Mid-February usually marks a couple of things annually each year. Most of the holiday Visa bills are received and people cringe as to how much the balance is. A good chunk of New Years resolutions are already broken and finally the NBA trade deadline is marked on calendars league wide.
Each year there are buyers and sellers as teams jockey for position to either make a run at the playoffs (or championship) or they get rid of dead weight to clear space for free agency and adding draft picks for the upcoming summer bonanza. While some trades are completely lopsided, others remain questionable as to which team really came out ahead, sometimes an issue that isn't answered until well into the future.
This winter, fans, players and pretty much all but two of the teams in the league were caught off guard by the trade between the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans despite promises by the Kings organization that they would not part with their cornerstone franchise player. While a number of the trades below may be described as some of the worst in league history and others can be defined as some of the best, the judgement is in the eyes of the management party that signed off on each of the deals and occasionally the fans that can see the bigger picture, we'll leave that up to you to decide.
15 Houston Rockets / Portland Trail Blazers - 1995
Portland receives - Otis Thorpe, Marcelo Nicole & 1995 1st round pick
Houston receives - Clyde Drexler and Tracy Murray
Before the 1993-94 season, the Houston Rockets had previously only reached the NBA finals twice in team history. In claiming their first championship, Hakeem Olajuwon may have carried one of the weakest rosters in NBA history (for all those complaining about what LeBron had to do during his first run in Cleveland) to the promise land in a seven game battle with the NY Knicks.
After spending over 12 years in Portland, Blazers star guard Drexler was asking to be traded following a lengthy run of first round playoff exits (with a pair of finals appearances sandwiched in between). Growing up in Houston, Clyde sought to return home to finish his career, a request which the Blazers fulfilled. Although they parted with a fan favorite, the Rockets easily came away victorious in this lopsided deal that not only brought Drexler back home, but also a second championship banner.
14 New York Knicks / Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves - 2011
NY receives - Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer & second-round pick
Denver receives - Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, 2012 & 2013 second round picks, 2014 Knicks 1st round pick & cash
Minnesota receives - Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph & cash
On paper six years ago, the Knicks made off like bandits. Who would have thought that this trade would have actually favored the Denver Nuggets when you consider a player like Carmelo, a superstar level talent. However, since the addition of Melo, to a roster that once also included Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith to name but a few, the Knicks have managed only three trips to the playoffs, including two first round losses and a loss in the EC Semis.
The Nuggets, who lost the biggest name in the trade have also struggled to make a presence in the playoffs, participating only three times since the deal, calling it a season after the first round all three times. However, considering that Melo was all but guaranteed to sign with the Knicks the following summer, the return that the Nuggets got on the soon to be free agent was impressive. Had Gallinari and Chandler avoided health issues, Denver would have almost certainly had more success.
Eddy Curry never actually made it on the floor for the Timberwolves and Anthony Randolph lasted just over a season before signing with the Nuggets in 2012. While it is hard to tell who won this deal, what is known is that the Timberwolves benefited from it the least.
13 Philadelphia 76ers / Atlanta Hawks - 2001
Philadelphia receives - Dikembe Mutombo and Roshown McLeod
Atlanta receives - Toni Kukoc, Theo Ratliff, Nazr Mohammed & Pepe Sanchez
When Philadelphia combined one of the biggest defensive presences the league at that time with one of the biggest (or smallest) offensive presences in the league at that time, the result became the Sixers first trip to the NBA Finals in nearly two decades.
Adding the 7'2" shot blocking big man to Allen Iverson's crew at first seemed to be an odd pairing, but what AI gave the team on the offensive end, Mt. Mutombo provided on the defensive end. Mutombo would only stay in the City of Brotherly Love for two seasons before being traded to New Jersey, but the move was worth it as the Hawks continued to flounder for the the next seven years before a much revamped roster that featured none of the four acquired players would go on a lengthy playoff run.
