Every NBA team is bound to make some mistakes in a span of five years, whether it is a free agent signing, contract extension or draft selection. There is no way around it as not a single general manager has a flawless record, and it's not exactly surprising given the nature of the business. There are so many unpredictable factors about the game that cannot be pre-determined, otherwise, teams would have found the perfect recipe for a constant championship team by now.
With that being said, there are levels of blunders - some of which may affect the team for the season, while others are felt for a number of years. And given that managers' jobs depend on their moves, they clearly want to avoid making mistakes as much as possible - so it is essential that they make the right move more often than not. The past five years have been particularly crucial for the league as the style of basketball being played is much more different than the early to late 2000s.
And as managers had to adapt to the changes with the rise of three-point shooting and the Golden State Warriors, many teams have played the wrong cards with their roster changes. In an ideal world, every single GM would love to have a flawless record, but knowing that there will be some misses along the way, it is important that the hits always overshadow them by getting as close as possible to the winning formula. Today's list looks at every NBA team's biggest mistake of the past five years.
30 Atlanta Hawks: Trading Luka Doncic
During the 2018 NBA Draft night, the Atlanta Hawks selected Luka Doncic with the third overall pick only to trade him for Trae Young just moments later. And with all due respect to the latter - who is also a brilliant prospect in his own right - Doncic may be a generational player based on what we have seen from him in Europe and the NBA thus far. And if Young fails to reach an All-Star level play, then the Hawks will regret this exchange for decades to come.
29 Boston Celtics: Signing Gordon Hayward
With the Boston Celtics signing Gordon Hayward, many believed that the team had all the right pieces to compete for a championship. He had some great season for the Utah Jazz and was a good fit on paper for the team. But his debut game for the Celtics would cut his season short as Hayward was injured, and has now struggled to return to the same form pre-injury with the team having a disappointing record this year. Barring a turnaround for Hayward, it's safe to say that the Celtics already regret signing him.
28 Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Garnett And Paul Pierce
The Brooklyn Nets had to learn the hard way that you cannot jeopardize your future for a slim chance of being a contender. After giving away three picks in a trade with the Boston Celtics, they received Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in return, who were a shell of themselves with the Nets. It didn't help that the Nets core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace didn't mesh on the court, leading to one of the most underwhelming super teams in NBA history.
27 Charlotte Hornets: Drafting Cody Zeller
Hindsight is 20/20 but if the Charlotte Hornets could re-do the 2013 NBA draft, they would most likely part ways with the draft pick. Cody Zeller is a decent role player in the NBA but certainly a bust considering his production thus far. The names drafted after him have been just as disappointing, which is why the Hornets would have been better off trading the pick for a proven player instead. In a severely disappointing class, the Hornets weren't going to land a great prospect.
26 Chicago Bulls: Trading Jimmy Butler
The Chicago Bulls have made a number of bizarre moves in recent years. After having built a contender with the core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and later on Jimmy Butler, all three players were soon traded away from the team. While the Bulls gave up on the first two due to injuries, it wasn't the wisest decision to give up one of the best players in the league in Butler. He is now thriving as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after having led the Minnesota Timberwolves back to the Playoffs for the first time since 2004.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Drafting Anthony Bennett
While the Cleveland Cavaliers did reach the Finals four times in a row, including their first championship in 2016, they may have added some more rings with a different selection in 2013. Anthony Bennett is now considered to be one of the most disappointing first overall picks in history as his level of play was significantly below the NBA standard. Although the Cavs had just drafted Dion Waiters a year prior, they could have added Victor Oladipo to the roster, who was drafted immediately after Bennett and has now become one of the premier guards in the NBA.
24 Dallas Mavericks: Acquiring Rajon Rondo
Since their 2011 championship, the Dallas Mavericks have failed to bounce back with a strong team. 2014 was arguably their most desperate attempt as they acquired Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics, who already looked like he had lost a step. But his tenure with the Mavs turned out to be the absolute worst-case scenario after having heated exchanges with coach Rick Carlisle. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Mavs lost out on Jae Crowder and two draft picks in the trade.
23 Denver Nuggets: Trading Away Jusuf Nurkic
After three seasons with the Denver Nuggets, the team was ready to part ways with Jusuf Nurkic, who hadn't progressed as much as they expected. They sent him in a trade along with a first-round pick for Mason Plumlee, which had already backfired as Nurkic has had great seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers. He is now having his best year in the NBA thus far and could have turned the Nuggets into an even bigger threat in the Western Conference. To make matters worse, they gave up a draft pick for the underwhelming Plumlee.
