It was only 15 years ago when the NBA Finals were over when there used to be a gap between that and the start of the regular season. But in the last ten years, there have been major changes in the offseason which has made the NBA more interesting to watch at those times. Before and after the NBA draft, there are a tremendous amount of NBA trades which are always leaked to the media. Each year, there seem to be a few teams that have found their way in each trading rumor only to hold off and not make the big deal. This offseason, the Sixers and Celtics have been noted in a lot of potential trades while the Blazers were said to be shopping Damian Lillard over the summer. It’s reached the point where oftentimes, the wait is more interesting than the actual trade.
Rumored moves like Kyrie Irving being rumored to go to the Suns in a three-way trade can also change the fabric of the league. There is no telling how a player will respond to those whispers and that’s why the result makes everything so fascinating. One rumor started about Leonard possibly ending up with the Celtics meant that he attempted to control his own destiny. The chess match being played really comes to the forefront when trade rumors come out. The best NBA trades make people wonder about the outcome even if they don’t happen and these 15 are a perfect example.
20 Timberwolves Trade Kevin Garnett To The Suns For Shawn Marion (2007)
The Phoenix Suns of the mid-2000s had a lot of these trades which easily could have pushed them over the edge into being champions. Image if they would have added a veteran Kevin Garnett to a system that only needed one big man defender to force them to take that end of the court seriously.
Garnett also had the perfect offensive game to fit right in with the Suns, as he was fast enough to run the court, and a good enough shooter to space the floor.
The Suns also had another good athlete and big scorer in Amar’e Stoudemire. But Marion was actually the person who blew this trade up, declaring that he wouldn’t sign for anything but the max, which was a mistake for a team to do in 2007. The Celtics ended up being a winner as they got KG and a championship as a result.
19 Cavs Trade Kyrie Irving To The Pacers For Paul George (2017)
Sometimes having a superstar talent like LeBron James can end up being a double-edged sword. Yes, you always know you can win it all but on the other end, there is the constant pressure that everyone except James is expendable. In this case, new GM Koby Altman took over in the 2017 offseason and proceeded to make a crucial rookie mistake – letting information out to a team with nothing to lose. When he engaged in talks with the Pacers for Paul George, news quickly spread that Kyrie Irving was on the board.
Of course, the Cavs didn’t end up getting George. This move also would have included the Suns and brought over Eric Bledsoe. In the end, the Cavs ended up getting the short end of the stick because Irving wanted out and the Suns dealt Bledsoe just after the start of the season.
18 Kawhi Leonard To Celtics For Combination Of Tatum/Brown/Irving/Picks (2018)
The Celtics do a great job by constantly having their names in talks but never making it seem like they don’t have control over the situation. In this case, the Celtics had been in the running for Leonard since last year. Celtics GM Danny Ainge does a great job of media manipulation in getting his news out there in a smart way. On the flipside, he lets other teams try to boost their player by using his prospects. The trading game is much like the hiring game in the NBA. News of someone’s name gets out so much that other executives think these players are better than they are.
17 Kawhi Leonard To The Lakers For Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Two 1st-Rounders (2018)
Of course, the Lakers never seemed to close to the edge on this deal it was a nice try from the Spurs brass. While taking their tour around the NBA, the Spurs had an interesting philosophy with the Lakers. They made it very clear that nothing short of a goldmine would get Leonard to the Lakers this year.
The goal was to get the L.A. media to overreact to Magic Johnson, which might have led him to pull the trigger.
The actual result was LeBron James coming to town and then quickly welding all power in the foreseeable future over to Magic. Which meant no pressure for the Spurs to squeeze and no blockbuster trade between the rival franchises. Both seem just happy about going their separate ways, though.
16 Kawhi Leonard To the Sixers for Saric, Covington, and a 1st Round Pick (2018)
This proposed trade was the one which had been floated out in the most interesting fashion. When the Sixers suddenly traded back in the draft, all seemingly to get Kawhi Leonard using the 2021 Miami Heat draft pick, everything made sense. In realit,y it turns out that the two teams had no deal before the draft about that possible trade. Then with LeBron James on the phone for about ten seconds, the team pitched the idea that if LeBron signed, they would immediately trade for Leonard. But LeBron ended up going to the Lakers, of course. Lastly the Spurs threw rumors of Markelle Fultz into the mix, which the Sixers quickly shut down. Unlike the last two, I think that both teams are happy this trade didn’t go down.
Ultimately the Spurs ended up trading Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first-round pick to Spurs. Right now, it seems like the teams are happy but the players aren’t.