The Larry Brown, Iverson, Mutombo era in Philly may have been short-lived, but the Sixers haven't seen anything like it since and at the rate the current club is going, it'll be a very long time until they even get a glimpse of the mountain top again.
12 Utah Jazz / Philadelphia 76ers - 1994
Utah receives - Jeff Hornacek, Sean Green & 1995 2nd round pick
Philadelphia receives - Jeff Malone and 1994 first round pick
Back in '94 the Jazz created a Big Three of their own in order to compete in the Wild West and eventually against Mr. Jordan's Chicago Bulls in back to back NBA Finals. After a loss in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Jazz needed a bit of a shakeup. While Malone was more than a capable scorer his chemistry with the Stockton to Malone (Karl that is) playset just didn't seem to jive.
Although he was just two years younger, Hornacek, whom the 76ers were failing with trying to use as a point guard, became the third Musketeer, giving the Jazz a shooting guard with better percentages, range and defense. Sure he occasionally slid over to be the floor general, but his chemistry in the backcourt with Stockton was instantly seamless. Malone would have some individual success during his first two years in Philly, but hung up the boots at the end of the 1995-96 season.
11 Detroit Pistons / Atlanta Hawks / Boston Celtics - 2004
Detroit receives - Rasheed Wallace and Mike James
Atlanta receives - Chris Mills, Bob Sura, Zeljko Rebraca & 2004 1st round pick
Boston receives - Lindsey Hunter, Chucky Atkins & 2004 1st round pick
'Sheed only played one game for the Hawks following a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, but what he provided the Pistons was the missing piece to a starless championship squad. Made up of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace (no relation), Rasheed fit right in as the blue collar power forward that the team was missing.
Sure that first round pick that the Hawks received ended up being Josh Smith, a component in a successful Atlanta playoff run a few years later. Considering that Wallace not only helped the Pistons to their first title since the Bad Boys era, but also to a repeat trip to the finals the very next season, it's safe to say that considering the Pistons' biggest loss on this trade deadline deal was role playing guard Lindsey Hunter, Detroit walked away as the winner from this trade.
10 Phoenix Suns / Boston Celtics - 2002
Phoenix receives - Joe Johnson, Milt Palacio, Randy Brown & 2002 1st round pick
Boston receives - Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk
For immediate impact, sure the addition of Rogers helped strengthen the Celtics bench and proved to be an asset for one season as the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Or you could look at the long run and question why they traded the 10th overall pick, one who could have easily teamed with Paul Pierce for years to come for an aging veteran.
With a respectable rookie stat line and a slight increase in his second season, Johnson would end up playing a huge role in the Suns, Seven Seconds or Less offense for the next two years, averaging 17 PPG and shooting nearly 40% from downtown, a gunner the Celtics would have loved to had in their future. If someone could please explain the rational behind trading a young talented rookie (who would go on to be a member of the All-Rookie Team, a seven-time All-Star and a member of the 09/10 All-NBA team) and a draft pick for a rental bench player, it would be greatly appreciated.
9 Miami Heat / Phoenix Suns - 2008
Miami receives - Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks
Phoenix receives - Shaquille O'Neal
For three and a half years, the Phoenix Suns offense was the most prolific and entertaining brand of basketball in the NBA. After the February 2008 NBA trade deadline, it came to a screeching halt. Playing his in his 15th season a well weathered O'Neal was not the answer to the Suns' problems, in actual fact the future Hall Of Fame big man created more.
With a roster that featured a run and gun lineup of Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill and Raja Bell, swapping The Matrix for the Big Cactus brought the Suns' offense to a crawl. After a pair of trips to the Western Finals and one to the Western Semifinals, GM Steve Kerr and Coach Mike D'Antoni went for broke, thinking the big man would help carry the Suns to the promise land.
Unfortunately the mix of on court chemistry would never properly blend as the Suns were ousted in the first round of the playoffs during Shaq's first season and failed to make the postseason in his second year. Although Marion would last only one season in South Beach, it was hard to see the SSOL era come to an end in Phoenix.
