Ranking the 10 Biggest NBA Offseason Trades Since 2010

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2020

Ranking the 10 Biggest NBA Offseason Trades Since 2010

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The last decade of the NBA has included a shift in roster management. Well-known players had occasionally changed teams, but superstars often stayed in one spot.

    LeBron James helped shape a new trend.

    In the summer of 2010, he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade deal. Since then, All-Stars such as Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis have angled their way into a new franchise.

    Several other summer transactions have played a massive role in NBA Finals outcomes. That's the basis of the biggest trades, though marquee names also factor into the definition of "biggest."

    The focus is on trades finalized in the offseason. This means several notable dealsโ€”for example, Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks or Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistonsโ€”are not included.

Honorable Mentions

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Rockets Add Westbrook, Send CP3 to Thunder

    After several years of both the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder ending frustratingly shy of an NBA title, they swapped All-Star guards in 2019. Russell Westbrook linked up with former teammate James Harden in Houston, and Chris Paul joined OKC.

    While they continue to aim at a championship, the long-term impact is OKC acquiring two first-round picks and rights to swap first-rounders in 2021 and 2025. If the Rockets don't win a title, this could be a legendarily bad trade for Houston.

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    Clippers Pair Paul George with Kawhi Leonard

    While his 2017 trade from the Indiana Pacers to OKC is notable, Paul George maneuvered his way to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019. The trade coincided with Kawhi Leonard signing in L.A. as a free agent. OKC brought back Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and first-round selections or swap rights in every draft from 2021-26.

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    Sign-and-Trade Moves KD to Nets

    Kevin Durant won a pair of titles with the Golden State Warriors but decided to leave in the summer of 2019. Golden State sent him to the Brooklyn Nets for D'Angelo Russell, whom they later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins.

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    Kyrie Leaves Cavs for Celtics

    One season after winning an NBA title in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving forced a trade. He headed to the Boston Celtics, who shipped Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two future draft picks to the Cavs. They selected Collin Sexton with a 2018 first-rounder. Two seasons later, Irving left Boston in free agency.

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    Dwight Howard's 1st Stop in LA

    Although he dominated with the Orlando Magic for eight years, Dwight Howard never won a title. He demanded a trade and in 2012 headed to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team swap involving the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Other notable players in the trade were Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum and Nikola Vucevic.

    Howard earned third-team All-NBA honors, but the move didn't work exactly as anticipated. Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles late in the regular season, and the San Antonio Spurs swept the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Howard left as a free agent in the offseason.

10. Mavs, Hawks Exchange Trae Young and Luka Doncic

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    Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    During the 2018 draft, the Atlanta Hawks grabbed Luka Doncic and traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for the rights to Trae Young and a future first-rounder.

    Given that both players have become All-Stars, the deal has already worked out for both franchises.

    Granted, the Mavs have a small lead. Doncic won Rookie of the Year in 2018-19 and earned first-team All-NBA honors in a 2019-20 season full of triple-doubles and a playoff trip.

    Young is a cornerstone of the Hawks' future, and they're hoping Cam Reddishโ€”the extra pickโ€”will be the same.

9. James Harden to Rockets

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    One year before Howard inked a deal with the Rockets, they brought in Harden and unlocked his star potential.

    Oklahoma City wanted to avoid the luxury tax and prioritized Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the future. As Harden entered the final year of his contract, the Thunder dealt him for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and three 2013 draft picks.

    From a championship perspective, the trade failed for both teams. Houston still hasn't reached an NBA Finals despite Harden's seven All-NBA honors, and the Thunderโ€”who lost in the 2012 Finals with the trioโ€”no longer have Durant or Westbrook, either.

    Nevertheless, the trade helped the Rockets snap a three-year postseason drought and become an annual playoff team.

8. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to Nets

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    One trade helped the Celtics set up a relevant future and quickly crushed Brooklyn's hopes of competing for, well, anything.

    In 2013, the Nets went all-in on a veteran core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, packaging a few players along with four first-round picks. Boston turned that bounty of draft selections into Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving.

    Yes, Brooklyn has since recovered thanks to more intelligent roster management. Plus, the Celtics haven't won the Eastern Conference despite the clear on-paper victory of the trade. It might happen in the future, but that's not a guarantee.

    Still, this trade resulted in a five-year setback for the Nets.

7. Chris Paul to Clippers

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    Don Ryan/Associated Press

    As the lockout ended, the NBA-controlled New Orleans Hornets had an agreement to send Chris Paul to the Lakers. The league nullified the deal, leading the Clippers to swoop in.

    New Orleans received Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 first-round pick for the All-Star point guard. The Hornetsโ€”now Pelicansโ€”used the draft selection on Austin Rivers, but the trade did far less for their future than winning the 2013 draft lottery and the chance to take Anthony Davis.

