It’s never wise to give away gold for dirt. As foolish as it sounds, it happens all the time, especially in professional sports. Teams trade players in the NBA constantly, as it’s all a part of the business. Still some trades are down right foolish and sometimes can be a haunting reminder of what was given away or missed out on.
Decisions made by general managers and team presidents are sometimes not completely rational. Little do they know the ripple affect these decisions can have on an organization’s reputation. Trading away players hastily can leave a black eye on team management. Free agents may be inclined to sign elsewhere because of an unfavorable reputation the front office has built up.
Draft picks always seem to be the main attraction in any trade. The biggest mistake teams often make when making trades are including draft picks. Though it’s required at times to sweeten the deal to land a big name player, it’s never smart to throw away picks that could be potential building blocks for a team down the road. The biggest grief an organization can receive is trading for a player who ends up riding the bench due to injury and finding out the draft pick that was sent to the other team develops into a rookie sensation. After time passes, trades are evaluated on a large scale to determine which team made out better. It’s debatable what is more valuable when making a trade; acquiring a proven veteran to help contend for a championship or receiving draft picks to help build a dynasty for many years.
Team executives make decisions based on the best interest of the team. But team interest may eventually hurt fan interest if the draft backfires. The following NBA trades have built up NBA franchises and demolished others.
15. Knicks Trade Jamal Crawford to Golden State
The New York Knicks make a few appearances on this list and trading away sharpshooter Jamal Crawford is the first of many bad trades.
It wasn’t far into the 2008-2009 NBA season when the Knicks traded Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for veteran swingman Al Harrington. In the years since the trade, Crawford has helped the Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Clippers secure multiple playoff spots. Crawford also earned two Sixth Man of the Year awards since the trade.
Al Harrington’s time in New York wasn’t anything stellar. In the two years he spent with the team. he averaged 19.2 points per game which isn’t too shabby, but they failed to reach the playoffs.
14. Mavericks Trade for Rajon Rondo
Keeping All Star point guard Rajon Rondo was going to be a tough sell, so the Celtics looked to deal the point guard for a sizable return.
In December of 2014, Rondo was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks for Jae Crowder, Brendan Wright, Jameer Nelson a 2015 first round pick and a 2016 second round pick.
The trade ended up backfiring on the Mavericks. Rondo constantly argued with Head Coach Rick Carlisle about play calling. The bickering escalated to such a high level that Rondo ended up serving a one-game suspension issued by the team. That year the Mavericks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets and Rondo moved on in the summer.
13. Knicks Trade Three Draft Picks for Andrea Bargnani
The Knicks went from desperate to downright pathetic when they traded for Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors.
The Knicks sent veterans Marcus Camby, Quinton Richardson and Steve Novak to Toronto for Bargnani. In addition to the three players, Toronto also received the Knicks 2016 first round pick and their 2014 and 2017 second round picks.
Bargnani’s inconsistent offense and non-existent defense made the trade completely lopsided, so adding the former number one overall pick was a downgrade to the Knicks roster. In the two seasons with the team, Bargnani played 71 games total and wasn’t much of a factor.
12. Knicks Trade Zach Randolph to Clippers
When the Knicks acquired Randolph from the Portland Trail Blazers, it was an opportunity for the team to establish a dominant front court. In Randolph’s time with the Knicks, he averaged nearly 20 points a game and over 11 rebounds.
After two seasons in New York, the Knicks traded Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas. Both players had brief stints with the Knicks, each failing to fill the void left by Randolph.
Randolph went on to develop into one of the grittiest NBA players the league has ever seen. Since 2011, Randolph has lead the Memphis Grizzlies to five consecutive playoff appearances and has been elected to the All Star game twice.
11. Lakers Trade for Steve Nash
The Lakers looked to get back to the NBA Finals in 2012/13 by trading for Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. To acquire Nash, the Lakers traded their 2013 and 2015 first round draft picks, along with their 2013 and 2014 second round picks to Phoenix.
Due to Nash’s age, his minutes were limited to prevent long-term injury. The minute shortage didn’t keep Nash from being hurt as he only managed to play 50 games due to injuries to his leg, hip and hamstring.
Nash’s injuries followed him right into the following season only managing to play 15 games because of recurring nerve damage to his knees. In the final year of his contract Nash was out completely due to a lingering back injury.
10. Nets Acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett From the Celtics
When the news broke on draft night that the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics, Brooklyn became an instant contender in most people’s mind.
The Celtics received Kris Humphries, Gerard Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and Keith Bogan. In addition to the heap of younger players, Boston also received the Nets 2014, 2016 and 2018 first round draft picks with the option of exchanging first round picks in 2017.
The Nets hopes at a championship were short lived. They made the playoffs in 2014 but were eliminated in the second round in five games by the Miami Heat.
9. Lakers Trade for Dwight Howard
The famed “Dwightmare” was one of the most publicized trades in NBA history. It was no secret Dwight Howard wanted out of Orlando. The former number one overall pick made it clear by publicly criticizing Head Coach Stan Van Gundy and expressing his displeasure with team management.