8 Miami Heat / Golden State Warriors - 1996
Miami receives - Tim Hardaway and Chris Gatling
Golden State receives - Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis
After five and a half years as a member of the Warriors and the famed RUN TMC trio that was broken up far too early, Hardaway would find himself switching beaches to the East Coast. Following just two trips to the playoffs during his time with the Warriors, Tim Bug would be a valuable asset for the Heat as they embarked on a string of six straight postseason appearances.
While it's true that the Heat would fall short of championship expectations, you have to remember that this was during an era of the Chicago Bulls' second three-peat. During his time with the Heat, Hardaway would receive a 1st All-NBA team and two 2nd All-NBA team honors along with two All-Star game appearances while teaming up with Alonzo Mourning to make the Heat a legitimate title contender in the Eastern Conference. Golden State on the other hand, would continue their head first dive into the lower rungs of the Western Conference and a twelve year absence from the playoffs.
7 Cleveland Cavaliers / L.A. Clippers - 2011
Cleveland receives - Baron Davis and 2011 1st round pick
LA receives - Jamario Moon and Mo Williams
To be fair, Williams had just come off of being named to the 2009 All-Star team and Moon had a decent rookie and sophomore sea....oh hell, come on now, we are talking about Jamario Moon here people.
Davis, who was a shell of his former self that may have actually eaten that shell had it been made of chocolate, was nothing but a salary cap dump for the Clippers who were looking to clear space to re-sign DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon. Unfortunately for then Clippers GM Neil Olshey, he did not put any protection on the draft pick, a move that would come back to haunt him. While the Clips entered the draft with less than 30% odds of having the pick be the number one overall selection, let us remember that these are the Clippers we are talking about and very little has gone right for that franchise.
Halfway through the 2011-12 season the Cavs amnestied Davis and were left with nothing from this trade but Kyrie Irving, you know, the 2011-12 Rookie Of The Year, a four time All-Star and a 2015-16 NBA Champion.
6 New Orleans Hornets / Golden State Warriors - 2005
New Orleans receives - Dale Davis and Speedy Claxton
Golden State receives - Baron Davis
We believe the dunk heard throughout the NBA is enough to describe how lopsided this trade was. Sure Davis was already walking around with the label "injury prone" before he even reached the age of 25, but even on potential alone he was worth more than Dale and Speedy.
Sure it took a couple of years and a few more acquisitions, but when the 2006-07 Don Nelson-led Warriors qualified for the Western Conference playoffs as the eighth seed and upset the top seeded Dallas Mavericks in the opening round, the renaissance was in full effect.
Sure, they got thumped by the Utah Jazz 4-1 in the next round and Davis decided that the L.A. Clippers' free agent offer was a better deal than staying in Oakland (he is from LA of course), but for that split second in the fourth quarter when Boom Dizzle turned baseline on a young Deron Williams and posterized AK47, the short-lived three and a half years of having Baron Davis in the lineup was well worth it. Besides, do you really think that Dale or Speedy could have done this?
5 *5. New Orleans Pelicans / Sacramento Kings - 2017
New Orleans receives - DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi
Sacramento receives - Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, 2017 1st & 2nd round picks
We'll put a little asterisk next to this one. While it was recent, we believe in 5-10 years, this will just be another footnote in the line of incompetence of the Sacramento Kings.
Kings GM Vlade Divac fully believes that his most recent move will be a success, so much that he is willing to put his job on the line stating he will step down in two years if the team is not better off. Now let's hold off for a second on the fact that the Kings' owner Vivek Ranadive thinks that Hield can be a similar player to that of Steph Curry.
Hield, once deemed the most NBA ready player in last summer's draft has had an up and down rookie season, but not one even worthy of being in the same breath as the reigning MVP. As for Evans, who is on his second tour with the Kings and Galloway, Tyreke needs to find a way to remain healthy to be an asset, hard to say for someone who has yet to play a full season during his eight year career and Galloway is nothing more than a serviceable role player.
