15 Recent NBA Trades These Teams Regret (And 5 Smart Deals)

The NBA has become a league that is controlled more and more by the players. While owners and GMs obviously play more of a role with the construction of a team the players get to ultimately choose whether or not they will stay in the same uniform, normally right when they are hitting their primes in the third contract. That is happening more and more in the NBA and teams are being forced to trade stars earlier than they would like. The newest person who forced their way out of town was Jimmy Butler.

After getting traded to the Timberwolves with two years left on his contract with the Bulls, Butler made it clear after just one season that he wanted out of town. He gave an entire list of teams that it would be OK for him to trade for and now the situation is less about if he will be moved but when. Butler has been laying the groundwork for this announcement for months now leaking reports that he and Karl-Anthony Towns don't get along and that he was frustrated with the team. It's become a dysfunctional team with Butler as the cause and the Timberwolves have no choice but to make a move.

Now, this is where teams do get judged and that's on who wins the deal. Oftentimes, there's aren't two winners to a trade only one with the other team making a huge mistake. In the past, it happened a lot more with draft picks and now it's with trading older players, but a bad trade is a bad trade regardless. Here is a list of fifteen trades that one team wishes they could have back and five that worked out for both parties.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 Regret: Jimmy Butler Trade

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler was taken with the 30th overall pick 2011 draft by the Bulls. In his first two seasons in the NBA, Butler didn’t have the biggest impact, like most people taken at that point of the draft. But in his third season, Butler showed that he was a two-way player on offense and defense, scoring 13 points a game. Each season after that Butler has scored at least 20 points a game and made the All-Star team. But with two years left on his deal, the Bulls decided to move on and trade him to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, and a pick which became Lauri Markkanen. Of course, with the current news that Butler wants a trade, the Timberwolves would have rather kept those players.

19 Regret: Cavaliers Acquire Isaiah Thomas For Kyrie

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In fairness to the Cavaliers, they were a little blindsided when Kyrie Irving demanded a trade after saying he looked forward to many more years with LeBron. We don't know all the offers Cleveland had on the table for Kyrie, but given that Isaiah Thomas was the main piece they got in return from Boston, it definitely hasn't worked out for them.

IT never got going in Cleveland, missing most of the 2017-18 season with a hip injury, then failing to gel with LeBron.

He was eventually shipped to the Lakers in a multi-player deal with Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. coming to Cleveland. So that's all Cleveland now has to show for dealing Kyrie.

18 Regret: Nuggets Trade Donovan Mitchell After Drafting Him

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest steal of the 2017 NBA Draft appears to be Donovan Mitchell at the moment, but unfortunately, the Nuggets didn't reap the benefits of getting Mitchell at 13th overall. Mitchell was sent to Utah for their 24th overall pick (Tyler Lydon) and Trey Lyles. Mitchell would've won rookie of the year last year if not for Ben Simmons having missed his 2016-17 season. The Nuggets have one of the deepest teams in the NBA and having Mitchell in the fold probably could've put them over the top going into this season.

17 Smart: Paul George For Victor Oladipo

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It was time for a change as far as Paul George was concerned. After being taken with the 10th pick of the 2010 draft, George ended up being even better than the Pacers thought he could be. Over his seven years with the Pacers, George made the All-Star game four times, and averaged 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. But George demanded a trade from the Pacers last offseason and the Thunder were a willing partner.

In the trade, the Thunder ended up with their second-best player of the future and the Pacers received Victor Oladipo, who proved capable of being a big star for Indiana.

16 Regret: Pelicans Acquire DeMarcus Cousins

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to fault the small market New Orleans Pelicans for making a bold move in an effort to push themselves deeper into the playoffs. But of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that getting Boogie Cousins wasn't the answer.

The Pelicans sent Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, and 2017 first-round and second-round draft picks to get Cousins prior to the 2017 trade deadline.

The Pelicans failed to reach the 2017 playoffs, and Cousins got hurt this past season. The Pelicans proceeded to upset Portland this year, without Cousins, then let him walk in free agency. Safe to say, it didn't work out.

