The draft, free agency, and trades are the three ways to acquire talent in today’s NBA. Trading is definitely the most exciting of the three because it brings a new talent to your team that will likely make an impact right away. The trade deadline is always an exhilarating time because so many players are finding new homes and it can change the perception of your favorite team.
The NBA, unlike the NFL, is full of trades. Each season there are many trades that often don’t make much of an impact, but sometimes there are blockbuster trades that shock the league. Since there are so many trades, there are also many rumors. Some are nothing but nonsense, but some do hold water.
The NBA also gets involved with trades every once in awhile. Even though they rarely exercise their right to veto deals, it has happened in the past and it will probably happen again. It isn’t often that this happens because most teams don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot with a lopsided deal.
This article will look at the 15 NBA deals that almost happened, because it is always fun to look at, “what if” scenarios.
15. O.J. Mayo to the Pacers
The Grizzlies once agreed to a deal that would sent O.J. Mayo to the Pacers in return for Josh McRoberts and a 2011 first round pick. The trade was happening just as the deadline was approaching, the two teams couldn’t finalize the paperwork before the 3 PM deadline approached. “Indiana was not able to get it all together,” said Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley. Both sides wanted the trade to go through but it never ended up materializing.
Now O.J. Mayo is out of the league. He was abusing some hard drugs and got caught and realized he had to straighten out his life. He was suspended from the NBA for two years and is still serving that suspension. It’s hard to say whether he will come back to the league or not.
14. Dennis Rodman to the Suns
Dennis Rodman was almost traded from the Pistons to the Suns for Richard Dumas. The Pistons knew Rodman was a great talent but they weren’t so happy with his off the court antics. This trade would have made the Suns one of the best teams of all time. A frontcourt of Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman would be unfair. Good luck getting a rebound against them.
Had this trade actually happened, there is no way the Suns don’t win a championship. Couple that with Rodman staying on the Suns and not going to the Bulls later on, they probably would steal one from the Bulls as well. Could you have imagined a duo of Rodman and eventually Charles Barkley taking on Michael Jordan? That ’93 final may have played out differently.
13. Wilt Chamberlain to the Bulls
Wilt Chamberlain was almost involved in one of the most creative and interesting deals of all time. He wasn’t going to be traded for a basketball player, but rather for a hockey player, Bobby Hull. Yes, a hockey player. Chamberlain was on the Lakers at the time and Hull was playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Arthur Wirtz owned Chicago Stadium, meaning he owned both the Bulls and the Hawks, so he was willing to sacrifice a hockey draw for a basketball one.
The deal never happened but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been one of the most creative trades of all time. I think cross-sport trades would be an interesting thing to incorporate into sports. It might not work from a money standpoint, but it sure would be a cool way to create a dynasty, albeit at the expense of your city’s other teams.
12. Amar’e Stoudemire for Stephen Curry
The Suns thought that they were getting Curry after the Warriors drafted him. They planned on trading Stoudemire for Curry after they selected him, as they were concerned about eventually losing Stoudemire to free agency. The Warriors agreed to give Curry to the Suns for Amar’e. Remember, this was before the Warriors knew Curry would win at least two MVPs and lead the team a two finals appearances and win it all.
The Suns even drafted their next pick based on Curry being on their team but the Warriors backed out of the deal and left the Suns feeling stupid. The Warriors were lucky that they didn’t trade away Curry or else the Suns would be the ones with the Splash brothers (Curry and Booker).
11. Julius Erving to the Hawks
Yes, Dr. J almost took his talents down to Atlanta. Erving was a Hawk for a short period of time but never actually played for them. He signed a deal with them to be a part of the team before he got drafted into the NBA. Later on however, he got drafted by the Bucks which brought up many issues. He only played in two exhibition games with the Hawks before being sent back to the ABA where he would play for the Nets.
While the Bucks and Hawks didn’t get what they wanted, (Dr. J) they did receive some compensation for their wasted pick and money. Hawks fans still ask what if they had “Pistol” Pete Maravich and Julius Erving on the same team. That would have been incredible.
10. Larry Hughes for Tracy McGrady
The Sixers GM at the time, Billy King, was about to pull off a great trade when he backed out because he got nervous. The trade would have sent Larry Hughes to the Raptors and Tracy McGrady and a first round pick would be heading to Philly. Clearly the trade would have benefitted the Sixers more than the Raptors but the Sixers were the ones who ultimately backed out of the deal once it was announced publicly.
This was one of many big mistakes by the heavily scrutinized Billy King. One can only ponder whether or not a backcourt of Iverson and McGrady could have propelled the Sixers past the Lakers in the finals in 2001. It’s a mystery as to why they got cold feet.
9. Terry Cummings for Bulls #3 Pick (Michael Jordan)
As crazy as it sounds now, the Bulls were looking to deal their #3 pick in the legendary 1984 draft. Fortunately for them but unfortunately for many other teams they didn’t. They decided to take Jordan with the 3rd overall pick only because they weren’t able to get either big man, Hakeem Olajuwon or Sam Bowie. The deal that the Bulls were entertaining most seriously for their coveted pick was Terry Cummings. Cummings who wasn’t Jordan, was still a very good player.