4 Utah Jazz / New Jersey Nets - 2011
Utah receives - Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, 2011 1st round pick, 2013 1st round pick & cash
New Jersey receives - Deron Williams
Before he was traded to the Nets, Williams was in debate talks as the next great point guard along with Chris Paul. One obviously has reached expected status, the other, not so much. When you run Jerry Sloan out of Utah (rumor), you know that you did something wrong.
Four years later, Williams would once again finds himself on the move, this time with the Nets agreeing to buy out his contract in order to split from the troubled point guard. The Jazz on the other hand have used Favors as one of their building blocks for a young developing core that has found themselves growing each season and in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. Harris, who has since moved on, started 79 of his 80 games with the Jazz, offering a respectable option at the point guard spot. The 2011 draft pick would wind up being big man Enes Kanter who would grow into becoming a force in the paint improving statistically across the board in each of his four years.
3 Milwaukee Bucks / Seattle SuperSonics - 2003
Milwaukee receives - Gary Payton and Desmond Mason
Seattle receives - Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Ronald Murray & 2003 1st round pick
How the Sonics were able to part with arguably the face of their franchise is baffling. We aren't talking just the most popular player in a short era, we are talking in the history of the entire franchise! However, as much as it hurt fans to see The Glove go, bringing in Jesus Shuttlesworth and some component parts was well worth it. Sure if they hadn't traded Payton chances were he would still stick with the team, unlike his 28 game tenure with the Bucks before moving on as a free agent to LA and at 34, he wasn't getting any younger.
Mason would hang on with the Bucks for three seasons, growing to be a solid starter at the shooting guard/small forward spot. Payton's replacement was a 27-year-old shooting guard who was just reaching his prime potential. For over four years, Allen paced the Sonics with nearly 25 PPG while adding over four rebounds and four helpers. After a slow rookie season, Ridnour would go on to become the Sonics starting point guard, spending five years with the team and Flip would provide the team with depth for two solid seasons.
2 Boston Celtics / Phoenix Suns - 2015
Boston receives - Isaiah Thomas
Phoenix receives - Marcus Thornton and 2016 1st round pick
By now, most of you know the Isaiah Thomas story, but for those who don't, here it is in a nutshell. Selected with the 60th pick in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings, Thomas would average approximately 12 PPG and four assists during his two years with the club, while pretty much becoming the team's starting point guard in his second year.
For whatever reason, the Kings didn't want to keep the diminutive guard and shipped him off to Phoenix for the rights to Alex Oriakhi. Half a year later and the Suns figured that moving Thomas would help elevate the log jam they created at the lead guard spot. Upon arrival in Boston during the 2015 trade deadline, Thomas continued his missing to prove naysayers wrong and helped lead the C's to the club's best record since the Paul Pierce era.
How has he topped last season's performance? Simply by putting the team on his back and becoming a candidate for league MVP. As for Marcus Thornton and Skal Labissiere, the former is on his third team since the trade and coming off the pine for the Wizards, while the young rookie out of Kentucky is pulling splinters for Thomas' old team, the Sacramento Kings.
1 Indiana Pacers / Dallas Mavericks - 1989
Indiana receives - Detlef Schrempf and 1993 2nd round pick
Dallas receives - Herb Williams
For the most of his four years in Indiana, Detlef would come off the bench to lead the Pacers' second unit as the team advanced to the playoffs in each of the four full seasons he was part of the team. As for a hidden gem of a second round pick, the Pacers used the 93rd overall pick on forward Antonio Davis. Despite averaging only nine points and six rebounds during his six seasons with the club, Davis would provide a solid big man presence in the paint for a team that would make four trips to the Eastern Conference Finals during his tenure.
As for Williams, he would start to see a decline in his stats as he aged. Coming off the bench for a Dallas team that made only one trip to the playoffs during his time with the Mavericks, he would be signed by the New York Knicks during the 1992 offseason.