This list is for the five worst trades of all time in the NBA. This is for how bad the trades ended up, not how they were thought of when they were made.
5. Dallas Mavericks trade Robert Traylor to Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki in 1998
The Mavs wanted Dirk on draft day. They drafted Traylor sixth and then traded him for Dirk, who was selected ninth.
Traylor went on to have a terribly underachieving career as he averaged a mere 4.8 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 438 career games with the Bucks, Cavaliers, and Hornets.
On the other hand, Dirk has became arguably the greatest European NBA player of all time. He is the only European to have won an MVP award. His career averages are 22.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He has been selected to the All-Star game seven times so far, and he's been selected to the All-NBA team eight times—with three of the selections being on the first team.
4. Seattle Supersonics trade Scottie Pippen to Bulls for Olden Polynice in 1987
The Sonics drafted Pippen with the fifth pick in the 1987 draft, and they immediately traded him for Polynice. Polynice was an average big man who averaged 7.8 points per game and 6.7 rebounds. Pippen, on the other hand, became one of the greatest all-around offensive players and one of the very best perimeter defenders of all time.
Pippen was selected as one of the 50 greatest players in 1996 and helped lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s in two different sets of threepeats. For his career, he averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, two steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. He was selected to seven All-Star teams, seven All-NBA teams—three of them as first-team selections—and 10 All-NBA defensive teams, eight times as a first-team selection.
3. Charlotte Hornets trade Kobe Bryant to Lakers for Vlade Divac in 1996
The Hornets had just drafted Kobe, and immediately accepted a trade proposal from Jerry West's Lakers of Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant. While Divac was a solid starting center, he still wasn't close to good enough to justify this trade. Divac's stats were 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals.
However, Kobe Bryant is already one of the ten greatest players of all time, and he is only 30. He is one of the greatest offensive and defensive players of all time. He has career averages of 25 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.5 steals. Along with 10 All-Star appearances, Bryant has been named to the All-NBA first-team multiple times as well as the All-NBA defensive-team.
2. Golden State trades McHale & Parrish to the Celtics for Joe Barry Carrol in 1980
The Warriors got Carrol, who was a bit of a bust as a number-one overall pick. He had good stats as he averaged 17.7 points, eight rebounds, and two assists in his career. However, he was usually on a losing team, which he couldn't lead deep into the playoffs.
On the other side, McHale and Parrish have both ended up making the Hall of Fame, and are two of the greatest big men of all time. McHale's career stats were 18 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game, along with a fantastic 55.4-percent average from the field.
Parrish averaged 14.5 points and 9.1 rebounds, along with 1.5 blocks per game. He also played the most games of all time, appearing in 1611 games.
These two players helped the Celtics win three championships in the 1980s.
1. Bucks trade Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers, and Junior Bridgeman in 1975
While the Bucks did receive a couple of good players in Dave Meyers and Brian Winters, they still gave up the greatest big man of all time in his prime. Kareem helped lead the Lakers to five NBA titles in 14 seasons. His career averages are an amazing 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 blocks per game, along with 56-percent shooting from the field.
He was selected to an amazing 19 All-Star games, he won six Most Valuable Player awards—the most of all time—became the all-time leader in points scored, and was selected to 16 All-NBA teams, with 10 of those being first-team selections.
He was also a very good defensive center, as he was selected to ten All-NBA defensive teams, five of those being first-team selections.