Evaluating NBA talent is a tough ask of even the most savvy basketball minds, as any past NBA Draft will tell you. Comparing big forwards and centers to guards doesn't offer any easy answers, nor does measuring past performance against future prospects, and that's to say nothing about having contract status factor in. No wonder, then, that one-for-one trades are such a rare breed in the NBA, with general managers reluctant to pull the trigger on any move that essentially has them swap out one asset for another.
Not only is it rare to find two NBA talents so comparable that they can be deemed worthy of a simple swap of jerseys without any accompanying parts, but you are also unlikely to find a GM so bold as to put himself on the line by signing off on such a move. One-for-one trades are the easiest kind of deals to look back on. At any point after completion of the trade, anyone can easily pull up stats on the two players and, without much insight, gain a pretty simple understanding of respective performance that can double as something of an instant analysis. Throw in a second round draft choice or even a trade exception and there's at least some hope for one side of other assets panning out in the long run.
In spite of the drawbacks - both real and ego-driven - of one-for-one trades, they do happen on occasion in the NBA. In 2015, for instance, Luke Ridnour saw himself moved twice in as many days in one-for-one swaps, being seen as fair value for both Matt Barnes and Latvian prospect Janis Timma as two of his eye-popping four trades in a wild five-day span that summer. Also that year, Nate Robinson got dealt for Jameer Nelson in what you might call the smallest one-for-one trade in NBA history. There were even recent whispers of a Draymond Green-for-Anthony Davis mega-deal that doesn't look like it'll come to pass. Nevertheless, it's worth looking back on these 15 seismic one-for-one trades now that we can clearly see how they panned out.
14 Marvin Williams for Devin Harris
Now that Marvin Williams has morphed into a respectable 3-and-D forward who just struck it rich with the Charlotte Hornets, it's easy to forget that he spent much of his first few years in the league plagued by the bust label. As a scrutinized No. 2 overall pick out of UNC, Williams simply wasn't the franchise star that the Atlanta Hawks had hoped they were getting when they took him before Chris Paul and Deron Williams. After seven decent years in Atlanta, the Hawks were ready to move on and shipped him off to Utah for point guard Devin Harris.
Neither Williams nor Harris lasted long in their new home. Williams failed to average 10 points per game in either of his two seasons in Utah, while Harris played all of 58 games in Atlanta, most of which came behind Jeff Teague, before skipping town to sign in Dallas. Call it an underwhelming tie.
13 Ryan Anderson for Gustavo Ayon
At first glance, the Orlando Magic's decision to trade 6'10" perimeter shooter Ryan Anderson at just 23 years of age and coming off of career highs in points (16.1) and rebounds (7.7) seems like a head scratcher, but they didn't have a ton of say in the matter. The former Cal standout had reached free agency and was poised to bolt, leaving the Magic to scramble to get anything for him.
That led them to the New Orleans Hornets' Gustavo Ayon, an intriguing power forward fresh off his rookie season who was unlikely to see much of the floor with Anderson in the fold. Ayon lasted just 43 forgettable games in Orlando being shipped off to Milwaukee as fodder in the JJ Redick / Tobias Harris trade, being out of the NBA completely less than two years later. Anderson, meanwhile, forged a complimentary front court partnership with Anthony Davis for four years before cashing in on an $80 million contract in Houston.
12 Charlie Villanueva for T.J. Ford
An NBA fan in 2016 may not see any kind of significant value in either Charlie Villanueva or T.J. Ford, but then again, 2006 was a different time. At the time, both men were young talents with considerable upside being moved to teams for whom they fit better. Milwaukee coveted Villanueva after watching the seventh pick of the 2005 Draft put up 48 points on them the season prior and had a speedy 23-year-old point guard who was struggling for minutes behind Mo Williams and Charlie Bell to use as a trade chip.
The Raptors, meanwhile, were on the cusp of building a surprise division winner around franchise star Chris Bosh, but they didn't have the playmaker to compliment him and found less use for Villanueva after drafting Andrea Bargnani first overall in 2006. While the trade didn't do much to move the needle for the Bucks, who failed to make the playoffs in any of his three seasons with the club, Ford provided an immediate spark in Toronto. He averaged 13.2 points and 7.2 assists per game over two seasons, leading the Raptors to the playoffs in each year before losing the starter's job to the steadier Jose Calderon.
11 Archie Goodwin for Andre Roberson
This 2013 draft night trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors highlights how long it can take to properly evaluate a deal in its aftermath. We are now more than three years removed from the swap that saw the Thunder send their 29th pick, Archie Goodwin, to Golden State along with cash in exchange for No. 26 pick Andre Roberson, and it's still difficult to determine a winner.