The Bulls were wise for holding on to their pick and taking Jordan. Trading the pick would have easily been the biggest mistake of the franchise’s History. How could Bulls fans sleep at night if they had traded away the greatest player in NBA history?
8. Allen Iverson for Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, and Jerome Williams
This would have been one of the most disastrous trades in NBA history. Who knows what the Sixers were thinking. In 2000 they almost made this deal with the Lakers. I’m not sure if they were fed up with him and his personality or what but even thinking about this deal as a GM is unacceptable. Why would you trade away your best player and one of the best players in the league for garbage?
Whatever the reason was at least the trade didn’t go through or else I don’t know if I’d be able to be a Sixers fan any longer.
As for the Lakers, would the trade have worked? While the deal would have given them the most lethal Big 3 in modern NBA history in Kobe, Shaq and Iverson, those are three big egos. Kobe and Shaq had trouble working together and odds are, three men like this wouldn’t have been able to coexist in Los Angeles.
7. Larry Bird to the Pacers
Bird almost went to the Pacers even before he became a coach and a GM there. He was almost traded for Chuck Person. Bird was on the backside of his career and had clearly seen the better days of his career. Nonetheless, it would have been incredibly weird to see Bird in a uniform other than the Celtics, even if it was for his homestate Pacers. Person was a solid player and the Celtics would also end up with the second overall pick in this trade scenario.
It would have been a pretty good deal for the Celtics and would have set them up for the future and unloaded an old Bird. They decided to stick to their guns and keep Larry Legend. Looking back, it would have made sense to move on.
6. Charles Barkley to the Lakers
The Sixers once “traded” Barkley to the Lakers for a few hours, or that’s at least what they told him. They told him he had been traded to the Lakers and he was happy because he had been involved in rumors for weeks. He went out and started drinking but then received a phone call that the Sixers actually backed out of the deal. If the deal had in fact gone through the Sixers would have received an old James Worthy. Barkley who said, “I’m feeling pretty good right now” actually played that night after having more drinks than one should have before a game.
The best part of the story is he had 23 points and nine rebounds which is impressive for anyone especially when drunk. I would love to see tape of that game.
5. Shawn Kemp for Scottie Pippen
The Sonics almost made a blockbuster deal for Scottie Pippen in 1994. It is very hard to believe that it was so close to happening that Jordan actually endorsed the deal by telling George Karl to do the deal, and that the Sonics would win the championship with Pippen. The trade however never did come to fruition. Even though Jordan was away from the game at the time, it’s bizarre that he would advise another team who was trying to make a trade with his Bulls.
The deal eventually fell through and Pippen was right there in Chicago waiting for MJ when he came out of retirement. I don’t know if the Bulls would have have their second three-peat if this trade was completed.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon to the Miami Heat
Surprisingly the Rockets offered a trade to the Heat that included Olajuwon and Sleepy Floyd in return for a slew of less notable players and their pick. Seems like a one sided trade right? I think so. Apparently neither the Rockets or Heat thought so as the Heat declined the deal. The Rockets got extremely lucky that the Heat weren’t interested in their deal because they came out and won two titles. At that point the Rockets had experienced little playoff success despite having a superstar like Olajuwon, so perhaps they felt their championship window had closed.
The Rockets clearly wouldn’t have eventually won back-to-back titles had the trade actually happened. The Heat were also foolish to not accept the deal. They could have had their own mini-dynasty.
3. Kobe Bryant to the Bulls
Bryant was overtly angry with his situation in Los Angeles after the Lakers’ 2007 first round playoff exit. He was telling everyone that he was done with the Lakers and there was even a video where he apparently told Lakers fans to buy a Bulls uniform. Whether or not the video was real remains a question but what isn’t, is that for a moment in time, we all thought Kobe was going to the Bulls. It would make sense wouldn’t it? His obsession with Jordan, being the greatest to ever play, etc… Chicago would be a great place to create his legacy but it was all rumors.
It’s fun to think about how Kobe would have done with the Bulls. He definitely would have had an easier path to the NBA Finals in the East, but would he have won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010?
2. Kobe Bryant for LeBron James
This trade would have been the biggest blockbuster deal in NBA history. It would have changed the landscape of the league forever. Bryant was angry with the Lakers for a bit after they traded away Shaq and he requested a trade. They offered to trade him to the Pistons but he vetoed that, then they offered him to the Cavaliers for LeBron James. He told ESPN that he would have also vetoed that trade but the Lakers were actually considering it.
The Cavaliers were shocked to receive a call with an offer for LeBron, but they turned it down. They offered just about every other asset they had, but the Lakers were only interested in dealing Kobe to Cleveland if it meant landing The King.
Can you imaging Kobe in Cleveland or LeBron in L.A.? Me neither. I’m not even sure who would have won this deal. I think it would be a fairly even deal.
1. Chris Paul to the Lakers
The Chris Paul trade was and still is one of the most controversial decisions a commissioner has had to make. David Stern vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the New Orleans Hornets. The league actually owned the Hornets and Stern felt that the deal was too one sided because Chris Paul was a franchise centerpiece and to pair him up with the guys in L.A. would be unfair to the rest of the league. Thus, the Hornets shifted their focus and soon traded Paul to the Clippers instead.
Kobe Bryant is angry that Stern vetoed that trade to this day. Who knows how it would have changed history?
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