NBA teams can change their franchise forever with a big trade. Many teams to win the NBA Championship have either made a huge trade to gain a Superstar or a minor one to find a missing piece. The Houston Rockets acquired NBA legend Clyde Drexler towards the end of his prime to win the 1995 NBA Championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers recently trading for Kevin Love and formed a new big three that helped the franchise win their first title. Big moves can truly change the landscape of a franchise. Those two examples show how much success can come from a good trade.
The opposite side of this features negative moves that damage the short term and long term of a franchise. A bad trade can truly sink a team for many years as we'll look at with the following deals. These specific deals are remembered in heartbreaking fashion for fans of these franchises. Every team has made various bad moves due to the nature of basketball being predictable. These however stand out as the worst of the worst. We'll take a look at each specific franchise’s most regrettable trade in team history that still haunts the fan base to this very day.
30 Atlanta Hawks: Trading away Bill Russell
Bill Russell will always be remembered as one of the greatest winners in NBA history. The center won a shocking eleven NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics. Boston however had to trade for the future legend following the 1956 NBA Draft. The St. Louis Hawks (now Atlanta Hawks) traded Russell after drafting him in exchange for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan.
29 Boston Celtics: Trading away Joe Johnson
The Boston Celtics have benefited from many trades in their storied history. The franchise’s worst trades are often minor but one clearly showed poor judgment. Boston traded Joe Johnson during his rookie season to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers. The two role players did very little to improve the Celtics and Johnson went on to become a Superstar.
28 Brooklyn Nets: Trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
The worst trade in recent memory featured the Brooklyn Nets completely ruining their franchise. Brooklyn desperately wanted to make an impact by contending for a title. The Nets made a massive trade acquiring veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to form an impressive starting lineup with fellow former All-Stars Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
27 Charlotte Hornets: Trading away Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant has been a Los Angeles Laker for the entirety of his NBA career, but they weren’t the team to actually draft him. The Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft out of high school. Charlotte wasn’t sold on the idea of having a player with no college experience on their team and specifically drafted him for trade purposes.
26 Chicago Bulls: Trading away LaMarcus Aldridge
The Chicago Bulls have made a few terrible moves following the Michael Jordan era as they looked to become a contender again. One horrible mistake featured them trading away an extremely talented rookie. Chicago drafted LaMarcus Aldridge with the second overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Aldridge however ended up on the Portland Trail Blazers his rookie season due to the horrible trade.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Losing out on James Worthy
Another all-time terrible trade that revolved around draft night featured the Cleveland Cavaliers missing out on James Worthy. Cleveland gave up their first round pick in the 1982 NBA Draft along with a few other assets to the Los Angeles Lakers for the services of Don Ford. The pick that the Cavaliers traded away ended up being the first overall pick of Worthy.
24 Dallas Mavericks: Trading away Jamal Mashburn
This may be a surprising pick for the worst trade in Dallas Mavericks history due to the popular belief of it being the loss of Jason Kidd. The Kidd trade actually saw them receive Michael Finley in return. Finley was a great Mavericks star that helped contribute to much success. The true worst trade saw Dallas send impressive scorer Jamal Mashburn to the Miami Heat for Sasha Danilovic, Kurt Thomas and Martin Muursepp.
23 Denver Nuggets: Trading away Carmelo Anthony
Every NBA team needs at least one Superstar to contend. The Denver Nuggets had their man with playoff appearances every season during Carmelo Anthony’s tenure on the team. Anthony even led them to the Western Conference Finals before falling short to the Los Angeles Lakers. The talent of Anthony was obvious but his attitude saw him become a pain to deal with.
22 Detroit Pistons: Trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson
The 2004 NBA Championship run of the Detroit Pistons is one of the most shocking title wins in NBA history. Chauncey Billups was the leader of that team and became the face of the franchise leading them to playoff success for many years. Detroit made a shocking move in 2008 when dealing the beloved Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
21 Golden State Warriors: Trading away Wilt Chamberlain
The Golden State Warriors have the most dominant team in NBA history today, but they once actually sent away the most dominant player in league history. Center Wilt Chamberlain spent a few years on the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors putting up iconic numbers on a yearly basis. The Warriors made the foolish decision to trade him to the 76ers in exchange for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann and Lee Shafer.
20 Houston Rockets: Trading away Moses Malone
Moses Malone is one of the most underrated NBA legends of all time with the numbers, reputation and winning all being in his favor. The Houston Rockets had Malone in their lineup but wanted to deal the center. Malone would get traded from Houston to the Philadelphia 76ers for Rodney McCray and Caldwell Jones.
19 Indiana Pacers: Trading for Stephen Jackson
A rare franchise worst trade came for the Indiana Pacers when they acquired Stephen Jackson. The trade actually was a talent upgrade as they just sent Al Harrington in exchange for Jackson’s services. Indiana however saw chemistry issues and many other negative changes come from the addition of Jackson. The memorable brawl in Detroit featured Jackson among other Pacers fighting with fans in one of the all-time low NBA moments.
18 Los Angeles Clippers: Losing out on Kyrie Irving
One of the worst instances of a franchise being cheap featured the Los Angeles Clippers making a franchise-worst trade under the ownership of Donald Sterling. The Clippers were desperate to unload the contract of veteran guard Baron Davis. Los Angeles traded Davis and an unprotected first round pick for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Williams and Moon went on to do nothing for the Clippers.