    The Clippers, meanwhile, introduced "Lob City" with CP3, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Though they became a consistent 50-game winner, they also never reached the NBA Finals, either.

    After six seasons, Los Angeles sent CP3 to Houston for Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, among others.

6. Kevin Love to Cavaliers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    When LeBron left Miami and returned to Cleveland in 2014, the Cavs added another All-Star to the roster. They brought in Kevin Love from Minnesota, which received Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett while the 76ers helped facilitate the three-way deal.

    Love's production dropped sharply, but he completed a Big Three that controlled the Eastern Conference from 2015-18.

    James, Irving and Love guided Cleveland to three straight NBA Finals with a championship in 2016. Love provided nine points and 14 rebounds in the Game 7 victory over the Warriors that season. The Cavs reached a fourth Finals in 2018 after Irving left too.

    Although dreams of multiple titles fell short, Love has been a valuable player in Cleveland. In six seasons, he's added two All-Star appearances to that 2016 championship.

5. Andre Iguodala to Warriors

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    In August 2012, Andre Iguodala went from the 76ers to the Nuggets in the four-way trade sending Howard to the Lakers. The following offseason, Iguodala moved again.

    This one helped reshape the NBA.

    Golden State added him to play alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. After winning 51 games during Iguodala's first year, the Warriors started a dynasty in 2014-15 with the versatile wing holding a pivotal role.

    Iguodala allowed Golden State to unveil the small-ball "death lineup" that defined a dynasty. Iguodala won the 2015 Finals MVP, while the Warriors reached five straight Finalsโ€”swapping out Barnes for Durant along the wayโ€”with three titles.

    This trade has an edge on Love/Cleveland because Iguodala won three rings, but it's lower than the rest because Iguodala was a complementary piece as opposed to a top player.

4. Kawhi Leonard to Raptors

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    After rising to superstardom with San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard asked for a trade following the 2018 season. The Spurs moved him and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a future first-round pick.

    Even though Kawhi only spent one season in Toronto, the trade paid off incredibly well for the Raptors.

    Leonard recovered from a thigh injury that had sidelined him for much of 2017-18 and regained his All-Star form. He propelled the Raptors to their first-ever NBA Finals and earned the Finals MVP while guiding them past the injury-plagued Warriors. Green continued to thrive in his three-and-D starting role too.

    As for San Antonio, the trade halted the continuation of a two-decade powerhouse. The Spurs' 22-year playoff streak ended in 2020, and only the 2019 draft pickโ€”Keldon Johnsonโ€”looks like a long-term piece.

3. Anthony Davis to Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The quick summary of Anthony Davis' move from New Orleans to the Lakers is basically the same as Kawhi's trade to Toronto. Davis requested a trade and won a championship in his first season.

    But the long-term implications are a key difference.

    The Lakers' title could be the beginning of a run instead of a one-year wonder; Davis plans to re-sign in free agency. And while the Spurs' return was unimpressive, the Pelicans landed Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks. (They also won the 2019 draft lottery and selected Zion Williamson.)

    Los Angeles accomplished its mission of winning a title when pairing Davis with LeBron. New Orleans likely would've lost Davis in free agency anyway and instead built a more promising future.

2. Kawhi Leonard to Spurs

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    During the 2011 NBA draft, San Antonio sent George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for the rights to Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans. At the time, it was a stunning trade for the Spurs as they seemingly traded away Tony Parker's successor.

    Hill developed into a quality player, but Kawhi helped the Spurs keep winning as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker entered the back end of their respective careers.

    Leonard quickly joined the starting lineup and became an absolute force on defense. After falling to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, San Antonio won the 2014 rematch as Kawhi earned Finals MVP.

    Though the 2018 breakup was messy and unexpected, Leonard earned two Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-NBA honors. It was a lopsided trade in the Spurs' favor.

    For good measure, Bertans made the NBA jump in 2016 and emerged as a valuable shooter off the bench.

1. LeBron James, Chris Bosh to Heat

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Through a pair of sign-and-trades in the summer of 2010, the Heat added both LeBron and Chris Bosh and created a superteam. Miami dealt two first-rounders to both Cleveland and Toronto, respectively, with two second-rounders to Cleveland.

    James and Bosh connected with Dwyane Wade, and they guided Miami to four straight Eastern Conference titles from 2011-14. The Heat won NBA titles in both 2012 and 2013.

    As if that's not enough, LeBron won two regular-season MVP awards during the four-year stretch. Both he and Bosh appeared in four All-Star games. While they were acquired separately, James and Bosh are forever linked in Miami.

    And what they accomplished is unmatched.