The Best Win-Win Trades in Modern NBA History

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 7, 2020

The Best Win-Win Trades in Modern NBA History

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    The best trades in sports are the ones both teams can ultimately feel good about, keeping the lines of communication open between general managers for future transactions.

    These are commonly referred to as "win-win trades," deals in which it's difficult to pick just a single victor. Although rare, there have been some examples of such deals throughout the course of modern NBA history.

    The following are 10 trades that worked out for all parties involved over the past four decades.


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    The Trade: Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kevin Johnson, Tyrone Corbin, 1988 first-round pick, 1988 second-round pick and 1989 second-round pick to Phoenix Suns for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and 1988 first-round pick 

    Johnson was the seventh overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft out of California, a skilled point guard that was coming off the Cavaliers' bench behind second-year guard Mark Price.

    Price was just breaking out with 16.0 points, 6.0 assists and 1.2 steals in his sophomore season and would later go on to make four All-Star teams with the Cavs and become one of the best players in franchise history.

    Cleveland had a promising young core of Price, Brad Daughtery, Ron Harper, John "Hot Rod" Williams and Dell Curry and needed a proven All-Star to elevate the team.

    The Suns were in the middle of a 28-54 season and needed an infusion of young talent. Nance was their best player, a 6'10" power forward with outstanding leaping ability who had made the 1985 All-Star game.

    Agreeing to a deal based around Nance and Johnson ended up helping both teams.

    The Cavs became a playoff regular in the East with Nance, who would go on to make two more All-Star games in Cleveland.

    Johnson would spend the remaining 11-and-a-half seasons of his career in Phoenix, being named to three All-Star teams with averages of 18.7 points, 9.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 683 games. Phoenix would also use the first-round pick acquired from the Cavaliers to select Dan Majerle, a three-time All-Star in his seven seasons with the Suns.


    The Trade: New York Knicks traded Bill Cartwright, a 1988 first-round pick and 1988 third-round pick to Chicago Bulls for Charles Oakley, 1988 first-round pick and 1988 third-round pick

    A draft-day trade in 1988 between the Knicks and Bulls would help elevate both franchises while providing better overall roster fits.

    While Oakley was quickly becoming one of the best rebounders in the NBA, the Bulls had just drafted Horace Grant with the 10th overall pick in 1987 and wanted to get him a larger role.

    A few states over, the Knicks were experiencing a similar dilemma. While Cartwright was a former All-Star, New York was determined to use Patrick Ewing as a full-time center and needed a power forward to put next to him.

    Oakley played his role perfectly, averaging a double-double over the next 10 seasons with the Knicks and being named an All-Star in 1994. Cartwright and Grant would become the starting frontcourt on three Bulls championship teams from 1991 to 1993.

    The picks turned out to be valuable as well. Chicago drafted Will Perdue, a quality backup center who was later traded for Dennis Rodman, while the Knicks grabbed Rod Strickland with the 19th overall pick.


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    The Trade: Miami Heat traded Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves and 1996 first-round pick to Charlotte Hornets for Alonzo Mourning, LeRon Ellis and Pete Myers.

    Mourning and the Hornets looked like the next great team of the 1990s following Michael Jordan's first retirement in 1993.

    After three seasons with Charlotte and not seeing eye-to-eye with teammate Larry Johnson, Mourning refused to sign a contract extension, forcing the Hornets to trade him.

    Miami jumped at the opportunity to acquire a 25-year-old All-Star center, offering their own star in Rice along with a pair of role players and a first-round pick.

    Mourning would become one of the best players in Heat franchise history, averaging 19.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game from 1995 to 2002.

    Rice was a dynamic wing scorer who would go on to have the three best seasons of his career in Charlotte. Making the All-Star team in back-to-back-to-back years, he averaged 23.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and shot 44.4 percent from three with the Hornets.


    The Trade: Phoenix Suns traded Charles Barkley and 1999 second-round pick to Houston Rockets for Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Chucky Brown and Mark Bryant

    While Barkley was past his prime by the time the Suns traded him to the Rockets, the deal would end up representing good value all around.

    Barkley averaged 16.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game over four years in Houston, making the 1997 All-Star team while helping lead the Rockets to three playoff appearances.

    Cassell was the key piece coming back to Phoenix, but it was a secondary move that ultimately made this trade worthwhile for the Suns.

    Just 22 games into his Phoenix career, Cassell was traded with Michael Finley to the Dallas Mavericks for Jason Kidd in a six-player deal. Kidd would go on to make three All-Star teams in his four-and-a-half seasons with the Suns.


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    The Trade: Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol and 2010 second-round pick to Los Angeles Lakers for draft rights to Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, 2008 first-round pick, 2010 first-round pick

    At the time the trade was made in 2008, it looked like a landslide victory for the Lakers.

    Pau Gasol was an All-Star and one of the most skilled offensive big men in the game. Marc Gasol was playing in the Spanish League at the time and didn't even know if he'd be going to the NBA. Brown was a failed former No. 1 overall pick and was used mostly for salary relief by Memphis.

    The deal looked so bad that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called for a trade committee to veto deals like this that "made no sense."

    The benefits for the Lakers came right away. Getting Gasol helped push L.A. into the 2008 NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics before winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

    Marc Gasol has since become the greatest player in Grizzlies franchise history, passing his brother in nearly all statistical categories. Spending 10-and-a-half years in Memphis, Marc made three All-Star teams, two All-NBA teams and was the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year.


