The life of an NBA General Manager is not an easy one, as you have to assemble a team of superstars that can get you a lot of wins while also adding enough role players to help you in a long playoff run…all while staying under the salary cap. Sometimes you get it wrong on a player that you think is going to be a superstar who ends up tying up a lot of your money. You also have the yearly NBA Draft, where there is almost never a certain thing, and you can use your draft picks to help your future.
Teams are making deals all of the time in the NBA and most of the trades that you see on the newswire have little to no impact on the franchises that made them. You have to be very careful about the pieces you are giving away, though, as some of them can come back to bite you even if they seem minor.
Between getting unlucky in the lottery, giving up on a rookie before he even stepped foot off of the draft stage or handing over anything to get rid of a high priced veteran who isn’t performing, there are a lot of one-sided NBA trades. Historically, you probably know about the big ones (like Kobe to the Lakers or Bill Russell to the Celtics), but what about just the past decade? Here are the 15 most one-sided NBA trades of the past 10 years.
15. Tyson Chandler Becomes a Free Rental
Playing for Chicago and New Orleans for most of his early career, Tyson Chandler wasn’t really a huge impact player on offense, but could certainly defend. Chandler joined the Bobcats in a trade for Emeka Okafor in 2009, but that wasn’t even the worst trade he was involved in. The next July, a team that was looking for defensive help to get over the hump and win an NBA Championship came calling; The Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas acquired Chandler before the 2010-11 season and he would end up helping them win the NBA title as he dominated Miami’s centers all series. The Mavericks spent almost nothing to get the final piece of their puzzle, sending away Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier and Eduardo Najera to the Bobcats.
14. Thunder’s Serge Story
Kurt Thomas was once the 10th overall pick in 1995 by the Heat and he would eventually join the Mavericks, Knicks and Suns over the course of the next 12 years. While he wasn’t the worst player during his prime years, he was pretty much done by 2007 when he was scoring just 4.6 points per game with the Suns. So Phoenix decided to ship him (and his big contract) to Seattle in exchange for a second round pick.
And for taking away his big contract, the Suns were also willing to throw in their first round picks in 2008 and 2010. The 2010 selection was the Quincy Pondexter, who didn’t make a big impact, but it was the 2008 selection that hurt. With the 24th overall pick, the Thunder (who had recently moved) used the Suns’ pick to take Serge Ibaka.
13. Isaiah Thomas Heads to Beantown
One of the nicer surprises in the NBA over the past year has been Isaiah Thomas, who did not start a game in his first season with Boston in 2014-15, but became an All-Star this past season with 22.2 points, 6.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Thomas was once a member of the Kings where he was a solid scorer, though a lot of people don’t remember those days.
Thomas could have been a solid member of the Phoenix Suns as they only had to trade Alex Oriakhi to Sacramento to acquire the point guard. Instead, they traded Thomas away midway through his first season in Phoenix to Boston, acquiring Marcus Thornton and a first round pick that would become the 28th overall selection in 2016 (Skal Labissiere). Both of those pieces are already with new teams.
12. Damian Lillard’s Path to Portland
So far in his young career, former Weber State standout Damian Lillard has been a two-time All Star and two-time All-NBA star for the Portland Trail Blazers. This has been thanks in part to his 21.4 points, 6.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game in the first four years of his career (including 25.1 points per game in 2015-16). However, he was almost a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets decided to acquire Gerald Wallace from Portland in exchange for Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a first round pick. Portland received the pick since it was not in the top three, but it did land at number six. That selection would go on to be Lillard and the Nets weren’t done dismantling their own franchise as evidenced later in the list.
11. Z-Bo Gets Grizzly
Zach Randolph didn’t get off to the hottest start in his first two years with Portland, but would end up finding his stride in the 2003-04 season. Randolph then joined the Knicks in an odd trade where he would only play 11 games in New York before being shipped to the Clippers. Randolph wouldn’t find a long term home in Los Angeles, either, so he was then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a deal that would help their franchise.
In exchange for Randolph, all the Grizzlies had to give up was the service of Quentin Richardson, who would be a role player at best in his four years with New York. As for Randolph, he became a multiple-time All Star that proved to be voracious on defense and no slouch on offense. In his seven Memphis seasons, Randolph has averaged 17.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
10. Minnesota Finds Love
While Kevin Love might get ribbed for being the odd man out in the Cavaliers current big three, it wasn’t that long ago that the former UCLA Bruin was considered the best power forward in the league (and he’s still no slouch). While he has been traded twice, it was the trade that landed him in his first home of Minnesota that was the more lopsided.
The Grizzlies selected Love with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and then shipped him north to Minnesota with Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins for O.J. Mayo, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner. The Grizzlies were convinced that Mayo was going to be a franchise cornerstone, but he ended up being a disappointment after what was a solid rookie season. Now, Mayo is out of the league for good.
9. How the Cavs Got Kyrie
In 2011, the Clippers were looking to save a lot of money, so they sent guard Baron Davis to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. For taking the salary off of their hands, the Clippers also sent the Cavs their first round pick in 2011. Since the Clippers missed out on the playoffs, their 2.8% chance of winning the lottery was sent over to Cleveland, who had a 19.9% chance. The first overall pick that was pulled was from the Clippers’ pile, giving Cleveland the top choice.
