As we come to the end of the NBA season, and gear up for the playoffs, some fans are wishing that their team would have done a little more at the trade deadline to propel them to the postseason. Alas, the NBA is just like anything in life, it needs to be taken one day at a time. Making a poor decision can derail a franchise, but sometimes doing nothing in the first place is the better option.
There is always another team vying for any opportunity to take advantage of those whom are less fortunate or are willing to mortgage their future to win now. Some teams have done it in the past and ended up with decades long "curses." Others have done it and ended up finding their glory.
Unless it is a money-saving maneuver, it is not always going to be clear which side will benefit more in any trade, but it's a little more obvious when at least one superstar is involved. Simply put, an NBA superstar is a person that transcends the game to become a household name. There have been times, though, where a superstar gets traded away for what seems like dirt. Sometimes the franchise knows they have to rebuild, sometimes they think they are getting a smash deal, and sometimes they just get smashed.
Let's take a look back, with our perfect hindsight of course, at some of the superstars that have been dealt for pennies on the dollar over the years. Let's look at the teams that thought they were getting value for value, but hadn't actually looked at the deal from all angles.
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16 LaMarcus Aldridge to The Blazers
It is fitting to open our list with a draft-night trade. In 2006, The Portland Trailblazers dealt Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa to Chicago in exchange for LaMarcus Aldridge and a future second round pick (Demetris Nichols).
Aldridge would go on to to make four all star teams and lead The Blazers to five playoff appearances, while establishing himself as a dominant offensive force on the block.
Thomas never found his NBA game, fizzled out of the league, and played in Germany last year. Khryapa played a total of 42 games for the Bulls before being bought out of his contract, and returned to Russia.
14 Jermaine O'Neal to The Pacers
If we are going to give the Blazers credit for LaMarcus Aldridge, then we have to look at their Jermaine O'Neal move too. He didn't ever do much to help the Blazers in their annual playoff runs while he was on the roster and was traded away for Dale Davis.
This trade was made in 2001, O'Neal won the league's Most Improved Player award in 2002 and would go on to make six consecutive All Star appearances. The Blazers meanwhile slipped into their infamous "Jail Blazers" era, which helped to end their NBA-record consecutive playoff appearance streak.
13 Vince Carter to The Nets
"Vinsanity" was sent to the Nets in the 2004 off season for a slew of sub-par talent. The Raptors received Eric Williams and Aaron Williams, along with two draft picks (Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman), plus Alonzo Mourning.
Mourning refused to play for the Raptors, never reported to camp, and was subsequently bought out of his contract. Carter on the other hand, went on to become the second highest scorer in Nets franchise history (Buck Williams), until he was passed by Brook Lopez.
The core of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter had some success together, but could never quite reach their potential.
12 Zack Randolph to The Warriors, then to The Grizzlies
Here's a double whammy that shows the true stock-trader mentality many owners unfortunately feel.
When the Clippers lost Elton Brand in free agency to the Sixers, they traded with The Knicks for Zach Randolph. They sent Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobely to the Big Apple in return for Z-Bo.
Randolph missed time that season due to a knee injury, but averaged 20 points when he was on the court. The Clips ended up with the worst record in the league, they drafted Blake Griffin, and the budding all-star big man was then sent packing again. This time in exchange with the Grizzlies for Quentin Richardson. He's helped turn the Grizz into a perennial post-season team and even led them to the Western Conference Finals in 2013.
11 Amare Stoudemire to The Knicks
Now, while Amare Stoudemire was not traded to The Knicks, it is still a testament to what can happen to a team when they lose an All Star player and The Suns did receive a $16.5 million trade exception for their loss.
They used the money to sign Josh Childress for five years and $34 million, and Hakim Warrick for four years and $18 million, as well as traded for Hedo Turkoglu for five years and $53 million.
S.T.A.T. dealt with injuries that following year, and never did deliver anything meaningful to Knicks faithful, but the Suns got nothing out of their star either.
10 Charles Barkley to the Suns
In 1992, Charles Barkley was traded from The 76ers to The Suns. The Suns actually gave up their leading scorer from the year before (Jeff Hornachek), as well as two throw-aways in Tim Perry and Andrew Lang.
The Sixers were enthusiastic about getting rid of the self-centered, ego-driven Barkley, and the Suns were just as enthusiastic about receiving him.
The Sixers would, in turn, do absolutely nothing in the next six years. The Suns would go on to make it to the finals the next year, with the Round Mound taking MVP honors. Good thing his ego was never rewarded with the title.
9 Chris Webber to The Kings
This is an interesting case here, because most NBA fans know C-Webb, but are not as familiar with Mitch Richmond or Otis Thorpe.
