What Were They Thinking?! 20 Terrible Trades We STILL Can't Believe These NBA Teams Made

In the world of professional sports trades, there are going to be winners, losers and occasionally a few that leave fans wondering, "what were they thinking?!" The wheeling and dealing in the NBA is no different. Come on, you can't say that when you pop in NBA2K that you haven't tried to swindle a team in a lopsided deal just to see if it would be accepted by the computer. Sometimes, NBA teams have their hands forced into making deals as players are unhappy and unwilling to suit up, whereas others are trying to make a deal that will help their team in the immediate and will worry about the future later.

In the big money world of professional sports, winning is the most important thing and the immense pressures to do so can make people do funny things. Who could ever imagine that iconic players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kevin McHale, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and even more modern names like Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway to name but a few could have changed the state of a franchise had they stayed with their original teams.

Whether it's the annual February trade deadline, the offseason or at some point during the season, when word gets out about wheeling and dealing of NBA players, fans will always be ready to evaluate and critique who their team is giving up and who they are bringing in. Just imagine being Danny Ainge. Only time will tell if his trade of first overall pick this summer for the third pick will turn out to be a stroke of genius or a place on a future list of "what were they thinking".

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 Baron Davis & Unprotected Pick (K.Irving) For Jamario Moon & Mo Williams

via al.com

When trading a draft pick, especially an unprotected first rounder, teams have to be very cautious or so completely sure of their future that they're willing to pass on what could be at the very worst a lottery pick. In the case of the Clippers transaction with the Cavaliers, giving up both Baron Davis and a pick that would become the first overall pick, Kyrie Irving for essentially two role players, one has to wonder what LA's other franchise was thinking.

Sure at the time Davis had become a shell of his former explosive self, but considering the Clippers history of horridness, you knew something was going to happen. With fairly similar stats at the time of the trade, it didn't make sense that the Clippers were willing to move a piece of their future, but considering their goal was to use the cap space to resign DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon, they had to be willing to part with pieces. Unfortunately that one piece has become an NBA Champion and All-NBA player.

19 James Harden For Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb & Draft Picks

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to take over the league, they were supposed to be what the Golden State Warriors are now. Russ was Steph, Harden would be Klay, KD could be himself and Serge Ibaka would play the role of Draymond Green. Okay, you might have to alter your thinking a bit, but you get the gist of it.

Then money got in the way. So what did Sam Presti do? He moved the 2011-12 Sixth Man Of The Year to Houston for a bunch of components. The biggest piece coming back to OKC was shooting guard Kevin Martin, who had averaged six 20 point seasons in his last eight years but he lasted only a single season with the Thunder before moving on to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Szymon Szewczyk (yeah who?). At least the team benefited from the draft pick that became Steven Adams.

18 Brandon Roy For Randy Foye (And Spare Parts) 

via complex.com

Somehow the Portland Trailblazers bamboozled Kevin McHale and the Minnesota Timberwolves into a draft day trade that would have helped the former Celtics legend out of the Western Conference basement. On draft night of 2006, the T-Wolves held the sixth spot in the lottery, while the Boston Celtics were next to take the stage. The confusing trade route had the Timberwolves grab Roy with the sixth pick and the C's taking Foye, then moving the combo guard (plus others) out of Villanova to the Trailblazers for bits and pieces.

Then in a steal of a deal, Roy ended up in the Great Northwest, while Foye joined the Wolves roster. While Foye has outlasted the former Rookie Of The Year and two time All-NBA guard, had injuries not taken their toll, Roy could have been listed among one of the greatest shooting guards of all time.

17 Steve Nash For Multiple Draft Picks

via latimes.com

Who in their right mind would trade a two-time MVP and one of the greatest point guards in league history for a handful of draft picks to a team that was priming itself for a championship run. Especially in your own conference! Back in 2012, the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns were two teams headed in completely different directions, one was looking for a sixth title in the Kobe era, the other was starting their rebuilding process.

At the time, this was such a lopsided trade. Passing Nash off to the Lakers to join Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and once again team up with coach Mike D'Antoni was a championship banner waiting to happen. Such was not the case as this trade actually sucked for both teams. The Lakers never got a healthy Nash, nor a sixth ring and the Suns ended up with three irrelevant draft selections and a fourth pick that has been passed around more than a Spalding in a seven seconds or less offense.