17 Los Angeles Lakers: Trading for Steve Nash
The Los Angeles Lakers looked to form a new super team in 2012 by acquiring two Superstars. Los Angeles first acquired Dwight Howard and later Steve Nash. The Howard trade saw them give up very little in return calling it even. However, the deal for Nash ended up hurting the franchise. The Lakers sent four total draft picks to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for the Superstar point guard to join Howard and Kobe Bryant.
16 Memphis Grizzlies: Trading away Pau Gasol
One trade that helped make the Los Angeles Lakers a super team was acquiring Pau Gasol in exchange for junk. The Memphis Grizzlies sent Gasol to form a new dynamic duo with Kobe Bryant for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and draft picks. Many people forgive the Grizzlies for making this trade due to the fact that one of the picks/rights transferred secured them Marc Gasol.
15 Miami Heat: Trading away Steve Smith
The Miami Heat have been one of the better run franchises during their NBA existence. Their most regrettable trade was a forgettable one that sent talented shooting guard Steve Smith to the Atlanta Hawks along with Grant Long for Kevin Willis. Smith contributed greatly to the Hawks for the following five seasons averaging over 18 points.
14 Milwaukee Bucks: Trading away Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Everyone debates Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant when it comes to who is truly the greatest NBA player of all time. The biggest snub from that conversation sparked from today’s generation is the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s were treated to one NBA Championship with him. An unfortunate trade would rob them out of more.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves: Trading away Al Jefferson
The Minnesota Timberwolves have at least been able to get good talent back in past Superstar trades losing Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love. One great talent they failed to benefit from moving was Al Jefferson. The center had a few great seasons of tremendous offensive play. Many pundits expected the Timberwolves to get a great star or multiple young prospects in a trade.
12 New Orleans Pelicans: Trading away Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the top Superstars of his era. You’ll be hard pressed to find many point guards with an overall career with as many great years as Paul. The New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans realized Paul was no longer happy and looked for a trade partner.
11 New York Knicks: Trading away Patrick Ewing
Some trades hurt a franchise beyond the court or contending for a title. The New York Knicks have made many atrocious trades over the past two decades but the worst one featured the franchise turning their back on a beloved legend. Patrick Ewing carried the Knicks during his tenure there from the late 80s through the 90s.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Trading away James Harden
The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted one of the greatest cores of four top stars. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka all spent their first few years in the NBA together. They made the 2012 NBA Finals before falling short to the Miami Heat. Oklahoma City then realized they didn’t want to sign all four to max contracts.
9 Orlando Magic: Serge Ibaka
Former Oklahoma City Thunder Serge Ibaka was the second of the four to get traded. The Orlando Magic acquired Ibaka by giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Neither Oladipo nor Sabonis have been great for the Thunder and Ibaka is a very good power forward. The trade could have worked out in their favor but another bad decision ended it.
8 Philadelphia 76ers: Trading away Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is arguably the greatest power forward of all time. The Philadelphia 76ers enjoyed his talent for many years before the star requested a trade. Barkley wanted to find a better team forcing Philadelphia’s hand. Sadly, the 76ers did not make the most of Barkley’s value. You have to get a star or multiple assets back when dealing such a Superstar.
7 Phoenix Suns: Trading away Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas is one of the most underappreciated stars in recent NBA history. The talent and production of Thomas have shown just how great he is. Multiple teams have however failed him due to not believing in the player. Thomas being one of the shortest stars in the NBA led to teams thinking he would not have a long term future.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: Trading away Clyde Drexler
A franchise trading away veteran players to contenders is a nice gesture but you should get something good in return. The Portland Trail Blazers learned this the hard way when the legendary Clyde Drexler wanted to be traded in 1995. Drexler would get dealt to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Otis Thorpe and late round draft picks.
5 Sacramento Kings: Trading away Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas is on this list for a second time as franchises just don’t appreciate him. The Sacramento Kings struck gold when drafting Thomas with the last overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Thomas delivered three great seasons for the Kings and averaged 20.3 points before getting traded away unceremoniously. All Sacramento wanted in return for the dynamic scorer was Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception.
4 San Antonio Spurs: Trading away Dennis Rodman
The San Antonio Spurs have very few poor trades in their history. One regretful trade that stands out featured them trading Dennis Rodman to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue. Rodman’s incredible rebounding and dominant defense helped the Bulls three-peat in the late 90s. San Antonio dealt Rodman because they could not put up with his poor attitude.
3 Toronto Raptors: Trading away Vince Carter
Vince Carter became the face of basketball in Canada as the first Superstar on the new Toronto Raptors franchise. The incredible scoring, highlight dunks and must-see style of play made Carter a household name. Unfortunately, the relationship between Carter and the Raptors started to sour. A trade was obvious but you expected Toronto to get a great haul for such a star.
2 Utah Jazz: Trading away Enes Kanter
The Utah Jazz strangely have not been involved in many poor high profile trades. A regretful one revolves around ditching the talent and youth of big man Enes Kanter. Utah sent Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder in return for Grant Jerrett, Kendrick Perkins, Tibor Pleiss and a draft pick. Basically, they gave away a valuable asset for absolutely nothing.
1 Washington Wizards: Trading away Chris Webber
Chris Webber is underappreciated when discussing the great power forwards in NBA history. The talent and results of Webber have led to a potential Hall of Fame worthy career. The Washington Wizards actually had Webber as he entered his prime. At the age of 25, they made the horrible decision to trade him to the Sacramento Kings for an aging Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe.
Washington continued to be a joke and Webber led the Kings to title contention. If not for crooked referees in 2002, Webber may very well be a NBA Champion and NBA Finals MVP today. The Wizards gave it all up for two guys that you barely remember even played for them. It's difficult to find a trade that looked as bad at the time as it still does today.
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