Over the last two seasons, Roberson has started 135 games as the shooting guard for the high-powered Thunder and now appears poised to shift over to the small forward spot vacated by Kevin Durant. But with a career average of 3.6 points per game, he was clearly the small cog in what was a big Durant and Russell Westbrook-driven engine. Goodwin's 6.2 career points don't look much more impressive, but there remains hope that the dynamic 22-year-old could capitalize on some of his star potential in Phoenix. The only clear losers here are the Warriors, who flipped Goodwin to the Suns that same night for Serbian guard Nemanja Nedovic, who is already out of the NBA.
10 Ricky Pierce for Dale Ellis
It is Dale Ellis who is best remembered as a sweet-shooting staple of late-1980's Seattle Supersonics teams after leading them to three straight playoff appearances alongside Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers. However, Seattle also benefited from shipping Ellis out at the right time, trading him to the Bucks in exchange for Ricky Pierce at the 1991 trade deadline.
Pierce was actually Ellis' senior, albeit by less than a year. But Pierce was also coming off of a career-best 23 points per game in Milwaukee, whereas Ellis had seen his scoring average dip considerably in each of the prior two seasons, going from 27.5 points during his All-Star '88-89 campaign to just 15.0 per game during the 1990-91 season prior to the trade. Seattle made the move at the right time, as Pierce would average 18.5 points per game with the Sonics while leading them to the playoffs each year. Ellis, meanwhile, would never regain his leading scorer chops, although he would make a successful return to Seattle at age 37 as a three-point specialist.
9 Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas
Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas have five All-Star appearances and nearly 30,000 career points between them, but let's face it - the 2010 trade between the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic that saw them switch jerseys was all about trading one bad contract for another. Both had seen some shine come off, Lewis for a performance dip that had him in the midst of a fourth straight season with a lower scoring average and Arenas for a locker room gun incident involving then-teammate Javaris Crittenton.
The trade of one club's headache for another carried plenty of name recognition, but hardly left either team with much bang for their buck. For the nearly $50 million owed to Arenas, the Magic got all of 49 games and two starts out of a player who would average 8.0 points per game. By acquiring Lewis, the Wizards "only" owed about $32 million and squeezed 9.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game out of the 6'10" power forward.
9. Willie Naulls for Slater Martin
We're going a ways back for this one - to 1956, to be exact. And you can tell how long ago it was, given that it features the New York Knicks actually getting the better of a trade partner. Slater Martin was already a reigning five-time All-Star when the Knicks shipped him off to the St. Louis Hawks less than two months after acquiring him. In return, they added a forward who, at 22, was five years younger and ready to break out.
SlaMartin, a veteran point guard, enjoyed two more All-Star seasons as a member of the Hawks but was clearly coming to the end of what was a Hall of Fame career and would only average double figures in one of his three full seasons in St. Louis. Willie Naulls, meanwhile, quickly jumped from 10.1 points per game in a rookie season split between St. Louis and New York to 18.1 points one year later. He would make the All-Star team in four of his next five seasons, all coming with the Knicks, including a career-best average of 25.- points per game in 1961-62.
8 Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor
Given what we know of Tyson Chandler today as a revered veteran leader and the defensive lynchpin of the 2010 title-winning Dallas Mavericks, it is easy to forget how large the 'bust' label loomed early in his career. After being taken second overall out of high school in 2001 and traded to the Chicago Bulls on draft night, Chandler largely disappointed in Chicago and, perhaps unfairly, lumped in with frontcourt mate Eddy Curry as an example of wasted potential.
That didn't last. Chandler rounded into a nightly double-double threat soon after leaving the Windy City for New Orleans after being traded for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. But even then, between early career struggles and some injury issues owed to his lanky frame, New Orleans was looking for more of what they deemed a sure thing in the steady and consistent, but unspectacular Emeka Okafor. True to form, the Hornets got 10.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game out of the former UConn star, while Chandler had one injury-marred season in Charlotte before cementing his reputation in Dallas the following year.
7 Brandon Roy for Randy Foye
Typically, when evaluating a trade, one would do well to give the nod to the team that acquired the player who remains in the league long after his counterpart has moved on. But that's why it is so challenging to know how to properly compare a player like Brandon Roy, who had a number of head-turning moments within a preciously short career that lasted just six years. Consider that fellow 2006 draftee Randy Foye has amassed about 1,000 more career points, but has also played in more than twice as many games.
The health-challenged Roy remains one of the NBA's great 'what if' characters. After being flipped to Portland from the Timberwolves on draft night in exchange for Foye, he reached three All-Star teams over his first four star-studded seasons, appearing poised to form a franchise core with LaMarcus Aldridge for years to come. Then came a spate of injuries that cost him 35 games in 2010-11 and the entire 2011-12 season before a failed comeback attempt in Minnesota. What once looked like one of the more lop-sided deals in NBA history has grown more favorable for Foye, who has bounced around six teams during a still-active NBA career.