16 DeMarcus Cousins For Buddy Hield & Tyreke Evans

via twitter.com

For a while there was talk about how unhappy DeMarcus Cousins was playing in Sacramento and who could blame him. The team appeared to have no real structure or game plan, making useless trades and draft selections that did nothing to help better the club. So what do they do? They make the team worse by trading their best player (and Omri Casspi) for a rookie who failed to live up to expectations coming out of college, a former King who is injury prone, a role player (Langston Galloway) and two draft picks (Zach Collins and Frank Mason).

What made this lopsided deal even more mind-blowing was not only the fact that the Kings GM Vlade Divac admitted to having better offers, but also that their owner feels Hield can be the second coming of Steph Curry. Sadly this isn't the only time that Vlade makes an appearance on this list.

15 Chris Paul & Pau Gasol Three-Way Trade 

via sbnation.com

This three team mega trade between the New Orleans Hornets, the LA Lakers and the Houston Rockets unfortunately never took place thanks to the powers of former commissioner David Stern. Would it have happened under the watch of Adam Silver, possibly. Either way, the NBA landscape remained the same, until the Clippers somehow were able to swoop in and offer a deal that seemed to be less valuable.

CP3 was all but packed and ready to head to Hollywood, Pau was going to join the Rockets and the quartet of players and the draft pick would have pretty much given the Hornets a full starting lineup. While a number of individuals felt that the trade was lopsided in favor of the Lakers, the pieces that the Hornets were getting back included All-Star caliber players and Gasol was just coming off his best production while helping the Lakers to three Finals appearances and two rings in four years. Looking back on this trade a few years later and you have to ask yourself who really would have won that deal.

14 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar For Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, David Meyers & Junior Bridgeman

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Way back in 1974, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was already a three time league MVP, two-time scoring champion, multi-time All-NBA, All-Star, Defensive Player and an NBA Champion. So what's the market value for a player with a resume filled with those accolades? Well one would like to think that, with all respect, one of, if not the most dominating player in the game at that time would fetch more than the four players Milwaukee got back in return.

While Bridgeman and Winters eventually ended up with their jerseys being retired by the Bucks, Meyers ended up being a waste and Smith was moved after a year and a half with the team. Now to be fair to the Bucks, Kareem was threatening to sit out the final season of his contract had he not been traded to either the Lakers or the Knicks, so the return package was in no doubt better than coming up empty handed and watching the NBA's all time leading scorer walk away for free.

13 Deron Williams For Derrick Favors, Devin Harris & Draft Picks

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when D. Will was in the same talks for who was going to be the next great point guard with CP3? Yeah, that conversation halted pretty quickly. Sure Williams had led the Jazz to the playoffs for five straight years, but with rumors of a rift between him and Utah's legendary bench boss Jerry Sloan, something had to happen.

The addition of Williams helped the team reach the playoffs in three of the four years that he was with the club, but it only resulted in winning one round. As for the Jazz, the addition of three of four pieces (one draft pick became Enes Kanter, the other was Gorgui Dieng who never played for Utah) became the foundation for a solid young team. Looking back on it now, with Favors being the only piece from the trade remaining with the club and Williams seeking employment as a free agent, it looks like a push of a trade, but at the time the transaction left many fans going "oh my".

12 Charles Barkley For Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang & Tim Perry

via slicedpickles.com

How the Phoenix Suns managed to convince the Philadelphia 76ers that this was a good deal is beyond anyone's belief. Sure Hornacek had just come off his first (and only) All-Star appearance and posted a 20/5/5 stat line for the 2001-02 season, but come on folks. At the very least, you had to wonder if the Sixers at least asked for Kevin Johnson to be part of the deal before settling for Horny.

As for Sir Charles, well, considering that in his first season with the Suns, he loaded the team on the Chuck Wagon and carried them to the NBA Finals, added in a league MVP award, an All-Star appearance and a spot on the All-NBA team. The Round Mound of Rebound helped the Suns to three more playoff runs, while the Sixers during that time floundered in the Eastern Conference basement.

11 Joe Johnson For Rodney Rogers & Tony Delk

via tumblr.com

What the Boston Celtics were thinking at this point was that while they had a young player filled with potential in Joe Johnson, he essentially played the same position as their star Paul Pierce. While Johnson provided decent rookie stats of 6 six points and three rebounds a night, the opportunity to add valuable depth to a solid Celtics roster that played in a weak Eastern Conference made the trade enticing.