So not only did Cleveland have the top spot, but they also had the fourth choice (who they used on Tristan Thompson). The first overall selection, of course, was Kyrie Irving, who has been an elite point guard in the NBA with a lot of years left.
8. James Harden Lifts Off
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been able to contend over the past several seasons, thanks to the talented duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They also had James Harden, a scoring machine, coming off of their bench. Now, Westbrook is all that remains and the Thunder are kicking themselves over what could have possibly been a dynasty. OKC shipped Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks.
The players acquired by the Thunder had a minimal impact and the draft picks that they used have only resulted in one decent player; Steven Adams. Some have said that the Thunder have won the deal because of Steven Adams, but one solid playoff stretch does not warrant giving up one of the NBA’s best scorers.
7. Rondo to Boston
How do you trade away a point guard that would become an NBA Champion, four-time All Star and All Defensive Team selection for $3 million? Just ask the Phoenix Suns. The Suns had the 21st overall selection in 2006 that they acquired the year before. They used that selection to take point guard Rajon Rondo from Kentucky, but then decided to send him to Boston for a 2007 first round pick. While Rondo would become one of the best point guards in the league, the Suns did nothing in return.
Phoenix’s pick ended up being the 24th overall the next year (already a loss), but they did draft Rudy Fernandez. The only problem is that they would end up trading him to Portland just to get cash consideration to the tune of $3 million. These days, you need $16 million just to sign Timofey Mozgov.
6. Rondo to Dallas
Rajon Rondo was involved in a one-sided trade because he would end up becoming really good, but then he was on the other side of a one-sided trade because he became really bad. After Rondo had run his course and Boston and the Celtics were looking to retool their roster, Rondo was sent to the Mavericks. Dallas sent Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and two draft picks, and, the worst part, Jae Crowder to Boston for the point guard.
Rondo would only end up playing in 46 (mediocre) games for the Mavericks before joining Sacramento the next year. Nelson and Wright weren’t important pieces for the Celtics, but Crowder has been a nice surprise. He got off to a solid start, then scored 14.2 points with 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in his first full season and should be a big part of the Celtics going into this season.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge Sent on the Trail
Coming out of Texas, LaMarcus Aldridge was considered a possible choice for the top overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Aldridge was selected by the Chicago Bulls (with a pick they had received from the Knicks), but then shipped him out immediately to Portland. The Trail Blazers also received a second round pick in the next year’s draft, and all they had to send over was Tyrus Thomas’ draft rights and Viktor Khryapa.
Obviously, Aldridge would be the one out of the top four picks that were swapped that would actually pan out. Aldridge became one of the better players in the NBA while Thomas was mediocre and the Blazers would get nine great seasons out of Aldridge. The Bulls could have used that production, but would have to wait until Derrick Rose came around to get a star player.
4. Bargnani Not a Bargain
LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t the only top two overall selection from the 2006 NBA Draft to be part of a one-sided trade, as top overall selection Andrea Bargnani has joined him in that discussion. Bargnani was the seven footer from Italy that went to the Raptors, where he would play until after the 2012-13 season. Then, he was traded for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a first round pick and two second round picks to the New York Knicks.
Bargnani had a big contract and wasn’t playing to the potential of the number one pick, and wouldn’t register much for New York. Toronto was able to save themselves a lot of money and that allowed them the cap room to build the contending roster that they have today. They might also continue to win the trade if ninth overall pick Jakob Poeltl from Austria proves to be a success.
3. Big Ticket Heads to Boston
In 2007, the Boston Celtics already had two huge stars on their roster with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and needed one final piece to get over the hump and win an NBA title. The answer was to call up the Minnesota Timberwolves and pull off a trade that didn’t help Minnesota. Boston acquired Kevin Garnett in the league’s largest trade for one player, sending over Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two first round picks.
Minnesota had a chance to do well on the trade, but never found success as they continued to wheel and deal all of the new pieces that they had received as part of the trade. None of the players that they received are still on the team, and the draft picks that they used were for Wayne Ellington and Jonny Flynn. Whoops.
2. Nets Raid Celtics’ Old Folks Home
While Garnett and Pierce were instrumental in helping the Celtics bring home an NBA Championship, it was clear that by 2013 they were past their prime and were on the downswing of their careers. Still, the Nets decided that they wanted to make a big splash and would acquire both Garnett and Pierce in a trade that keeps coming back to bite them three years later.
The Celtics would acquire Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round picks, and a pick-swap option in 2017. The Celtics also sent away Jason Terry and D.J. White. While the Celtics didn’t have much use for the players they acquired, the draft picks the Nets have given them a lot of ammo and landed them the third overall pick in 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and the Nets are likely to contend for the top overall spot in 2017, which could also go to Boston.
1. Kawhi Leonard Sent to Spurs
So far, Kawhi Leonard has been one of the best defenders in the NBA, winning the past two Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Leonard has also helped the Spurs win the 2014 NBA Championship, earning the Finals MVP Trophy in the process. Needless to say, he’s one of the best players in the league and he was almost an Indiana Pacer.
The Pacers drafted Leonard with the 15th pick in 2011, but then sent him to the Spurs as part of a deal that included Erazem Lorbek and Davis Bertans heading to San Antonio. All the Pacers received was George Hill. Hill was recently shipped to the Jazz, but never really made a huge splash in Indiana. Hill would have a season where he scored 16.1 points with 5.1 assists, but his impact in the league since the trade has been nothing compared to Leonard.
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