Trades have become a hot topic in NBA circles this offseason. 2017 has seen the Pacers send Paul George to the Thunder, and the Clippers ship Chris Paul to the Rockets. Yet, those trades occurred for relatively legitimate reasons.
Rumors continue to swirl around Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving as both players seem have grown dissatisfied with their current roles. Anthony's discontent arose from mistreatment by former team president Phil Jackson, while Irving's frustration came from playing in LeBron James' shadow. These situations may seem strange. Why would Irving turn down an opportunity to play with the greatest current NBA star?
The truth is, the NBA is no stranger to odd trades. Sometimes star players make bold trade demands with questionable justification. Other times, owners deal players against their own team’s interests, and offer strange explanations for those moves.
Of course, "ridiculous" is a subjective term. Oftentimes, the justification and subsequent consequences of each trade are more farfetched. This list looks more at the circumstances surrounding some notable trades, and how they stand out from the typical trades fans might expect.
16 Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most popular athletes in the 1960s sports scene. Standing at over seven feet tall, "Wilt the Stilt" famously scored 100 points in one game, and averaged 50 points a game for the 1961-62 season.
Chamberlain's star was still shining bright by the time he requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968. While the exact reason for Chamberlain request remains unclear, there are a few theories. One is that Wilt was upset about 76ers coach Alex Hannum leaving the team to coach in the ABA. He wanted out as a result. Jack Ramsey, team GM at the time, believed Chamberlain would leave for the ABA as well if he wasn't traded. Chamberlain biographer Robert Cherry even divulged some personal reasons for Chamberlain's request to go to L.A. These included his attraction to the west coast celebrity culture and desire to date white women.
Whatever the reason, Wilt felt he was too big for Philadelphia, and was ready to join a Lakers team with stars like Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. He eventually captured his second and final NBA Title in 1972, winning the Finals MVP award in the process.
15 Joe Johnson to the Phoenix Suns in 2002
The Boston Celtics have amassed a stockpile of prospects in recent years. They also boast star players like Isaiah Thomas and newly-signed Gordon Hayward. Things are looking up for the Celtics, granted they stay away from trades like the one that sent Joe Johnson to Phoenix in 2002.
Back then, the Celtics were confident they could contend for a championship. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker were in the midst of leading the team to a 49-33 record that season. Johnson was a promising rookie at the time, averaging 6.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 48 games. The Celtics traded him in February 2002 for veterans Rodney Rodgers and guard Tony Delk.
The trade seemed to pay off at the time, as the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals that spring. However, the trade soured from there. Rodgers and Delk played 116 games combined for the Celtics, while Johnson blossomed into an All-Star shooting guard with the Atlanta Hawks, earning seven All-Star appearances in his career.
This trade should remind teams of the high-risk nature of "win-now" moves.
14 Jason Kidd traded to Milwaukee Bucks as coach in 2014
Jason Kidd enjoyed a successful NBA career, much of which he spent in New Jersey as the Nets' franchise point guard.
However, things didn't go as swimmingly between the two sides when the Nets brought him on as their head coach in 2013. Kidd clashed with management early on. According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Kidd expressed frustration at GM Billy King’s job performance. Also, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Kidd was "livid" that fellow rookie head coaches Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher received bigger contracts than he had during the 2013-14 season.
The Nets rejected Kidd's attempted power grab and gave him permission to talk to other teams about joining the coaching staff. One such team was the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks secured Kidd's coaching rights in 2014, agreeing to send the Nets two future second-round picks in exchange.
This appeared to be a sad case of greed and jealousy fracturing the relationship between a player and the franchise to helped bring to prominence.
13 Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in 2014
The Cleveland Cavaliers traded first overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love in 2014, a trade that kicked off three straight NBA Finals appearances for the Cavs from 2015-2017. Many fans would say Love's acquisition was worth it, merely for the fact that Cleveland captured the NBA championship in 2016.
However, the Timberwolves seem to have come out on top in that deal. Wiggins has emerged as a top young talent in the league, and while the oft-injured Love has had an up-and-down tenure in Cleveland.
Yet, there may have been nothing the Cavaliers could've done to keep Wiggins, since LeBron James publicly snubbed him in his "coming home" letter to Sports Illustrated in 2014. He claimed he didn't call Wiggins because he "didn't know the guy." LeBron clearly holds sway when it comes to signings and trades within the Cavaliers organization. Right now, though, with the Cavaliers in a state of flux, and Kyrie Irving reportedly wanting out, LeBron might wish he had Wiggins by his side.
Kobe Bryant went so far as to call the Wiggins trade a “mistake,” comparing to his own draft day deal from the Hornets to the Lakers in 1996.
