The Most Regrettable NBA Trades of the Last 3 Seasons

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2022

The Most Regrettable NBA Trades of the Last 3 Seasons

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    Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic (9) reacts to a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
    AP Photo/Ron Schwane

    From trades that didn't quite go as planned to those that have severely hurt a franchise, every NBA team has made moves it regrets.

    The last three seasons have been no exception, as even successful organizations like the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors have made some recent notable mistakes.

    Ranked in order of least to most regrettable given the short and long-term consequences, these are the five trades since the start of the 2019-20 season teams would most like to take back.

5. Kelly Oubre Jr. Trade Costs Warriors $82.4 Million

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    Golden State Warriors guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) against the Utah Jazz during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
    AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

    Trade Details: Oklahoma City Thunder trade Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Golden State Warriors for 2021 first-round pick (top-20-protected) and a 2021 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets)

    Coming off a disastrous 2019-20 season filled with injuries, the Warriors traded for Oubre to help replace the production from Klay Thompson, who was rehabbing a right torn Achilles.

    Now with a core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Oubre, Golden State looked to return to the Finals for the sixth time in seven years after finishing with the NBA's worst record the season before.

    Oubre struggled with his shooting efficiency and never truly fit with a franchise that values ball movement and defense. Through the first 19 games of the season, Oubre averaged just 11.7 points on 35.9 percent shooting overall and 22.1 percent from three while Golden State started a mediocre 10-9.

    Besides giving up pair of picks for Oubre, the financial cost of bringing him into a team already staring at a $66 million luxury tax bill was staggering.

    Oubre's $14.4 million meant an additional $68 million in luxury tax payments alone, bringing his total cost to the Warriors to $82.4 million for the 2020-21 season, per ESPN's Bobby Marks.

    While Golden State was able to shed some small salaries at the trade deadline, it still finished with a luxury tax bill of over $117 million, by far the highest in the league. Oubre did little to help the team with its 39-33 finish, given his minus-12.1 swing rating.

    Giving up the picks wasn't a big deal, as the Warriors stayed in the top 20 selections and got to keep their 2021 first-rounder, which meant sending a 2021 second-rounder via the Minnesota Timberwolves to OKC instead.

    The financial cost of trading for Oubre, who did little to help the team, was astronomical, however.

4. Knicks Give Up a 1st-round Pick to Not Play Cam Reddish

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    New York Knicks' Cam Reddish during the second half of the NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in New York. The Knicks defeated the Kings 116-96. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    AP Photo/Seth Wenig

    Trade Details: Atlanta Hawks trade Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill and a 2025 second-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets) to the New York Knicks for 2022 first-round pick (top-18-protected via Charlotte Hornets) and Kevin Knox

    This trade didn't seem that bad at the time, as Reddish started off his third season in Atlanta by averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals and shooting 37.9 percent from three in just 23.4 minutes a night. He was mostly a reserve, as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 draft just couldn't carve out a starting job on a Hawks team featuring plenty of wings.

    Going to New York represented a chance at greater playing time, an opportunity for the then-22-year-old to flash his massive two-way potential next to former college teammate RJ Barrett.

    Head coach Tom Thibodeau didn't get the memo, however, as Reddish saw his playing time slashed to just 14.3 minutes per game. His stats plummeted to just 6.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 steals, with an inconsistent role causing his three-point accuracy to dip to 25.8 percent. Veteran forward Evan Fournier continued to start over Reddish, despite making the Knicks 3.8 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor (30th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass).

    The Knicks could have used that extra first-rounder in a trade offer to acquire a certain shooting guard from the Utah Jazz, one they ultimately whiffed on.

    Atlanta, on the other hand, only had to send two of its own first-round picks to the San Antonio Spurs in a deal for Dejounte Murray, including the pick acquired from the Knicks for Reddish as part of the trade. San Antonio now owns the selection, one that's top-16-protected in 2023, top-14-protected in 2024 and 2025 or will at least turn into two second-round selections in 2026 and 2027.

    The Knicks could still save face if they move (or at least bench) Fournier and open up a larger role for Reddish. As is, giving up a first-round pick for a part-time rotation player about to enter free agency next summer was a huge mistake.

3. Bulls Overpay for Nikola Vucevic

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    Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, right, drives to the basket against Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
    AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

    Trade Details: Orlando Magic trade Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., 2021 first-round pick (Franz Wagner was later selected) and 2023 first-round pick (top-4-protected).

    Desperate to make the jump to playoff contender and wanting to surround Zach LaVine with win-now talent before he hit unrestricted free agency in 16 months, the Bulls went all-in to get Vucevic from the Magic at the 2021 trade deadline.

    The veteran center was stuffing the stat sheet for the lowly Magic at the time of the trade (24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steals and shooting 40.6 percent from three) and brought a much-needed offensive sidekick to play alongside LaVine.