6 Rudy Gobert for Erick Green
In July, former Virginia Tech standout Erick Green signed a two-year deal with Olympiacos of the Greek League. This is good news for the professional basketball career of Green, but probably serves as more salt in the wound of the Denver Nuggets, who remain haunted by one of the worst trades of the past few seasons. To get the one-time leading scorer in the NCAA in 2013, the Nuggets parted ways with raw French big man Rudy Gobert.
It didn't take long for the Utah Jazz to emerge as the clear winners of that deal. The "Stifle Tower" has been among the league leaders in rebounds and blocks per game over his three years in the league, quickly developing into one of the league's elite big men while still just 24 years of age. Making the whole trade even harder to swallow for the Nuggets is that they have fallen victim to 20 Gobert blocks, his third-most against any opponent.
5 Zach Randolph for Quentin Richardson
Taken one year and one spot apart in the respective 2000 and 2001 NBA Drafts, Quentin Richardson and Zach Randolph shared more in common than just their one-for-one trade in 2009. They both kicked around the league, with Richardson playing for five NBA teams and Randolph suiting up for four, while hoping to tap into unrealized potential and dodge character questions. After the deal that sent Randolph to Memphis and Richardson to the Clippers, the similarities ended.
As any current NBA fan now knows, Memphis is where Randolph finally found his footing. With the Grizzlies, he has come to be a two-time All-Star, respected veteran and potent front court force alongside Marc Gasol. For Richardson, however, the trade was one of a dizzying four deals that summer that had him feeling like a pawn in a chess game. He wound up in Miami, but that only lasted for one forgettable season before he was on the move again. Four years later, he was out of the league entirely.
4 Metta World Peace for Peja Stojakovic
Only about 600 career points and 180 or so field goals separate the careers of sharp-shooting Croatian Peja Stojakovic and the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest, but that's about all the two share in common. That's why the 2006 trade that sent Metta World Peace to Sacramento and brought Stojakovic to Indiana seemed so inspired. Both the Pacers and Kings needed a shakeup and the two players, who happen to occupy the same position, couldn't have been much more different in style.
While Stojakovic was the classic European shooter, Artest was the volatile, aggressive defensive menace. Both seemed to take a similar place within the NBA pecking order, ranking as exceptional, game-changing players without ever elevating to superstar level. Although Stojakovic seemed the more stable, safe choice, it was Artest who would go on to enjoy greater success. Stojakovic saw his scoring numbers dwindle over five years before ultimately finding himself out of the NBA at age 33 while Artest boosted the Kings into the postseason and later underwent a name change and won a title with the Lakers.
3 Dennis Rodman for Will Perdue
While we are on the subject of famously eccentric NBA personalities, let's move from a trade involving Ron Artest to one that included rebounding maven Dennis Rodman. By focusing on The Worm, I mean no disrespect to Will Perdue, who has been a supporting player on some pretty good teams and has four championship rings to show for it. That being said, it's pretty clear who got the best of the deal between the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls shortly before the 1995-96 season.
Perdue was a perfectly solid backup center, but San Antonio's willingness to participate in the trade stemmed primarily from the fact that they were tired of Rodman's antics. While the Spurs weren't quite the Gregg Popovich-driven machine they are today, the David Robinson-led club didn't have much of an appetite for Rodman's on-court antics, off-court headlines and numerous suspensions. When he arrived in Chicago to replace Horace Grant, the antics didn't go away, but neither did the rebounding prowess and Rodman won three more rings with the Bulls.
2 Vince Carter for Antawn Jamison
Eighteen years after the 1998 draft day trade of Vince Carter to the Toronto Raptors for Antawn Jamison (Golden State Warriors), the deal is still hotly debated for who got the better of the deal. If Carter blasted out of the gate with his sensational athleticism, Jamison had more of a slow amble while always remaining consistent over a standout 16-year career.
But let's be real here, the Raptors long ago emerged the victors for snagging the man that remains the biggest star in franchise history. Carter put the Raptors on the map, leading them to their first playoff appearance and postseason series victory, not to mention setting the NBA on fire with the famous 2001 dunk contest. Jamison, despite two All-Star appearances, never had such an iconic moment, nor did he enjoy the same kind of late career renaissance as Carter, who continues to produce at age 39 as a Memphis Grizzlies reserve.
1 Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant
Pity poor Bob Bass. He was the man in charge of personnel decisions for the Charlotte Hornets on draft day in 1996, or as he is more infamously recognized, the guy who traded Kobe Bryant. Twelve teams had already passed on the high schooler from Lower Merion, but it was the Hornets who snapped him up, only to ship him to Los Angeles in exchange for Serbian great Vlade Divac.
Before we excoriate Bass, let's understand his perspective at the time. The Hornets were actually getting good behind Glen Rice and would go onto win 54 games that season before being swept by the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs (ironically, Bass would win Executive of the Year that season). Divac helped Charlotte to their highest win total in franchise history, but that still doesn't quite justify giving up a future five-time champion, 18-time All-Star and one of the winningest players in league history.
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