22 Detroit Pistons: Signing Josh Smith
Some would argue that the Detroit Pistons missed out major opportunities to improve the roster with high draft picks in 2013 and 2015, but both classes were weak in their defense. As for their worst move, the $54 million extension handed to Josh Smith would have to take the cake. While he had been a borderline All-Star with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith's play completely fell off as a member of the Pistons and he became a liability on the court.
21 Golden State Warriors: Re-Signing Andre Iguodala
In the summer of 2017, the Golden State Warriors had a tough decision to make with one of their most important players in Andre Iguodala. On one hand, he had been apart of their two championships including a Finals MVP award. By 2017, it was apparent that Iguodala was declining and definitely not worth the extension handed out by the Warriors out of loyalty. While he had been a great player in the past, the Warriors overpaid for his services, which, in turn, limited their other roster moves.
20 Houston Rockets: Acquiring Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard had plenty of suitors in 2013 when he hit the open market - and he pulled a surprising move by signing with the Houston Rockets. The duo of James Harden and Howard looked amazing on paper but failed to come close to the expectations set upon his arrival in Houston. To make matters worse, Howard became disgruntled along the way and was reportedly causing trouble behind the scenes - which led to his exit from the team in a trade.
19 Indiana Pacers: Trading Caris LeVert
Since the Paul George trade, the Indiana Pacers have exceeded all expectations by remaining a winning team, thanks to the addition of Victor Oladipo. And while they already have a great core today, it could have been potentially greater as they drafted Caris LeVert with the 20th pick of the 2016 draft - although he would only last two weeks before being dealt in exchange for Thaddeus Young. And while the latter is definitely a solid player, LeVert has shown potential to be an All-Star player.
18 Los Angeles Clippers: Trading For Danilo Gallinari
While Danilo Gallinari is a good player by all measures, there have always been two concerns about him: his consistency on the court and health. The same story has remained with his stint as a Clipper, and he is set to be paid approximately $23 million for the next two years. The Clippers had to give up a first round pick and a second round selection to acquire Gallinari - which they could have packaged to acquire a better player to the roster.
17 Los Angeles Lakers: Allowing Julius Randle To Leave
The Los Angeles Lakers will most likely be regretting this move for many years to come as they chose their other prospects over Julius Randle in the summer, allowing him to test the free agent market. Randle would land a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, where he has been a tremendous fit thus far. He is nearly averaging a double-double with career-highs across the board despite his sixth-man status, and may very well reach his potential as a star player in the near future.
16 Memphis Grizzlies: Signing Chandler Parsons
As a member of the Houston Rockets, Chandler Parsons was considered to be among the most underrated players in the league. But as soon as he earned a large contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, one that is worth $94 million, Parsons' reputation quickly changed for the worst. Not only has he declined as a player, but his attitude has been far from ideal during his stint with the team. Parsons has also been earning the money while most warming the bench, as he always seems to be sidelined with an injury.
15 Miami Heat: Re-signing Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside had bounced around different teams before he found a home with the Miami Heat. He gave hope to the struggling team that was coming off the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Big 3 era with some great performances on both ends of the court. After filling up the stat sheet for two years, the Heat couldn't afford to lose one of their top talents in free agency, which led them to offer an extension of $98 million. Since then, Whiteside has continued producing for the team, although he hasn't been quite as dominant as expected.
14 Milwaukee Bucks: Drafting Jabari Parker
The 2014 NBA Draft had some great prospects across the board, many of them were expected to turn around their respective franchise. And while it was known that the Minnesota Timberwolves intended to draft Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick, it was unknown as to whom the Milwaukee Bucks would select at No. 2. They ended up taking Jabari Parker - who already left the team after four seasons - and wasn't consistent with his performances whenever healthy. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid has become one of the best players in the NBA, despite missing his first two seasons due to injury.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins' Extension
The Minnesota Timberwolves were banking on Andrew Wiggins reaching his potential when they handed him a $148 million extension in the summer of 2017. Little did they know that he would fail to progress at the level expected from him. While he does show flashes of brilliance every now and then, Wiggins hasn't been consistent enough to warrant such payday. It may end up proving to be a major blunder on management's part as it limits their other moves to improve the roster.
12 New Orleans Pelicans: Trading Away Buddy Hield
Everyone around the league believed that the New Orleans Pelicans had done brilliantly to acquire DeMarcus Cousins with many claiming that they had even robbed the Sacramento Kings in the exchange. A year and a half later, Cousins left the franchise in free agency without having contributed much to the team's overall success - as they went on to advance to the second round without his services in the 2018 Playoffs. But the biggest mistake committed by the Pelicans was giving away a brilliant prospect in Buddy Hield apart of the trade package.
