Only in the past 10 or so years have we seen so many NBA superstars change teams oh-so-often. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, Jerry West, you name it. So many NBA legends only played for one team throughout their careers. These guys were loyal to their respective franchises. The front office was also smart enough to keep a superstar player when they had one. Control of the team was up to management, and players were often much more likely to stay loyal to good management.
But times have changed quickly. Lots of players demand trades or sign elsewhere so they can earn more money and chase a championship. Other times, it's the general manager who decides to trade a star player away hoping he can receive a handful of resources that he can build around. In a new NBA that has seen an emergence of super teams and players joining teams to stay with their friends and win, every move a team make matters more than ever toward their future.
Throughout the past decade, we've seen a number of major blockbuster trades and signings flop big time. On the other hand, some of these deals worked out tremendously. Recently, we've seen some moves that may not have played out fully, but either look terrible or genius on paper. Only time can tell. Here are 10 recent NBA moves that teams are regretting, and five smart ones that worked out perfectly.
15 Regret: Thunder Trade James Harden To Houston
The Thunder had one of the game's top "big threes," in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. That trio led the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they'd fall to the Miami Heat in five games. OKC was expected to contend for many more titles after that, but they weren't able to agree on a new contract with Harden. After the Finals, they traded him and three other players to the Rockets in exchange for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and three draft picks. None of these assets panned out in Oklahoma City.
As for Harden, he's emerged as a perennial MVP candidate. The Rockets are among the top teams in the NBA, thanks to his greatness. You just have to wonder how many titles the Thunder could have won if they kept Harden or got a better return for him. Harden is gone. Kevin Durant is gone. Westbrook is all that's left from the big three. Shame, because these three should have been in the midst of the next dynasty by now.
14 Regret: Pistons Trade For Blake Griffin
Half a year after the Los Angeles Clippers extended Blake Grifffin to the maximum five years for $173 million, they dealt him, Willis Reed and Brice Johnson to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic. Good move for the Clippers, who are in a bit of a rebuilding stage and needed younger and cheaper players like Harris and Bradley.
But acquiring Griffin doesn't do much to help the Pistons morph into a contender. They already have a top big man in Andre Drummond, but their back court is far from championship-caliber. Bradley and Harris could have played better in Detroit, but there's no doubt that they'll be fine system players for Doc Rivers in Los Angeles. I like the Pistons idea of getting a big name, but Griffin is not the guy to take them to the next level.
13 Smart: Cavaliers Trade Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas was supposed to be the centrepiece of the Kyrie Irving blockbuster trade last year. However, a hip injury kept Thomas on the sidelines until January. Once he joined the Cavaliers, it was a disaster. Thomas wasn't able to find his skills in Cleveland's system. He was averaging about half the points per game that he registered last year in Boston. Furthermore, it was reported that Thomas began blaming Kevin Love during a tense team meeting two weeks ago.
Deciding it was time to blow things up, Cleveland dealt Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick to the L.A. Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Clarkson has been a better fit in Cleveland's offence, is younger and won't cost as much to sign long-term. Cleveland also gets a better defender. This was a great move.
12 Regret: Knicks Sign Joakim Noah
Following an up-and-down tenure with the Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah was looking to escape the Windy City and start afresh. The hometown New York Knicks came in and paid Noah $72 million over four years, hoping the defensive stalwart and fellow newcomer Derrick Rose could get this team back into the playoffs.
But Noah's first year with the Knicks was a complete disaster. A knee injury and a 20-game suspension for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy forced him to miss half the season. Noah didn't contribute much offensively, and his defense was far from stellar when he was on the court. The Knicks are among the league's worst teams again, and they're stuck paying a troubled player whose contract is virtually immovable right now. Not a good position for Knicks management to be in, considering they need to shed cap space and tear this whole thing down.
