A wise man once said “No”. That wise man was not included in the phone calls that led to the most ludicrous trades in NBA history. Trades that set teams back years and even decades led to other teams becoming serious contenders or dynasties. Trades were meant to satisfy both parties involved but as the years go by NBA fans come to realize more and more that not all trades are created equal.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder trades James Harden to the Houston Rockets
Imagine having three future MVPs on one team and never winning a championship with them. James Harden was apart of the Thunder’s young trio which had just clinched a Finals berth and looked to be a problem for opposing NBA teams for years to come. However, GM Sam Presti had other plans and traded the young star for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks, the most notable of those picks, Steven Adams. Since the trade James Harden has been apart of seven all star teams, won league MVP and is a two-time scoring champion. For the Thunder, the closest they got to the NBA Finals, after the James Harden trade, was during the 2016 Western Conference Finals, where they blew a 3-1 lead to the 73-9 Warriors.
6. Milwaukee Bucks trade Dirk Nowitzki to the Dallas Mavericks
The year is 1998. Back to the basket and gritty basketball is the name of the game. A promising young German draft prospect by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. He is a seven foot tall forward/center, who unlike his future counterparts, can shoot the ball effectively. The Buck saw this and took Nowitzki with the number nine pick in the 1998 draft and for about an hour Nowitzki was a Milwaukee Buck. That is until the Bucks traded away Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity for Robert Traylor (selected 6th in 1998 draft). Traylor would go on to average a total of 4.8 points per game for his whole career, while Nowitzki was establishing the Mavericks as a Western Conference powerhouse and recently finished his career sixth on the all time scoring list.
5. Brooklyn Nets acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics
The Nets have completed a full 180 since this trade, having just acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but back in 2013 GM Billy King did the impossible. A trade that would be considered asinine in NBA 2K let alone real life. The Nets traded 3 unprotected first round picks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans and Marshon Brooks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry. By doing this move the Nets had sold their soul for a second round exit. With all due respect to the legends that are Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry but trading for a trio of stars passed their prime who had already showed signs of slowing down just does not make sense. On the other hand, two picks from this trade were used to select fowards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who have proven to be young players with star potential. The last of the pick was used to acquire Kyrie Irving in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Granted Irving’s time with the Boston Celtics is nothing to write home about but the execution of this trade led to them letting go of point guard, Isaiah Thomas, who was set to have hip surgery and has since not been as productive as he once was when he donned the Celtics colors.
4. Seattle Supersonics trade Scottie Pippen to the Chicago Bulls
With the fifth pick in the 1987 draft, the Seattle Supersonics selected forward Scottie Pippen, who they would later trade for Olden Polymice. Polymice played five seasons with the Sonics and averaged an underwhelming 5.0 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. Pippen, who played college ball at Central Arkansas, proved to be the perfect second option to Michael Jordan. Pippen would make seven all-star games and would establish himself as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history. Pippen would also go on to win six NBA titles with Michael Jordan.
3. Charlotte Hornets trade Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers
Who knew that a 17-year-old kid from Lower Merion High School would become one of the greatest scorers of all time? The answer to that question is none other than the logo himself, Jerry West. West packaged a deal that sent veteran big Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for Kobe Bryant. Divac would play vital role… on the Sacramento Kings. Bryant would go on to win five NBA titles, two Finals MVP, one regular season MVP and was considered the best player in basketball for the later part of the 2000s. The Hornets have yet to make an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in their 29 year history.
2. St. Louis Hawks trade Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics
Despite drafting Russell with the number two pick in the 1956 NBA draft, the Hawks would trade him for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley. Hagan and Macauley finished their careers averaging a little over 17 points per game. Respectable numbers for most NBA players, but being traded for one of the most dominant figures in the history of basketball is not justified by 17 points. Russell would go on to win 11 NBA championships, win three as a player-coach, five league MVPs and be apart of 12 all-star games. Russell’s winning pedigree has contributed to 11 of the 17 NBA Championship banners at the TD Garden and has had the NBA Finals MVP trophy named after him.
1. Milwaukee Bucks trade Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers
In six years in Milwaukee, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, formerly known as Lewis Alcindor, won the Bucks only NBA championship and never averaged less than 27 points in his tenure with the Bucks. Kareem known for his unstoppable hook shot wanted out of Milwaukee and found his way in sunny Los Angeles. Being traded for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Myers and Elmore Smith the Lakers committed highway robbery and got away with it. Kareem would become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, win a record six league MVPs, and won five NBA championships as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.