12 Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017
The Chicago Bulls dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves at this year's draft for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the draft’s seventh overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).
Butler was subject to trade rumors in the weeks leading up to the draft, but reportedly wanted to stay with the Bulls, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Chicago GM John Paxson eventually reached a deal for his star shooting guard, but came under swift scrutiny. Paxson claimed the team received "three lottery picks" in the deal, which is technically true. However, it's tough to predict if they can match Butlers upside.
Paxson insisted the Bulls "set a direction" with the trade and that they plan to be "disciplined and patient" in developing young talent. That seems a bit disingenuous, given their unwillingness to build around Butler, a young star with franchise talent of his own. Paxson’s justification seemed like a weak excuse for a trade he clearly got the short end of.
11 Lou Williams traded from the Los Angeles Lakers for refusing to tank in 2017
There comes a point in the season when a team needs to assess its playoff chances, and decide whether to buy or sell. Cellar-dwelling teams often sell off their assets and "tank" in hopes of landing a lottery draft pick. The 76ers have been known to employ this strategy in recent seasons as they've restocked their prospect pool.
At the same time, it's tough for professional athletes to shut off that competitive spirit and purposely lose games. Lou Williams was one such athlete, and he paid a heavy price for it. He claimed that his 2017 trade from the Los Angeles Lakers was the result of his refusal to tank during the season.
A February tweet from Williams read, in part, "ain't nobody playing for a pick lol. Trying Get W's." Of course, players shouldn't be punished for wanting to win, so that's a fairly ridiculous reason to trade a player.
However, the Lakers traded Williams to a contender in the Houston Rockets, and received a first-round pick in exchange.
10 Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat in 2015
Location and job responsibility are both primary factors choosing where to continue one’s career. Professional athletes are no different.
Take the case of the Suns’ Goran Dragic. He had grown dissatisfied with his role in Phoenix, and requested a trade before the 2015 trade deadline. The Suns subsequently dealt Dragic to the Miami Heat. He thanked his "fans, teammates and many friends" in Phoenix after the trade.
However, before the trade, he admitted he "doesn't trust" the Suns franchise anymore because of their acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe in 2013 and 2014, respectively. He wasn't satisfied with his diminished role.
On the other hand, everything was rosy with the Suns after the trade. Dragic stated "Everyone knows I never say or do anything to purposely offend or minimize the success" he had in Phoenix.
Well, clearly Dragic's pre-trade comments suggest otherwise. Some players would've loved to play with a star like Thomas, and would adjust their roles accordingly.
9 Charles Barkley to the Houston Rockets in 1996
Few topics in the NBA are as polarizing as the discussion of so-called “superteams.” Yet, while it might seem like superteams are a recent trend, they've been around for quite a while. Just take Charles Barkley's trade request to go to the Houston Rockets in 1996.
Most people believe that Barkley wanted a chase a championship with the likes of Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. "The Suns traded me to Houston," Barkley told CBS Sports in 2016. "I wasn't chasing a ring."
Well, according to a report from the Associated Press at the time of the trade, Barkley's relationship with the Suns "soured" during the 1995-96 season. He threatened retirement if they "didn't trade him to a contender." So, you'll pretty much have to believe what you choose in this scenario.
8 Stephon Marbury to the New Jersey Nets in 1999
The Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998, buoyed by the hot play of young stars Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett.
By the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Garnett emerged as the clear number-one player for the Timberwolves and received endorsement deals accordingly. Marbury demanded a trade, reportedly to move closer to his family back on the East Coast.
However, reports circulated that Marbury grew envious of Garnett's star power and endorsement deals. He also wanted a deal similar to Garnett's massive six-year contract extension, which was worth over $120 million.
The Timberwolves eventually traded Marbury to the New Jersey Nets in 1999, thereby separating him from Garnett. Their career trajectories took different turns from that point. Garnett blossomed into a bona fide superstar, winning an MVP award in 2004 and the NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. Meanwhile, Marbury bounced around the NBA, before beginning an illustrious career in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2010.
Perhaps Garnet and Marbury could've brought a title or two to Minnesota had Marbury's jealousy not overtaken him.
7 Kobe Bryant traded from the Charlotte Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers After Draft
There are a few sides to the Kobe Bryant trade in 1996. The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant out of high school, but the 18-year-old star refused to play for Charlotte. The Hornets were then forced to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. That is, if you believe Charlotte head coach Dave Cowens.
However, Bryant insisted the Hornets "never wanted" him and thus initiated the trade themselves. “Cowens told me he didn't want me," Bryant said. "It wasn't a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already…So it wasn't like I would be off the bench much."
Cowens disagreed, saying "it wasn't about him not being able to play for us. It was just it was already worked out."