11 Regret: Hawks Sign Then Trade Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard hasn't been the same player since signing with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Nonetheless, the Atlanta Hawks gave him a three-year deal worth $70 million two summers ago. Atlanta gave up on Howard after just one year, despite averaging double-digit rebounds and points per game. Desperate to get rid of them, they dealt him and a first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for shooting guard Marco Belinelli, bench player Miles Plumlee and the 2017 41st pick.
Belinelli is averaging 11.4 points per game in Atlanta. Plumlee is strictly a limited bench player. D12 is averaging 15.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. The Hawks dished out a ton of money for a good player, then virtually gave him away for nothing. Not a smart move on their end, and the Hornets are reaping the benefits.
10 Smart: Spurs Sign LaMarcus Aldridge
Knowing that Tim Duncan was on the cusp of retiring, the San Antonio Spurs knew that they had to find a new big man to replace the franchise icon. In 2015, the Spurs gave LaMarcus Aldridge a four-year contract worth $80 million, and he's earned every bit of the cash. Selected to the 2016 and 2018 All-Star games, Aldridge has averaged nearly double-digit rebounds and close to 20 points per game as a Spur. More importantly, they've remained one of the league's elite teams throughout his tenure.
The Spurs have battled through injuries to top players like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. But thanks to their investment in Aldridge, they've hung in there and look to remain a title contender for 2018 and 2019. Perhaps longer.
9 Regret: Suns Trade Isaiah Thomas
The Phoenix Suns pulled off a major heist when they landed 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings in a 2014 offseason trade. The Suns only had to send back Alex Oriakhi, who never played in the NBA. But after just 46 games in The Desert, Phoenix traded Thomas to the Boston Celtics for a 2016 first-round pick and shooting guard Marcus Thornton. The latter played just nine games for Phoenix before signing with the Houston Rockets in the offseason.
As for Thomas, he became the face of the Celtics franchise, leading them to the playoffs in 2015, '16 and '17. In the latter year, Boston was the top seed in the East and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston then made Thomas the centerpiece of the Kyrie Irving trade, which has paid major dividends for them. Imagine what kind of player the Suns could have gotten if they held onto Thomas longer before they opted to trade him?
8 Regret: Grizzlies Sign Chandler Parsons
Through his first five NBA seasons, Chandler Parsons was a good, not great, small forward. Coming off a 2015-16 season in which he averaged 13.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, Parsons received superstar money from the Memphis Grizzlies -- who gave him a four-year deal worth just over $94 million. Instead of being a key piece to the perennial playoff team, Parsons has essentially stolen easy money from Memphis. He averaged just 6.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last year. His offensive numbers have barely improved during the 2017-18 season.
Worse yet, the Grizzlies are in the Western Conference basement. Parsons is costing this porous team a lot of money, and there's no easy way out of the contract. They'll be regretting this move until he leaves the team -- or if he finds a way to start earning every penny.
7 Smart: Timberwolves Land Jimmy Butler
Owning two young stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins wasn't enough for the Minnesota Timberwolves. No matter how great the young stars were, Minny just couldn't come anywhere close to a playoff spot. So last year, the front office decided it was time to form a big three. They did that by landing Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler (and the 16th pick in 2017), in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.
Butler is having an excellent year in Minnesota, averaging 22.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and five assists per game. He was named to the All-Star Game, and the T-Wolves sit comfortably in the standings with a 35-25 record. Minnesota is about to end their 14-year playoff drought. Butler, Wiggins and Towns are building up a long-term championship contender. The Timberwolves are finally back to relevancy after a long wait.
6 Regret: Cavaliers Trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics
The Cleveland Cavaliers had no choice but to trade Kyrie Irving when the star point guard requested a trade last offseason. But out of all teams they could have traded him to, the Cavs chose the Boston Celtics. On paper, the deal looked evenly matched. Boston got a young star to build around. Cleveland got a big package that included All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, defensive standout Jae Crowder and two draft picks.