In 2012, Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three team deal involving 11 different players. Just a week into the season, the Lakers fired Head Coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start.
Howard constantly fought with Kobe Bryant about his playing style and overall effort in order to win. That postseason, the team was eliminated in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs four games to none. That summer Howard signed with the Houston Rockets.
8. Cavaliers Swap Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love
It was a shock when the Cleveland Cavaliers landed the first overall pick for a second year in a row in 2014. When Andrew Wiggins was selected, it gave hope to the Cleveland fans everywhere. Things only got better when LeBron James re-signed with his hometown team.
In August, the Cavaliers sent Wiggins and 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. In Wiggins’ first year in Minnesota, he averaged nearly 17 points per game and electrified the crowd with his continuous hustle to make pivotal plays.
Love. who was the cherished piece the Cavaliers got in exchange for the promising rookie. has been anything but stellar. In his first season with Cleveland, he averaged just over 16 points per game and has had difficultly blending in with King James and Kyrie Irving.
7. Thunder Trade Away James Harden
In the 2012 offseason, when the Thunder failed to lock Harden down with a contract extension, they traded him off to the Houston Rockets, with other players, for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and multiple draft picks.
Harden sure made out though. Just before the start of the 2012-2013 season, he signed a 5-year deal worth $80 million.
Harden’s level of play skyrocketed. In his first season with the Rockets, he brought up his points per game from 16.8 in 2012 with Oklahoma City to 25.9. point per game.
6. Nets Trade Draft Picks for Gerald Wallace
The New Jersey Nets took a huge gamble in 2012 when they traded a protected first round pick and some players to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerard Wallace.
The Nets finished the 2011-2012 shortened season at the bottom of their division with a record of (22-44). The protected first round pick that Portland received from New Jersey was used to draft Damian Lillard 6th overall from Weber State University.
In his first season in the league, Lillard won Rookie of the Year averaging nearly 20 points per game. Gerard Wallace averaged just 7.7 points per game the following season.
5. SuperSonics Trade Away Scottie Pippen
The Chicago Bulls two-time, three-peat dynasty is considered one of the most successful performances by a professional sports team. Michael Jordan lead the way winning six finals MVP’s. However without key players like Scottie Pippen alongside him, the dynasty may have never occurred.
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Pippen with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 draft. They then traded him to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Haitian center Olden Polynice. Pippen helped the Bulls win six championships and was elected to the All Star game eight times and was a member of the NBA All-Defensive team eight times.
Olden Polynice played for six different teams during his 14 year career in the NBA, playing on the Sonics for just four seasons, averaging just 5.0 points per game.
4. Bucks Trade Away Dirk Nowitzki
Exchanging draft picks can be rewarding but extremely risky as well. In the 1998 draft, the Milwaukee Bucks certainly took a leap of faith. The Bucks selected Dirk Nowitzki with the ninth overall pick and quickly traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert Traylor.
Dirk Nowitzki holds the record for most points scored by a foreign player in NBA history. He was also elected to the All-Star 13 times, won a league MVP in 2007 and lead the Mavericks to their first championship in 2011 where he was named Finals MVP.
Robert Traylor, the coveted player the Bucks longed for, spent seven years in the league playing on four different teams. Tractor Traylor averaged 4.5 points per game in the two seasons he played with the Bucks.
3. Hornets Trade Kobe Bryant
Before the 1996 Draft, the Hornets had already expressed interest in trading their pick to the Lakers. Lakers General Manager Jerry West jumped on the opportunity.
West sent veteran center Vlade Divac to the Hornets in exchange for Kobe Bryant, who the Hornets chose 13th overall. Since the trade, Bryant has been the most successful player in the league. He helped lead the Lakers to seven NBA Finals appearances, winning five of them.
He won league MVP in 2008 and climbed all the way to second on the all-time NBA scoring list behind former Lakers’ legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
2. Bucks Trade Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers
After Bucks point guard Oscar Robertson retired in 1974, the organization could have built the team around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Instead of building a team around the center the Bucks traded him to the Lakers in a six player deal. Now, their hand was forced by Abdul-Jabber who wanted to move to either New York or Los Angeles. However, they didn’t get enough for one of the all-time greats.
The Bucks received Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. All of which had good NBA careers, but nothing compared to what Kareem amounted to.
After being traded to the Lakers in 1975, Jabbar went on to win five more championships and secured his place at the top of the NBA’s all time scoring list.
1. Hawks Trade Bill Russell to the Celtics
In the 1956 NBA Draft, Bill Russell was selected with the second overall pick by the St. Louis Hawks. The Hawks didn’t keep Russell for long though, as he was traded to the Boston Celtics for St. Louis native Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan.
It didn’t take long for Russell to make a name for himself in the NBA. In his second year with the team, Russell led the Celtics to their first NBA championship, the first of eleven he would win.
Meanwhile, Ed Macauley lasted only three seasons with the Hawks. Not a great return on investment.
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