11 New York Knicks: Drafting Frank Ntilikina
The New York Knicks have had a number of questionable decisions throughout the 2000s, and the trend has continued in the past five years. After acquiring Kristaps Porzingis in the previous draft, the Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick of the 2017 Draft. He has been underwhelming on both ends of the floor thus far with many fans already giving up on him as a prospect. The Knicks passed on the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr. to select Ntilikina - making it a terrible move that may hold back the franchise.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Trading For Carmelo Anthony
Once Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were desperate to surround Russell Westbrook with great pieces to continue challenging for a championship. They did brilliantly with their first move as they acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, but it was the trade for Carmelo Anthony that baffled plenty of fans. Not only was he a questionable fit for the team, but Melo had been showing clear signs of decline in his past two seasons with the New York Knicks.
9 Orlando Magic: Giving Up On Victor Oladipo
It's no secret that some players take longer to develop and need time to truly get comfortable in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Orlando Magic, they played the wrong cards when they gave up on Victor Oladipo after three seasons with the team. A year removed from his stint with the Magic, Oladipo was named as the Most Improved Player of 2018 as he averaged career highs in nearly every category, including points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and field goal percentage.
8 Philadelphia 76ers: Drafting Markelle Fultz
The first pick of the 2017 NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, may already be on his way out from the Philadelphia 76ers. Having struggled with his shot in his career thus far as he continues switching form every few weeks, Fultz has lost minutes upon the arrival of Jimmy Butler. Now that he has been moved to the bench, Fultz is slowly but surely appearing like a huge bust with every passing game. The 76ers could have drafted Jayson Tatum with the pick, which would have been an incredible fit among their young core.
7 Phoenix Suns: Drafting Josh Jackson
Since the Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire era came to an end, the Phoenix Suns have been rebuilding in hopes of getting back into contention. While they have some great prospects on the roster, they may come to regret their 2017 draft selection of Josh Jackson. Rumors suggest that he may be traded in the near future as he has failed to impress thus far. With the fifth overall pick, the Sacramento Kings had drafted De'Aaron Fox, who would have been a wonderful fit next to the Suns' Devin Booker for years to come.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: Rejecting LaMarcus Aldridge Offers
As LaMarcus Aldridge approached free agency in 2015, it was unknown whether he would remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. Some believed that he was looking for a way out due to tension with Damian Lillard, and while many teams approached the Blazers with impressive trade packages, they ended up turning them down. Believing that Aldridge would be back, the Blazers were willing to wait until free agency, although he would end up signing a deal with the San Antonio Spurs.
5 Sacramento Kings: Drafting Thomas Robinson
The 2010s haven't been great for the Sacramento Kings as the team has struggled with draft selection. Having had a number of busts on the roster, Thomas Robinson was deemed a great prospect who was capable of making the Kings a winning team once again. But he was far from impressive in his short NBA career, as Robinson was undersized as a power forward and couldn't score nearly as efficiently as he did in college. The Kings could have had Damian Lillard instead, which is surely their biggest blunder in the past five years.
4 San Antonio Spurs: Upsetting Kawhi Leonard
It's still unclear as to what transpired between the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard in the past year, as both sides have kept rather quiet regarding the tense situation. According to reports, Leonard was upset by the team's attempts to rush him back on the court when he believed that he wasn't fully healthy yet, while the Spurs were convinced that he was exaggerating the extent of his injury. After having been deemed the new franchise player, the Leonard era came to a quick end with a trade that sent him to the Toronto Raptors as he refused to dress up for the Spurs again.
3 Toronto Raptors: Signing DeMarre Carroll
The Toronto Raptors have been among the most successful teams in the past few years although the criticism has been mainly about their lack of Playoff success. In hopes of slowing down LeBron James in the postseason, the Raptors acquired DeMarre Carroll via free agency on a four year deal for $60 million. He would only go on to play one season for the team in which he received plenty of blame for the team's shortcomings against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2 Utah Jazz: Trading Taurean Prince
In 2016, the Utah Jazz selected Taurean Prince with the 12th pick, although his stint with the team would only last a few minutes before being given away to the Atlanta Hawks. His rookie season was disappointing, to say the least, but Prince made major strides in his sophomore year to give hope to fans of the Hawks. He would have been a great addition to the Jazz's talented core and may have even pushed them into reaching the next level as far as contending for a championship.
1 Washington Wizards: Signing John Wall
There is no doubt that John Wall is one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference, but that's not saying much when he wouldn't make the top-five in the NBA. Considering the lack of the success achieved by the Washington Wizards, as well as Wall's lack of a consistent three-point shot, it is baffling that they handed him a $207 million contract. It's viewed as one of the very few contracts in the league that can't be traded, meaning that the Wizards will likely be stuck with Wall until his deal expires, unless they are willing to cough up some draft picks to get rid of him.