    The price Chicago paid was hefty, however.

    Carter was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft and has gone on to flourish with Orlando (14.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, 51.7 percent shooting in 84 games). He's about to begin a terrific four-year, $50 million contract that starts at $14.2 million in 2022-23 and ends at just $10.9 million for the 2025-26 season. Vucevic, on the other hand, is already in the final year of his contract at $22 million and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, leaving his future with the Bulls in jeopardy.

    Chicago also gave up two lightly protected first-round picks, including what became the No. 8 overall pick in 2021. The Magic used this selection to take forward Franz Wagner, who's coming off a strong rookie season and looks to have real All-Star potential.

    The Bulls still owe their 2023 first-rounder to the Magic, one that will almost certainly transfer with only a top-four protection. With Chicago not looking like a true title contender, that pick could fall in the middle of the first round, giving Orlando a ton of value overall.

    Vucevic is a talented offensive center, but he's a poor rim protector and overall defender for a Bulls team that ranked 23rd in team defense last season. Of the 37 centers who defended 250 shots or more at the rim in 2021-22, Vucevic ranked 30th at 63.8 percent shooting allowed. Carter was far better for Orlando, coming in at 19th with 57.4 percent shooting surrendered.

    While the Magic have Carter, Wagner and a 2023 first coming from Chicago, the Bulls have an offensive-minded center when they need a rim protector instead. The trade seemed iffy at the time for Chicago and has only gotten worse.

2. Celtics Dump Desmond Bane to Dodge the Luxury Tax

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    Desmond Bane (22) plays against the Orlando Magic during an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
    AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht

    Trade Details: Boston Celtics trade Desmond Bane to the Memphis Grizzlies and Enes Kanter to the Portland Trail Blazers; Portland Trail Blazers trade Mario Hezonja to the Memphis Grizzlies; Memphis Grizzlies trade 2023 and 2025 second-round picks to Boston Celtics and cash to the Portland Trail Blazers

    The Celtics owned three first-round picks in the 2020 NBA draft, looking to add to a young core that had already advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four years.

    After selecting Aaron Nesmith at No. 14 and Payton Pritchard at No. 26, Boston was going to be up against the luxury tax if it had to add another first-rounder's salary.

    While the Celtics made Bane their pick at No. 30 overall, he was quickly sent to the Grizzlies for two future second-rounders and salary relief as part of a three-team deal.

    The trade has become a steal for Memphis, with Bane exploding in his second year to average 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals as the starting shooting guard. His 43.6 percent mark from three ranked second overall in the NBA, while Bane's free-throw accuracy (90.3 percent) was the sixth-highest in the league.

    It's obvious now that Boston kept the wrong rookies. Bane on the Celtics could have been the difference in beating the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 Finals, while Nesmith has since been traded to the Indiana Pacers in a package to acquire Malcolm Brogdon.

    β€œI hear that all the time,” Bane said, via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. β€œI see it on Twitter, people tagging me. Me slipping away [in the first round] and they took Nesmith, who had a shooting profile going into it. They were obviously looking for shooting in the draft and valued him over me."

    The Celtics are still going to be one of the best teams in the East next season, but they could have already won their first title since 2008 had they kept Bane.

1. Lakers Go All-In for Russell Westbrook

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    CLEVELAND, OHIO - MARCH 21: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates during the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 21, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers 131-120. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Trade Details: Washington Wizards trade Russell Westbrook, 2023, 2024 and 2028 second-round picks to Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and No. 22 pick in the 2021 draft (used on Isaiah Jackson) as part of a five-team deal.

    When you can take some key pieces off a championship team, package them a draft pick and exchange them for a ball-dominant, non-shooting, past-his-prime point guard on the worst contract in the NBA, you've just got to do it.

    The trade that brought Westbrook to the Lakers isn't just the most regrettable of the past three years, but possibly the worst since the 2013 Brooklyn Nets debacle.

    It's a move Los Angeles has yet to recover from, as Westbrook's $47.1 million salary for 2022-23 is the second-highest in the NBA behind only that of Stephen Curry. It will almost certainly cost the Lakers one of their two tradeable first-round picks to move him, and that's before getting anything of actual value back in return.

    A team featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis has to have a historically bad supporting cast to not be considered even a threat to win the title, yet following a 33-49 season, here we are.

    Westbrook could still be a useful NBA player if he focuses on his playmaking and defense, but at 33, it's hard to imagine him making any significant changes to his playing style, especially since we saw no evidence of this last year.

    The West is loaded up top, especially with the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets returning to full health. The Lakers look like a play-in team at best with Westbrook as the starting point guard, and they risk wasting one of James' few remaining prime years.

    Rob Pelinka slammed his own title window shut by trading for Westbrook, and it may not open again around a 37-year-old James.


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