Unfortunately that depth lasted all of a season and a half (Rodgers left after the 2002 season and Delk a year later). Johnson on the other hand, well he became a key component in the Phoenix Suns "Seven Seconds or Less era" before moving on to Atlanta to become a six-time All-Star (he would get a seventh in Brooklyn). Maybe if the Celtics hadn't given up on the tenth overall pick from the 2001 draft so soon, they may have had yet another banner.

10 Pau Gasol For Marc Gasol (& Whole Bunch Of Nothing)

via lakerholicz.com

In the midst of the 2008 season, the LA Lakers changed the landscape of their franchise once again by adding Pau Gasol (and a second round pick that would become Devin Ebanks) for...okay, cue laugh track (considering it's Hollywood)..Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, draft rights to Marc Gasol and future draft picks (Donte Greene and Greivis Vasquez).

Are you saying that the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't have figured out how to convince the Lakers to part with someone of value like Lamar Odom or valuable youth like Andrew Bynum or even Trevor Ariza? While the Lakers would go on to three straight NBA Finals and two championship rings, the Grizz were fortunate that Pau's younger brother Marc turned out to be a two time All-NBA and a three time All-Star along with a Defensive Player of the Year. The Grizzlies were the laughing stock of the league for this deal, but considering that Marc has become a pillar for the franchise, the laughs have now turned into muffled chuckles.

9 LaMarcus Aldridge For Tyrus Thomas

via thefrontofficenews.com

One is a four time All-NBA player and five time All-Star, who is often listed among one of the best power forwards in the league. The other found himself out of the league after a nine year career that included three jerseys. The first is Aldridge, a key component to the Portland Trailblazers roster for nine years and has career averages of 19 PPG and 8 RPG. The other is Thomas, who barely averages half of the production that the former Texas Longhorn forward has put out.

The Chicago Bulls, who were in need of a power forward drafted Aldridge with the second pick in the 2006 draft and quickly moved him to Portland for Thomas, the fourth pick and Victor Khryapa, a player who never touched an NBA court. People may have hated Jerry Krause, but he never really blew a draft day deal like John Paxson did in '06.

8 Tim Hardaway & Chris Gatling For Bimbo Coles & Kevin Willis

via nba.com

How the Golden State Warriors could break up not only one of the best nicknames in NBA history, but also one of the most prolific trios is beyond us. For two seasons Run TMC was one of, if not the hottest thing in the NBA. Then M got traded after two short seasons and T and C were never the same. So of course, then T ended up being traded during the 1995-'96 trade deadline and C was left all alone in the Bay area.

T ended up rejuvenating his career in Miami alongside Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning, earning two of his five All-Star acknowledgements. As for B and K, they combined for just over 200 games with B playing four years and K being released after the end of the '95-'96 season. As for C (as in Mullin, not Gatling), he played one more year with the GSW before being traded to the Indiana Pacers.

7 Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac

via espn.com

The summer of '96 would change the landscape of the NBA forever. In theory, trading a high school star who had yet to step foot on a NBA court for a proven seven footer in the prime of his career seemed to be a fair deal. The LA Lakers were in need of making a big splash. Although they had gone to the NBA Finals just a few years previous ('90-'91 season) and had only missed the playoffs once in the next five years, expectations of stardom and success was the standard.

Would Bryant have actually suited up for the Hornets had they not bought into the rumors that he would have boycotted the team? Would young Kobe have become "The Mamba" had he stayed in Charlotte? Unanswerable questions. What we do know is what took place in the following twenty years. Five rings, a guaranteed ticket to the Hall Of Fame, two numbers in the rafters of Staples and a place on the Lakers Mount Rushmore. As for Vlade and the Hornets, well that lasted all of two years before he signed as a free agent with the Sacramento Kings.

6 Scottie Pippen For Olden Polynice

via reddit.com

Apparently the Seattle Sonics late '80s scouting staff wasn't as up to speed as the Chicago Bulls crew. Why weren't folks in the Northwest as familiar with the play of the small forward from Central Arkansas as those in the Windy City? Along with a couple of mostly irrelevant draft picks (other than B.J. Armstrong) the trade of Pippen for Polynice was one of the biggest head scratchers ever, just imagine folks in Seattle trading a cup of Starbucks finest brew for a cup of gas station instant coffee.