15 Timberwolves Trade Kevin Love To The Warriors For Klay Thompson (2014)
Kevin Love was an All-Star with the Timberwolves when they decided to move on from the power forward. Among the pieces that the Timberwolves were looking at the Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson in a possible move. However, the Warriors denied it to stick with their core down the line. As such, the Warriors look like big winners over the Timberwolves, because for them the move really panned out. Because of the trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Timberwolves ended up getting Andrew Wiggins. The next year they were able to draft Karl-Anthony Towns because the team didn’t have anyone as talented as Klay Thompson on the roster.
14 Amar'e Stoudemire To Cleveland (2009)
In the 2009-10 season, the Suns were looking to ship big man Amar’e Stoudemire. The power forward had averaged over 20 points and 8 rebounds a game in each of the last three seasons with the team. However, the Suns didn’t want to give him a contract extension, so Stoudemire was on the market just as LeBron James was also entering free agency.
But the Cavs didn’t make this trade mainly because the Suns had a change of heart and decided to try and sign a long-term team with Stoudemire.
In the end, both teams lost as the Suns lost their perennial All-Star for nothing, and the Cavs ended up trading for Antawn Jamison but losing a frustrated LeBron James to free agency.
13 Celtics Trade Multiple Picks to Hornets to Draft Justise Winslow (2015)
There is a little luck to being great but no bad luck in being stupid. That is the difference when looking at this deal that the Celtics offered the Hornets in 2015. To make this look even worse, Winslow was not that highly touted of a prospect to warrant that haul. He was still around with the ninth spot in the draft as the Celtics got this desperate need for him out of nowhere. Maybe Winslow could have been better in the Celtics system as head coach Brad Stevens tends to make players look better, but he ended up with the Heat. In the end, the Hornets didn’t make the move because they wanted to draft Frank Kaminsky. Frank Kaminsky. Wow.
12 Heat Trade Justise Winslow & Josh McRoberts To The Knicks for Carmelo Anthony (2017)
In the 2017 offseason, Winslow was again in trade talks. This time it was the Miami Heat and the Knicks who had reportedly discussed a trade. In this, the Heat would have Anthony for the last two years of his deal and the Knicks would have gotten a young player and a cash dump. The Knicks were trying to move Anthony for anything possible at this point and the Heat have seemed a little unclear about their standing in the post-LeBron era. It’s a team littered with aging talent that keeps trying to get older.
In the end, the Heat kept their assets and the Knicks traded Anthony to OKC for Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter, and a 2018 second-rounder. Clearly, the Knicks won in that trade and the Heat are happy as well because Anthony proved to be a flop in OKC.
11 Nuggets Trade Kenneth Faried To The Celtics (2017)
This trade didn’t have as much steam as some of the other moves on our list but anytime some gets linked with the Celtics it’s the media’s dream occasion. Especially when you can tie them in with a rebounding power forward at which point everyone starts to believe this is a reality.
This began to gain steam in 2017 when the Nuggets signed Paul Millsap from free agency and told Faried that he would be a bench player.
The rumors jolted up the second this was mentioned but in the end, the Celtics didn’t want Faried that much and he ended up being that bench player for the Nuggets.
10 Nets Trade Joe Johnson To Detroit For Brandon Jennings (2015)
Back in 2015, the Pistons announced their interest in Nets guard Joe Johnson. At this point, he was still "Iso Joe," a player who was capable of solid numbers on a game-to-game basis, giving the Nets around 12 points a game. With Johnson declining, the team not doing very well and those lack of picks hurting them, the Nets were looking to get younger. Jennings did average 15 points a game the season before but his downfall was clear at the start of the season. It was so bad that the older player, Johnson, looked like a better bet to last longer as a successful NBA player. Up to this point that has been the case.
9 Clippers Trade DeAndre Jordan To The Bucks (2017)
As the Clippers' 2017-18 season started to quickly die down they began to look at possible moves for all their star players. Chris Paul had just been moved in the offseason to the Houston Rockets and there was still time for Blake Griffin to be traded.
The momentum for a Jordan-to-the-Bucks trade started to build, even though there weren’t any specific players named.
The earlier trade for Eric Bledsoe also made it unlikely that they would trade for another big-name player. More so when you consider that DeAndre had an expiring contract and there would be no Chris Paul to lock him in a room. Still, the possibility of Giannis and Jordan on the same frontcourt is daunting.
8 Warriors Trade Stephen Curry To The Suns For Amar'e Stoudamire (2009)
This is a spectacular case in NBA history. The Suns were looking to trade Amar’e Stoudemire in the summer of 2009 because they realized their unit was coming to an end. There was a prospect on the board whom GM Steve Kerr wanted badly from the Golden State Warriors, and he was none other than Stephen Curry. Curry had ankle troubles already at this point and Stoudemire was an All-Star for years. But this was another example of great franchises not panicking and going for a superstar player.