Richmond was an All Star in his own right, but gave the Wizards nothing after they got him from the Warriors. Webber went on to four more All Star appearances after the trade, Richmond none. Webber was only 25 at the time of the trade, Richmond was 33. Webber had 45.5 Win-Shares on the Warriors, Richmond had 10.1, and Thorpe a measly 3.7 with the Wizards.
The Warriors didn't know at the time, but they got an All Star player for virtually nothing.
8 Dennis Rodman to The Spurs
Dennis Rodman as a part of the "Bad Boy Pistons" was one of, if not, the most tenacious rebounder in the league. He had temper issues (to say the least) and the team decided to go for chemistry over talent. They traded for a guy with what seemed like a bright future, Sean Elliot from The Spurs.
"Detroit knew I had a kidney condition before they got me, but they just wanted to get rid of Dennis Rodman," Elliot said. "The Spurs didn’t know if I was going to be able to play more than another year or two, so this was a chance for them to get something in return".
7 Scottie Pippen to The Bulls
During the 1987 NBA draft, the Bulls swapped draft rights for Scottie Pippen with The SuperSonics. The Sonics received Olden Polynice and future first and second round draft picks (Sylvester Gray and BJ Armstrong). The Bulls received one of the league's all-time great defenders and all-around professionals in Pippen, as well as a first round pick of their own (Jeff Sanders). Draft day deals are always wrought with potential for highway robbery, but as these guys have never seen association action, it is impossible to predict who could get the upper hand. We now know, that this would go down as one of the worst trades in draft-day history.
6 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to The Lakers
Lew Alcinder had been to two NBA Finals and won one alongside Oscar Robertson for The Milwaukee Bucks. He then changed his name to Kareem, a Muslim name meaning "generous servant of the mighty one," and demanded to be traded to a large-market team.
Kareem either wanted to go to New York where his family lived or to LA where he went to college. Kareem was granted the trade to LA after the Knicks showed little-to-no interest in him. He would go on to become one of the league's most decorated players of all time and The Bucks wouldn't return to their elite level for many years, as they were hamstrung by his demands and didn't get back any elite talent.
5 Dominique Wilkins to The Hawks
Oh the possibilities the Utah Jazz could have had.
In the early '80s, the cap rules were a bit different. The Jazz were $1 million over payroll, and Dominique Wilkins, who they just drafted, really wasn't trying to play there in the first place. So they traded Wilkins to the Hawks in exchange for John Drew, Freeman Williams, and $1 million cash.
The Jazz would go on to draft John Stockton the subsequent year and then Karl Malone the following year. There is no doubt that unit could have dominated the NBA for at least a few years, but business is business in the association...
4 Julius Erving to The Sixers
"The Broken Promise." The Nets' owner at the time, Roy Boe, had promised to pay his star player, Julius Erving, big money once the team merged with the NBA. They had won two ABA championships already.
Through various fiscal penalties that came along with joining a new league, Boe was unable to pay Erving and was forced to sell him to Philladelphia for $3 million.
"The merger agreement killed The Nets as an NBA franchise," Boe said. "The merger agreement got us into the NBA, but it forced me to destroy the team by selling Erving to pay the bill."
3 Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers
Wilt Chamberlain was a beast. He was an all-world talent and dominated the NBA. He still holds league records in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage in a season, and minutes per game. He scored 100 points in a game for crying out loud! Wilt did have his vices, though, the main one being women.
Wilt had the option to be player-coach with the Sixers, but after visiting modern-day Babylon (Los Angeles) he demanded a trade or he would go to the ABA. This forced The Sixers hand and they moved him for vastly inferior talent.
2 Bill Russell to The Celtics
This one could have been number one since Bill Russell won an unprecedented 11 NBA titles in 13 years, while making 12 All Star teams and being named Most Valuable Player five times. He was considered the greatest of all time until Air Jordan came on the scene.
Russell was the penultimate team player and helped the Celtics to revolutionize defense in the NBA. The players that The St. Louis Hawks got in return for Russell both ended up making the Hall of Fame, so while this trade may not have been for total beans, The Celtics clearly came out on top. And it wasn't close.
1 Kobe Bryant to The Lakers
There has been much speculation on which side ultimately forced this draft-day trade. One thing is for sure, The Lakers got over on this deal.
One side says Kobe Bryant, through his agent, told The Hornets after they drafted him with the 13th pick, that he would not play there and that he would instead play his first professional season overseas. The other side says that The Hornets never truly wanted Kobe, and already had a guard and forward heavy lineup. Kobe himself says The Hornets' coach called him and said they didn't ever want him.
The Hornets ended up with Vlade Divac. The Lakers ended up with a top five all-time player.
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