15 Regret: Sixers Trade Up For Markelle Fultz

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While many are expecting a bounce back season from Markelle Fultz, it's far from set in stone. The issue here is the fact that the Sixers held the third overall pick going into the 2017 draft and could've had Jayson Tatum, or Donovan Mitchell had they stayed where they were. Instead, they traded up to acquire Boston's no.1 overall pick, sending their no.3 pick and a future first round selection. The Sixers either could've gone another route with their pick, or they likely still would've had Fultz available to them at no.3. It was not the time to reach for a player.

14 Regret: OKC Sends James Harden To Houston

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden was one of the big 3 in Oklahoma City that was seemingly destined to bring the Thunder a championship. However, the Thunder felt they wouldn't have had a chance at keeping all three in the long-term so they sent James Harden to Houston. The thing is, the Thunder could have waited another year, as Harden was still on his rookie deal. The Thunder also wound up losing Kevin Durant in free agency a few years later anyway, so the deal was bad on so many levels for OKC. Who did they get in return for Harden? Well, let's just say the draft pick that became Steven Adams was the best piece they got in return.

13 Smart: CP3 To Houston For Patrick Beverley & Lou Williams

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul was one of the best point guards in the league before joining the Rockets last year. He made nine All-Star games and with the Clippers finally got out of the first round in the playoffs. He even managed to give that team an identity of Lob City with their high-flying play and they almost took L.A. from the Lakers. In the end, the Warriors came around and they couldn't beat them so the Clippers traded Paul to the Rockets for Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams.

Both teams won in this deal because Paul is on a contender now, while the trade lets the Clippers reset and become a desirable destination for 2019 free agents.

Without Paul on the budget for the long term, they're in a good situation.

12 Regret: Detroit Pistons Acquire Blake Griffin

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

It's amazing how quickly the LA Clippers changed their tune on Blake Griffin. Despite having just signed him to a long-term deal last summer, the Clippers sent Griffin to Detroit during the 2017-18 season. Griffin proved to make little difference in the Pistons lineup and is locked in for four more years, on a five-year, $117 million deal he had signed with L.A. The Pistons are hoping that Dwane Casey's hire leads them back to the postseason. Instead of acquiring Griffin, a player who's never come through in the postseason, the Pistons could have saved some money and went for a big name free agent in 2019.

11 Regret: Lakers Send D'Angelo Russell To Brooklyn For Brook Lopez

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

D'Angelo Russell was likely traded for non-basketball reasons, but you have to think a player as talented as him would've fetched a better return than one year of Brook Lopez and a pick that turned out to be Kyle Kuzma. Part of this deal was the Lakers looking to unload the Timofey Mozgov contract, but as we've seen, Mozgov's contract is in fact movable. The Lakers would've been better off trading Russell for another young player that could be part of their core right now. As we saw, Lopez left the Lakers over the summer and signed with Milwaukee. The Lakers have to be feeling they could've gotten a better deal.

10 Regret: Hornets Getting Dwight Howard

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

You have to wonder how many more chances Dwight Howard is going to get on an NBA team. With his recent move to the Wizards, Howard is going to be on his fourth NBA team in four years.

As for his one year in Charlotte, the Hornets acquired Howard from the Atlanta Hawks, who shipped Howard out of town after just one season.

The Hornets sent Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the no. 41 pick in the 2017 Draft. They also got a late first rounder in return for acquiring Howard. What did we see? The Hornets moved on from Howard just one year later.

9 Smart: Kevin Love For Andrew Wiggins

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Love was taken with the fifth pick of the 2008 draft by the Grizzlies and then he got traded to the Timberwolves that year. Over his six years with the Wolves, Love was one of the best power forwards in the league. He made three all star games and averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. But now he wanted to play for a contender because he never made the playoffs with the team.

The Cavs had just gotten the first pick in the draft and LeBron James just returned to Cleveland.

Both teams won in the deal as Andrew Wiggins is one of the players leading the Timberwolves organization and the Cavs ended up winning an NBA championship out of the deal.

8 Regret: Timberwolves Dumping Ricky Rubio

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz turned out to be one of the more surprising teams in the NBA last season. No one expected them to contend after losing Gordon Hayward in free agency, but thankfully they were gifted a very capable point guard by the Timberwolves. Minnesota management wanted to sign Jeff Teague so they hastily traded Rubio to the Jazz for a draft pick. Rubio's a quality point guard and easily could have fetched a lot more. Alternatively, the Wolves could've simply kept Rubio. Overall, the move didn't work out at all for Minnesota.