No matter which side you believe, either story is fairly ridiculous. Either Bryant rejected the Hornets without giving them a chance, or they traded Bryant because he didn't fit the team’s system, despite never seeing him play a game in a Hornets uniform.
6 DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017
DeMarcus Cousins spent the first several seasons of his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings before his 2017 trade to the New Orleans Pelicans. Cousins was subject to near-incessant trade rumors in the months, weeks, and days leading up to his trade on February 20th trade, so the deal itself was not surprising.
What was surprising was how he learned of his trade, and how Kings GM Vlade Divac justified it. First off, Cousins reportedly found out about the trade during a press conference at the All-Star Game in New Orleans. Kings PR representative, Chris Clark, went over to Cousins as the three-time All-Star prepared to address the media. Clark whispered in his ear, and Cousins responded, "Oh really, that's whatever," before smiling and stating, "I love New Orleans."
If that wasn't ridiculous enough, Divac admitted that he turned down a better offer for Cousins just two days earlier. You heard that right. Divac passed up a better trade offer for his star center. The Kings received Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, and a few draft picks in the deal.
5 Baron Davis and unprotected first-round pick (Kyrie Irving) to Cleveland for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon in 2011
The Clippers should be kicking themselves over Kyrie Irving's trade request this summer. Why? Well, they may have drafted Irving back in 2011 had they not traded their first-round pick to Cleveland along with Baron Davis. The Clippers received veterans Mo Williams and Jamario Moon in exchange.
Clippers GM Neil Olshey justified the trade by saying he would rather upgrade at point guard instead of "speculating on another kid that's 19 years old with one year of college experience."
He added that he was "not that high on the draft to begin with" in 2011. The Cavs had a 2.8 percent chance of landing the top pick with the Clippers' selection. Sure enough, the Cavs won the lottery and selected Irving.
Oops. Nice one, Clips.
3 James Harden traded to the Houston Rockets in 2012
It seems like ages since Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all played on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden was the first of the trio to leave. The Thunder sent him to the Houston Rockets in 2012 in an effort to get under the luxury tax threshold. However, SportingNews.com looked into the stipulations of Harden's then rookie-scale contract, which ended at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.
His contract wouldn't have officially counted toward the team's payroll until "the last day of the regular season of the year that the contract took effect." That meant that Harden's contract wouldn't have counted toward the luxury tax until 2014.
The Thunder traded Harden 16 months before they had to. Perhaps they could've sorted out a contract extension for Harden in those months. Now, Harden is locked up in Houston through the 2022-23 season, and is preparing to play his first season alongside Chris Paul.
2 Fred Roberts to the Boston Celtics in exchange for preseason games in 1986
The Boston Celtics were riding high in 1986. They had come off their third championship of the decade, and were primed to make another deep playoff run. They needed help down low so they journeyman Fred Roberts from the Utah Jazz for a third-round pick in 1987.
The terms of the deal were a bit of a head-scratcher. Clearly the Celtics could draw a large crowd to any arena. The small-market Jazz took advantage and stipulated that in exchange for Roberts, the Celtics would travel to Utah to play the Jazz in two preseason games. So in all, Roberts was dealt to Boston for a draft pick and two preseason games in Utah. This trade definitely wasn't made for basketball reasons and it actually sounds a little sad.
1 Rochester Royals lured away from selecting Bill Russell in exchange for the Ice Capades performing in Rochester
This deal wasn’t so much a trade as it was simply a strangely-orchestrated agreement. Bill Russell is the winningest player in NBA history, with 11 championships in 13 seasons. He served as a focal point of the dynastic Celtics teams of the 1960s. While he is one of the most significant players in franchise history, he wasn't originally slated to land with the Celtics at the 1956 draft.
Celtics head coach and GM Red Auerbach owned the seventh pick that year and feared Russell would be taken well before then. He made a deal with the St. Louis Hawks to acquire the number two pick, and with it, a better chance to take Russell.
Celtics owner Walter Brown then threw a curveball. He made an offer to the Rochester Royals, who had the top pick, to send the Ice Capades traveling entertainment show to their arena for one week. In exchange, the Royals would pass on Russell. Brown was president of the Ice Capades, so he made the deal work. The Royals accepted and took Sihugo Green with the first pick, while the Celtics selected Russell.
While this deal wasn't a straight-up trade, the Celtics essentially got Russell in exchange for sending the Ice Capades to Rochester. There are varying accounts of why Russell never ended up going to Rochester. Some claim the Royals’ financial woes prevented them from giving Russell the $25,000 signing bonus he requested. Others cite the presence of Rochester’s franchise center Maurice Stokes as a reason to pass on Russell. However, the Ice Capades story is certainly the strangest of the bunch.
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