Swapping their respective picks in the '87 draft, the Bulls ended up with one of the greatest two-way players in NBA history, one who helped the team to a pair of three-peat championships on route to a Hall of Fame career. The Sonics on the other hand ended up with a big man who lasted all of four and a half years averaging five points and five boards before he was sent packing, for yet another useless big man in Benoit Benjamin.

5 Dirk Nowitzki & Pat Garrity For Robert Traylor

via espn.com

The fact here was that the Dallas Mavericks absolutely fleeced the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1998 NBA Draft as the teams swapped their draft picks. After the Mavs took Traylor with the sixth pick, they quickly swapped the Michigan forward with the Bucks ninth pick, Nowitzki, a forward out of Germany who was an equal mix of over-hyped and unknown depending on who you were talking to.

Sadly, Traylor's NBA career came to an end in 2005 as his skill set and health became a struggle and then after six years overseas, a heart attack at the age of 34 took his life. As for Dirk, well, he just transformed the way that power forwards are supposed to play the game, became an NBA Champion, an MVP, a 13 time All-Star, a 12 time All-NBA player, a member of the 50-40-90 club and easily a first ballot Hall of Fame member.

4 Dennis Rodman For Will Perdue

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, when you look at it this way, the Bulls traded the Spurs a three-time NBA Champion big man for a two-time NBA Champion power forward, pretty fair right? Okay, let's get serious, yes at this point in his well decorated career, The Worm was just kick-starting his career as a one man travelling circus, but he still was by far and away leading the league in rebounding with averages of 17 boards a game during his two years in San Antonio.

The thing is, Coach Pop wasn't going to stand for his antics and the team was more than happy to find another club to take on his issues. Enter the Zen Master. Well it doesn't hurt that Phil also had MJ and Pip on the court as well. Rodman, although ramping up his off-court antics and finding various ways to get suspended for on-court actions, helped the Bulls to their second straight three-peat title series and eventually securing his place in the Hall of Fame. Perdue, well he got a fourth straight ring with the Spurs, something that Rodman wasn't able to do.

3 Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett & Jason Terry For Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace & Draft Picks.

via twitter.com

How the Nets were able to acquire two sure fire Hall Of Fame players along with a solid rotational player for what amounted to be a bunch of spare parts was mind-numbing. Then the reality that the Nets just mortgaged their future for a couple of players who were heading into the twilights of their careers came into play.

As it turned out the four first round draft picks became the 17th pick in 2014 (James Young, which didn't really pan out), the third pick in 2016 (Jaylen Brown, reserved judgment still stands), the first pick in this summer's draft Markelle Fultz (who was traded for Jayson Tatum and a future first rounder) and a 2018 first round pick. While the Celtics traded big names on paper, the Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov were so hungry to win now that they were willing to trade their future for players that hardly lasted even two seasons. Man did this deal ever backfire.

2 Dominique Wilkins For John Drew & Freeman Williams

via myajc.com

Picture this. John Stockton at point. Karl Malone at the power forward position. Dominique Wilkins at the small forward spot. If you can't picture that team competing and bringing a NBA Championship to Utah, than...well it doesn't really matter because it never had a chance to happen.

Before the Human Highlight film even got started he was traded by the Utah Jazz to the Atlanta Hawks for a drug addicted Drew and eighteen games out of Williams. Although Drew was able to help the Jazz out with 21, 17 and 16 points per game in his three years with the team, the trade was mainly based off of two factors. One, Wilkins didn't want to play in Utah and two, the team was having financial issues. Chances are if they held on to the third pick from the 1982 Draft, the money issue would have taken care of itself. All they would have to do is sell Wilkins on playing with a pair of future Hall Of Fame players.

1 Vince Carter For Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning & Draft Picks

via netsdaily.com

How could a team trade its best ever player?  When that best ever player straight up states that he has put it in neutral for a number of games because he wants out. So there goes his trade value. What then GM Rob Babcock got back in return wasn't even worth a bag of hockey pucks (which, considering it is Canada, could at least have some value).

Both Williams players combined to play less than 100 games with the Raptors, while Zo didn't even bother to board a plane to T-Dot. As for the draft picks, the first was the 16th pick in 2005, which turned into Joey Graham, a dud. The second, which ended up being traded with Jalen Rose for Antonio Davis two years later at least gave the Raps some value. So essentially the trade ended up being Vince Carter for Antonio Davis. Raise your hand if you would do that trade.

More in NBA