Trades made during an NBA season can be tricky. When you make a big move in the offseason, you have an entire year to get everything together. Doing a mid-season trade can throw off chemistry and there’s a risk the deal hurts the team more than it helps. But when one of these trades works out, it can be magic. Here, we will look at the most important deadline trades ever made. Important is the key word. One of the biggest deadline moves ever saw the Seattle SuperSonics and Milwaukee Bucks swap future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Gary Payton. However, that move won’t be listed here because neither team benefitted too much from it. This is about the deals that made the most positive impact on at least one of the teams involved.
5. Mark Jackson to the Indiana Pacers
it was tough to narrow down this final spot. The move the Cleveland Cavaliers made to acquire a draft pick that ultimately turned into Kyrie Irving nearly made it, as did the trade that brought Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics a few years back. Instead, we go back to the 90s for this one. In 1996, the Indiana Pacers sent point guard Mark Jackson to the Denver Nuggets in a move that helped them acquire Jalen Rose. The team struggled but reacquired Jackson at the following year’s deadline. They also got LaSalle Thompson for Vincent Askew, Eddie Johnson and two draft picks. Putting Jackson alongside Rose and superstar Reggie Miller paid off. The trio helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference Finals three straight teams and come within two games of winning the 2000 NBA Finals.
4. Dikembe Mutombo to the Philadelphia 76ers
In the year 2000, the Philadelphia 76ers lost in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Led by electric scorer Allen Iverson, it felt like they needed something to push them over the edge. They got it during the 2001 trade deadline by making a trade with the Atlanta Hawks. The 76ers shipped out former NBA Champion Toni Kukoc along with Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed. In return, they landed All-Star Dikembe Mutombo. Though Mutumbo was 34 and slightly past his prime, he was the difference maker for the team. His stellar defense combined with Iverson’s MVP season catapulted the 76ers to the NBA Finals. They ultimately lost to the unstoppable Los Angeles Lakers, but did hand them their only loss of the postseason that year.
3. Clyde Drexler to the Houston Rockets
In 1993, Michael Jordan announced his first retirement and it opened the door for teams in the NBA. He had just led the Chicago Bulls to three straight championships with no end in sight. In 1994, the Houston Rockets capture their first title behind superstar Hakeem Olajuwon. They seemed to lose some steam and didn’t feel like a team that would successfully defend their crown the following year. Rather than stand pat, they made a trade deadline move to acquire Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler from the Portland Trailblazers. The deal sparked something in the Rockets, who used it to fuel a run to a second straight championship.
2. Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers
By 2008, the Memphis Grizzlies were in a bad spot. They weren’t any good and looked to sell off their best asset in Pau Gasol. Enter the Los Angeles Lakers. They acquired Gasol and one of the pieces they sent to Memphis in the trade happened to be the draft rights to Pau’s younger brother Marc. The deal worked out for both sides. Marc developed into a star who helped lead Memphis to a Western Conference Finals appearance and is the franchise’s all-time leader in many categories. Pau paired up with Kobe Bryant to make it to the NBA Finals in their first half season together. Though they lost to the Boston Celtics, they won titles in 2009 and 2010.
1. Rasheed Wallace to the Detroit Pistons
As great as the Gasol deal was, this was kind of a no brainer for the top spot. In 2004, the Portland Trailblazers shipped talented but troubled forward Rasheed Wallace to the Atlanta Hawks. Wallace played one game with the Hawks, who then dealt him to the Detroit Pistons. That instantly spawned one of the greatest defensive teams in league history. Rasheed left his personal issues in the past and put the Pistons over the edge. They had been swept in the Eastern Conference FInals in 2003 but turned into a true threat. Combining Rasheed with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince turned the Pistons into a juggernaut. Teams were lucky to score a measly 75 points on them. They rode that wave all the way to the 2004 NBA Finals, where they dominated the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers and won in five games.