    The Trade: New Jersey Nets traded Jason Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright to Dallas Mavericks for Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, Keith Van Horn, 2008 first-round pick and 2010 first-round pick

    After back-to-back Finals appearances in the early 2000s, the Jason Kidd-led Nets were slowly slipping into mediocrity by 2007-08.

    Amid a 34-48 season, Kidd wasn't doing enough to keep New Jersey afloat, and getting off his contract for younger talent and draft picks became a priority.

    Dallas was interested in a reunion with the 34-year-old point guard, sending New Jersey a package based around Harris and two first-round picks.

    While his own offensive game steeply declined, Kidd proved to be the veteran playmaker and leader the Mavericks needed, helping them win the 2011 NBA title.

    Harris averaged 17.7 points and 6.9 assists from 2008 to 2011 in New Jersey, later being traded in a deal with Derrick Favors to the Utah Jazz for Deron Williams.


    The Trade: Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, 2006 first-round pick and 2007 second-round pick.

    With O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's relationship deteriorating, the Lakers had to make a choice between the two in 2004.

    Following titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, the Lakers had lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semis in 2003 and were coming off a Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons in 2004. O'Neal was 32 and beginning to show signs of slowing down despite still being one of the best centers in the league.

    Now playing a secondary role to a star guard, O'Neal would help Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat win the 2006 NBA title, the fourth and last of his legendary career.

    For the Lakers, trading O'Neal meant keeping the 25-year-old Bryant while adding some star-caliber talent around him.

    Odom spent seven years with the Lakers, averaging 13.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and helping L.A. win the 2009 and 2010 titles. Butler put up 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in his lone season with the Lakers before they foolishly traded him to the Washington Wizards in a deal for Kwame Brown. L.A. did use the first-round pick to select Jordan Farmar, a key rotation piece on both Finals teams.

    Both teams ended up winning titles after the trade, with Byrant and O'Neal eventually becoming friends once again.


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    The Trade: Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kevin Love to Cleveland Cavaliers and Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved to Philadelphia 76ers; Philadelphia 76ers traded Thaddeus Young to Minnesota Timberwolves; Cleveland Cavaliers traded Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to Minnesota Timberwolves and 2016 first-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers

    With Love asking his way out of Minnesota and the Wolves staring down an inevitable rebuild, they found a trade partner in a Cavs team that had just signed LeBron James.

    Love is now six years into his Cavaliers career with averages of 17.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He's made two All-Star teams and helped lead the Cavs to four NBA Finals, including the franchise's first and only championship in 2016.

    Bennett quickly flamed out of the league, but Wiggins spent five-and-a-half years with the Wolves. While never living up to his potential as a No. 1 overall pick, he did average 19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in Minnesota.

    The Wolves later used his contract in a deal to acquire point guard (and friend of Karl-Anthony Towns) D'Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors.

    Cleveland got the win-now star it needed at the time, while the Wolves were wise to take a chance on Wiggins and ultimately parlayed the trade into one for Russell.


    The Trade: Indiana Pacers traded Paul George to Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis

    While the deal has worked out quite well for both teams, at the time it appeared the Pacers had gotten fleeced.

    George was a perennial All-Star and NBA All-Defensive Team selection entering the final year of his deal in Indiana. Trading him almost certainly meant bringing in a young star or multiple first-round picks.

    Oladipo was a starter in Orlando and OKC but didn't look like a star in the league. Sabonis was coming off an ugly rookie season in which he shot just 39.9 percent overall for the Thunder. Swapping George for both players while not even collecting a draft pick seemed like an awful haul for Indiana.

    Instead, the Pacers skipped a rebuild altogether while both players blossomed into All-Stars.

    Oladipo has averaged 20.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game over three seasons, and Sabonis is putting up 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

    For OKC, George brought value both as a player and a trade asset. He averaged 25.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game in two years with the Thunder, finishing third in MVP voting in 2018-19.

    The Thunder traded him in the summer of 2019 to the Los Angeles Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps, one of the greatest packages of picks and players for a single player in NBA history.


    The Trade: Los Angeles Lakers traded Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, De'Andre Hunter, 2021 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick and 2023 first-round pick swap rights to New Orleans Pelicans and Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones and 2022 second-round pick to Washington Wizards; New Orleans Pelicans traded Anthony Davis to Los Angeles Lakers

    The Lakers' pursuit for Davis ultimately failed at the 2019 trade deadline before a deal was finalized five months later.

    Giving up so much for Davis was a risk the Lakers had to take, especially with LeBron James turning 35 in December of 2019. Signing Davis as a free agent in the summer of 2020 would have been too late.

    Behind James and Davis, the Lakers are off to a Western Conference-best 49-14 start to the season, with Davis averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 blocks per game.

    Given a larger role, Ingram was named an All-Star in his first season with the Pelicans, putting up 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Ball's outside shooting has improved (38.3 percent from three up from 31.5 in L.A.), and the third-year point guard is averaging 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.

    The Pelicans traded the No. 4 overall pick (Hunter) to the Atlanta Hawks to grab Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker with the Nos. 8 and 17 overall picks.

    Los Angeles looks ready to win a championship this season, while New Orleans has arguably assembled the best young core in the NBA.


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