THROUGHOUT history we can look back in pro sports and find trades or roster moves that altered a franchise. Certain trades like the nine below might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, they were some of the worst/best front office moves ever made in professional basketball. Some big names (Charles Barkley and Bill Russell for example) found themselves a part of huge trades, but the returns the other team received wasn’t too detrimental leaving them off the page. For the trades in this article, the same can’t be said.
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1980 – Cleveland Gives ‘Big Game James’ Away
Cavaliers traded: 1982 1st round pick (#1 – James Worthy)
Lakers traded: Don Ford
IT took James Worthy 13 games to score more points for the Lakers than Ford scored for the Cavaliers. THIRTEEN! That tells you all you need to know about this trade. Worthy went on to score 16,000+ more points for LA, racked up seven All-Star nods and was a three-time champ. Don Ford however, played three seasons with Cleveland and averaged just 3.8 points a game. Yuk.
1987 – Jordan Lands His Sidekick
Supersonics traded: Scottie Pippen and 1987 1st round pick (#20 – Jeff Sanders)
Bulls traded: Olden Polynice, 1987 2nd round pick (#35 – Sylvester Gray) and 1989 1st round pick (#18 – B.J. Armstrong)
WHO knows what would have become of Jordan had he not discovered his sidekick. The Robin to Chicago’s already established Batman made his way to Chicago on a draft-day trade that saw Seattle land the coveted Olden Polynice. I will forgive you if you don’t recognise Polynice’s name because he never managed to average double-digit points for Seattle in five seasons. Making matter worse, Armstrong actually found his way back to Chicago in a complicated deal only to see him become a key part of their bench in their first three championships. Way to go Seattle.
1998 – Dallas Swipes The German Wudnerkid
Bucks traded: Dirk Nowitzki
Mavericks traded: Robert “Tractor” Traylor
4.8 PPG and 3.7 RPG. Those were the career averages for Traylor through his seven seasons in the NBA. He managed just 438 games of pro basketball in America and scored just north of 2,000 points. Five times throughout Nowitzki’s career he managed to top 2,000 points in a single season and he currently resides 6th on the all-time scorer’s list with over 30,000 points. Is he the greatest European born player ever? Probably, but regardless it’s clear that the Bucks would love to wind back the clock and keep the 13th overall pick.
2014 – Celtics Rob The Nets Of Their Future
Celtics traded: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White
Nets traded: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, 2014 1st round pick (#17 – James Young), 2016 1st round pick (#3 – Jaylen Brown), 2017 pick swap rights and 2018 1st round pick (TBD)
WOW. Even reading this back you have to wonder what the Nets were thinking by pulling the trigger on a trade with such huge ramifications. Then again back in 2014, it’s clear that Billie King (the Nets GM at the time) wasn’t thinking. He essentially threw away the next four years of draft picks in the hope that Garnett (37 years old) and Paul Pierce (36 years old) would miraculously join the rest of the ageing Nets All-Stars and help them contend. Long story short, they did not do well and as a result, Brooklyn was screwed.
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1982 – Dominique Wilkins Flees Utah
Hawks traded: John Drew and Freeman Williams
Jazz traded: Dominique Wilkins
IS Dominique the greatest Atlanta Hawk of all time? Bob Pettit may disagree, but if it wasn’t for a trade moments after the Utah Jazz drafted Wilkins he may never have had the career he did. It’s worth noting that the ‘Nique voiced his displeasure in playing in Utah which somewhat forced their hand in trading him, but still they cope the full brunt of the blame. Wilkins was flipped for John Drew who managed to start just 53 games in three years and Freeman Williams who appeared in 18 games for Utah. Wilkins never claimed the ultimate prize in an NBA championship, but ‘The Human Highlight’ gave 12 Hall of Fame calibre years of service to ATL that far outweighed anything Williams and Drew achieved.
1996 – Another LA Dynasty Is Born
Hornets traded: Kobe Bryant
Lakers traded: Vlade Divac
THIS one might be the worst of all. Sure, Vlade Divac was a good NBA player for a long time…..with the Lakers. Once he arrived in Charlotte there wasn’t a lot to cheer for. In fact, rubbing salt further into the wounds for Hornets fans he lasted just two seasons in Charlotte before joining the Kings were most would say he actually played better! Oh yeah, and trading Divac allowed Los Angeles to sign a guy you may have heard of, Shaquille O’Neal. And Kobe, well he turned out to be OK too.
1980 – Boston Gets Their ‘Big 3’
Warriors traded: Robert Parish 1980 first round pick (#3 – Kevin McHale)
Celtics traded: 1980 1st round picks (#1 – Joe Barry Carroll, #13 – Rickey Brown)
THE Boston Celtics benefitted immediately from this blockbuster deal with the Warriors. They won the 1980-81 title with their dominant frontcourt trio of Parish, McHale and Bird. Boston went on to win two more titles later that decade with those three and became one of the most famous groups to ever grace the hardwood. On the other side of the coin, don’t let Carrol’s per game averages fool you, Golden State only made one appearance in the playoffs with him on their roster before they shipped him away. Oh and Rickey Brown? He was out of the league by 26.
2011 – Cleveland Kickstarts Life Post-LeBron
Cavaliers traded: Mo Williams and Jamario Moon
Clippers traded: Baron Davis and 2011 1st round pick (#1 – Kyrie Irving)
LA cited clearing Davis’ salary as the reason for pulling the trigger on this deal. Imagine how different the league would have been if they didn’t do that. That sweetner that they threw into the Baron Davis trade had a 2.8% chance of becoming the No. 1 overall pick, but when it did, it made LeBron’s decision 12 months prior all that less painful. As we know both King James and Irving went on to be the major factors in Cleveland winning the franchises first title in 2016. Williams and Moon combined to lay just 93 games for the Clippers and both effectively saw their careers tailed off from there.
1995 – The Final Piece Of Chicago’s Three-Peat Puzzle
Spurs traded: Dennis Rodman
Bulls traded: Will Perdue
SAY what you will about Perdue, but he has more NBA championships than everyone to ever read this article combined. That being said he will not be remembered for his lofty averages of four points and four rebounds throughout his career. Rather he will be known as the guy the Spurs traded ‘The Worm’ for. Perdue played another four years with San Antonio and while Dennis Rodman only played three years in Chicago he was a champion in all three seasons while annually leading the league in rebounding. Without him, the Bulls probably wouldn’t go on another championship tear and become the dominant late 90’s team that is considered one of the greatest ever. A rare Spurs front office mistake.
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