Well, the Celtics are second in the East. Cleveland had to blow up the roster at last week's deadline, which included giving up Thomas and Crowder -- the two primary pieces of the Irving trade. Maybe Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill prove us wrong. But for now, trading Irving to your biggest threat looks like a really bad move on Cleveland's part.
5 Regret: Kings Trade DeMarcus Cousins To Pelicans
The Sacramento Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006. Despite owning a world class star in DeMarcus Cousins for just under seven seasons, the Kings could never build around 'Boogie', so they decided the 2017 trade deadline was the time to move on from the perennial superstars. The Kings dealt Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks. Though Hield is second in team scoring, the Kings could have gotten far more for a proven and established star in Cousins.
Prior to a season-ending achilles injury, Cousins was scoring 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. He had the Pelicans in playoff position, and should seek a massive payday in free agency this offseason. As for the Kings, why in the world would you trade a star like Cousins for so little? No wonder they haven't made the playoffs in 12 years.
4 Smart: Heat Bring Back Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade is far-and-away the greatest player in the history of the Miami Heat franchise. He led them to the NBA Championship in 2006, 2012 and 2013 -- and holds virtually every franchise record. But the Heat were shocked when Wade spurned them to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls in 2016, agreeing to a two-year contract worth nearly $47 million. Wade was bought out after just one year in the Windy City, and signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, Wade was a massive disappointment in Cleveland, averaging just 11.2 points per game. Looking to bring back leadership and secure another scorer, Miami re-acquired Wade at the deadline, surrendering just a second-round pick. This seems more fight. Wade will likely finish in his career where it started - in South Beach. He'll provide a crucial veteran presence as the Heat try to hold onto one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
3 Regret: Jazz Trade Rodney Hood
Rodney Hood was an ample piece of the Utah Jazz roster that reached the second round of the playoffs in 2017. At 25 years of age, Hood is just entering his prime and should be a major impact player for years to come. Good move by the Cleveland Cavaliers to acquire him at this year's trade deadline. But from a Utah Jazz standpoint, why in the world did you give him away -- especially when you're vying for one of the final playoff spots in the East?
In a three-way trade that included the Sacramento Kings, Utah only received Derrick Rose - whom they've already moved on from, Jae Crowder and a second-round pick. Hood has averaged over 13 points per game in his career. Crowder is a solid fourth or fifth starter, but not an impact player like Hood. Jazz management will be kicking themselves on this one for quite a while.
2 Regret: Los Angeles Lakers Sign Luol Deng
With Kobe Bryant retiring and the Lakers needing to build up a roster of young players, it would have been wise for the front office to avoid making any big splashes in free agency. But in the 2016 offseason, the Lakers signed Luol Deng to a whopping four-year contract worth $72 million. That was a lot of money for a player on the wrong side of 30 who was well past the All-Star we saw with the Chicago Bulls. He was coming off a season in which he averaged just 12.3 points per game - the lowest since his rookie 2004-05 season.
Deng played just 56 games for the Lakers in 2016-17, averaging 15 points per game. Deng played in the team's first game of the 2017-18 season, but has yet to come off the bench since. The Lakers are just wasting money on Deng, when they need every penny of cap space to pursue LeBron James and Paul George this offseason.
1 Smart: Houston Rockets Trade For Chris Paul
James Harden posted an MVP-caliber season in 2016-17, averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. But nobody took the Houston Rockets seriously as a championship contender. They simply weren't on the same level as the Spurs or Golden State Warriors. Knowing they had to supply Harden with another superstar, the Rockets landed point guard Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers in a massive blockbuster. Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley were the central pieces that headed to the Clippers.
And wouldn't you know it? The Rockets are enjoying one of their best seasons in franchise history, as Harden and Paul have become one of the game's top duos. Houston won two of three regular season meetings over Golden State, and they're breathing down the defending champions necks for the top seed in the Western Conference. Smart move trading for Paul, wouldn't you say?
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