7 Regret: Magic Trading For Serge Ibaka

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wait, but Serge Ibaka plays for Toronto now! Yes, he does, but he had a brief stint with the Orlando Magic a couple of years ago, because the team hadn't yet realized what they needed was a full scale rebuild Ibaka was sent to Orlando from OKC. The Thunder got Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in return. They then used Oladipo as their main asset to acquire Paul George. Meanwhile, Orlando wound up trading Ibaka to the Raptors for Terrence Ross. So that means Orlando essentially traded a future star, and then a solid player in Ibaka, for nothing.

6 Regret: Hawks Unload Roster, Get Taurean Prince

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Taurean Prince hasn't seen the court all that much in Atlanta, and that wouldn't be such a big deal if he was just a young player that wasn't panning out. But it's the circumstances that brought him to Atlanta that the Hawks are ruing today. Back in the summer of 2016, the Hawks had Al Horford and Kent Bazemore eligible for free agency. In order to move some money around and keep Horford, they participated in a three-team deal with Utah and Indiana. The Hawks got the short end of the deal, getting Taurean Prince, while Indiana got Jeff Teague and the Jazz got George Hill. And the Hawks ended up losing Horford anyway.

5 Smart: Kawhi For DeRozan

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard was seen as one of the best two-way players in the NBA before he got hurt in the playoffs against the Warriors. From that point on there was a battle brewing between him and the Spurs training staff, which brewed over to the entire team picking sides.

At the end of the day, Leonard couldn't stay on the Spurs and had to move.

On the other end of things, the Raptors have been a team that repeatedly gets close to the promised land but haven't gotten it done in the end. They decided that star DeMar DeRozan wasn't enough and moved him for Leonard. Really, both teams got out of relationships they didn't want for players who fit their ideal franchise more down the road.

4 Regret: OKC Acquires Carmelo Anthony

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony had been one of the best scorers in the NBA when the Knicks decided to move on from the star small forward. Anthony had been a great pro for the Knicks, making six All-Star teams and averaging 24.7 points and 7 rebounds a game in seven seasons in New York. He was never able to lead them deep in the playoffs, however, and with their new infusion of youthful talent, they decided to move on.

Anthony was traded for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a pick.

The Thunder learned the hard way that Carmelo Anthony wasn't the missing piece they were looking for. Anthony was a detriment to the Thunder's championship aspirations and they quickly moved on this summer, by sending him to Atlanta, who then bought him out.

3 Regret: Miami Gets Their PG, New Orleans Gets Nothing

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The regret on this deal doesn't fall on Miami, as they ended up with Goran Dragic in a multi-team deal. While many felt Miami gave up too much to get Dragic, it has worked out for them. New Orleans was part of this three team deal back in 2015 and all  they got was Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams. The Suns probably came out with the best end of the deal, getting John Salmons, a protected first round pick in 2017 and an unprotected first rounder in 2021 (who knows, that could end up being a lottery pick).

2 Regret: Nuggets Trade Jusuf Nurkic For Little In Return

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

All in all the Nuggets are doing just fine and likely don't miss Jusuf Nurkic all that much. Still, looking back on what Denver got in return for Nurkic, they have to be feeling they could have gotten more. Having Nikola Jokic on their roster made them feel Nurkic was expendable, but they really should've waited on something better. All they got in return for the big man was Mason Plumlee and a token draft pick.

Nurkic had a great first season in Portland, making this move look like a steal for the Blazers. Hopefully the Nuggets learn from this.

1 Smart: Heat Bring Back Dwyane Wade

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat brought Dwyane Wade back essentially for a farewell tour, and from a basketball standpoint, it doesn't help the Heat long-term, but being that this will be Wade's final NBA season, it's important for the Heat to show players that they treat their stars right.

While Wade's in Miami, he can sell the franchise's potential to free agents to be and can make Miami a desirable destination for players seeking a trade.

Wade will get one more shot in the playoffs with Miami, as they're expected to reach the postseason in a weaker Eastern Conference.

More in NBA