Instead, they kept Curry and ended up winning multiple championships which means they won. Of course, Kerr got to at least coach the player he couldn’t trade for.
7 Magic Trade Dwight Howard To Nets for Four Unprotected 1st Round Picks (2012)
It does take a little bit of luck to be great and this is another example for the Celtics. They got the break of a lifetime when this deal didn’t happen for the Nets and the Magic. It was at the tail end of Howard’s run with the Magic in 2012 when they were the first of many teams which decided to ship him away. The market for Howard was incredible because he was the best center in the league back when centers were valued more. However, the deal eventually didn’t go through, even though Howard demanded to be traded to Brooklyn. This really was a no win for everyone as the Magic have never recovered and the Nets ended up getting rid of their future with reckless abandon.
6 Chris Paul To The Lakers, Pau Gasol To Houston (2011)
This is easily the most exciting, complex and talked about trade rumor in the last ten years. Chris Paul was going to get traded to the Lakers in a three-team trade. This was going to be the move which would reset the Hornets roster, with Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and Lamar Odom leading the charge. In the trade, Pau Gasol would also be traded to the Rockets.
This move would have changed the fate of three franchises.
The Lakers would have been much better off in the waning Kobe years with CP3 than a just-about-done Steve Nash and a one-year rental in Dwight Howard. The Hornets/Pelicans would have had a nice base to build with, but they probably would have been too good to get Anthony Davis in the draft. Then the Rockets probably wouldn’t have had the ammo to get James Harden in 2013. The only true loser in this trade was the Lakers.
5 Cleveland Cavaliers Try To Trade A 1st Round Pick To The Nets For Spencer Dinwiddie (2018)
On February 9th, the Cavs were struggling and looking to make big moves before the NBA trade deadline. At this point, it was clear that LeBron wasn’t going to take playing for that roster much longer. Part of the improvement that they wanted to make was to get another guard that would match up well against the Warriors. Dinwiddie looked like the perfect player to play alongside LeBron, at least in a bench role. He is 6’6", with athletic ability to finish around the rim. In the end, the Nets declined the trade and decided to keep Dinwiddie for the long haul. It’s also possible that this was one of the many moves which led to James leaving in the end.
4 Hawks Trade Marco Belinelli To Miami (2018)
Marco Belinelli was one of the best options for teams right before the deadline in 2018. He was an older player on a one-year contract. It was the perfect situation for a team that needed one more player down the stretch. Belinelli also was a great shooter which would have perfect for the Heat who struggled from three-point range all year. In the end, Miami didn’t make the moves to get him and Belinelli ended up going to the Sixers. This trade was interesting because the Sixers played the Heat in the playoffs, with Belinelli averaging 16.6 points a game in the series. Obviously, the Heat wished they would have made a move to get him during the trade deadline.
3 Denver Nuggets Trade 1st Rounder To Boston For Marcus Smart (2018)
With the trade deadline approaching, the Nuggets wanted to make one last move for their playoff push.
This move had a lot of overwhelming outcomes from it after which you can see now.
Because the Nuggets didn’t trade for Smart, they couldn’t quite make the playoffs. They even got to a play in a game situation with the Timberwolves but ended up falling short. Of course, would the Celtics rather have Michael Porter Jr. or Marcus Smart for four years and $52 million? It’s clear the Nuggets seem a little happier this trade didn’t work out then the Celtics are. But that is all banked on the health of Porter, which no one really knows the details of right now.
2 Cavaliers Trade 1st-Round Pick To Clippers For DeAndre Jordan (2018)
This trade was talked about for a while throughout the season. People wondered if LeBron would actually force them to make the move for the threat of leaving. In the end, the Cavs didn’t want to move the pick and not for a player who could possibly leave after the season. Jordan would have been a solid fit for the team, but his lack of ability to hit free throws could have further hurt the Cavs.
One thing that is clear all these trades is that they refused to do something out of fear of losing James. Only time will tell if this works out long-term for the team but with this pick, they decided the future would start now.
1 Cleveland Cavaliers Move Up To Pick Luka Doncic (2018)
After the 2018 lottery, the Cavs held the 8th pick in the draft, thanks to the Brooklyn Nets. With the draft underway, the Cavs also had the opportunity to trade up in the draft with the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks held the third pick in the draft and were trying to trade back to build up assets later.
Kent Bazemore of the Hawks was also in the trade, so the Cavs would likely have traded future picks. This is why trade rumors remain so interesting. For the next three years, people will wonder if they made the right decision and only time will tell.