: Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry

    Barkley had already garnered his personality as a brutally honest player by the time he had demanded a trade out of Philadelphia.  While he hadn't uttered the famous "I am not a role model" line or raced Dick Bavetta, he had grown tired of the 76ers.

    So Philadelphia shipped him off for Hornacek, Lang and Perry. Barkley helped carry the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals and was a solid player for Phoenix, while the 76ers struggled with the return package. Hornacek moved on to Utah where he was a key piece for the Jazz, while the most outstanding thing about Perry and Lang's combined careers is that Perry appeared in three dunk contests.

4. Scottie Pippen to Chicago (1987)

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    Chicago receives: Scottie Pippen, 1989 first round draft pick (Jeff Sanders)

    Seattle receives: Olden Polynice, 1989 first round draft pick (B.J. Armstrong) and 1988 second round draft pick (Sylvester Gray)

    What else really has to be said about this trade?

    Sanders only played four years in the NBA, Gray played one season in Miami and Armstrong was a key role player for the Bulls after he was re-acquired by Chicago. But the key part was Polynice, who bounced around the league during his long career.

    All Pippen did was become Michael Jordan's sidekick and eventually set the wheels in motion for the Bulls' dynasty of the 1990s.

3. Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale to Boston (1980)

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    Golden State receives: 1980 first round pick (Joe Barry Carroll)

    Boston receives: Robert Parrish and 1980 first round pick (Kevin McHale)

    When you trade two future Hall of Famers for a first round pick nicknamed "Joe Barely Cares," that's what we call a trade blunder.

    Yes, Joe Barry Carroll lasted 11 seasons in the NBA and had a nice career for himself. Unfortunately for him, when the two guys traded for you become cornerstones of the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s and two of the most revered sports figures ever in the history of Boston, that kind of gets lost.

2. Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles (1996)

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    Los Angeles Lakers receive: Kobe Bryant

    Charlotte receives: Vlade Divac

    The interesting part about this trade is that Divac wasn't a bad player at all. He was an All-Star, a durable center and finished his career averaging more than 14 points per game. He only spent two seasons in Charlotte before moving on to Sacramento.

    Well, just look around and try not to find Kobe somewhere. He is one of the best players in league history, one of the premier scorers and a five-time NBA Champion.

1. Pau Gasol to Los Angeles (2008)

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    Los Angeles Lakers receive: Pau Gasol and 2010 first round pick (Devin Ebanks)

    Memphis receives: Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown, Marc Gasol and 2008 and 2010 first round draft picks (Donte Greene, Greivis Vazquez)

    This one defies explanation.

    Where to begin?  First, the Lakers sprung this on the basketball world pretty much out of the blue,  with the Grizzlies giving Gasol away like an old newspaper.  Someone deemed with a sane mind actually pondered this deal and himself, "I'll give you Pau Gasol (who helps the Lakers to the Finals each of his three seasons) but only if I get Kwame Brown in return."

    In all fairness, Marc Gasol is turning into a nice player and the Grizzlies are a tough team to play, but to say this is a ripoff is an understatement.