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10 Worst NBA Trades of All Time

There have been plenty of blockbuster trades around the NBA over the years. Kade Kimble breaks down the 10 worst NBA trades of all time.
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10 Worst NBA Trades of All Time

There have been plenty of blockbuster trades around the NBA over the years. Sometimes both teams win, and sometimes both teams lose. There are times when one team absolutely fleeces another team, and we’re going to take a look at those trades today.

10. Spurs Land Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs gave up George Hill to acquire Kawhi Leonard on draft night, and also brought in Erazem Lorbek and Davis Bertans. The pairing of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard could have happened roughly eight years before it did, and it could have happened in Indiana, but instead, George got his running mate of George Hill. The Pacers with both George and Leonard may have been able to get through LeBron and the Heat, or even LeBron and the Cavs, but instead, the Pacers won nothing with their time with George, and the Spurs were able to win a championship with Leonard, who won the Finals MVP.

9. Charles Barkley Leaves Philly

Barkley was ready to get away from the Philadelphia 76ers at 28 years old, which is an age where most NBA fans would consider that player in their prime. So in Barkley’s prime, a future hall of fame member, he was traded for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang. The Suns got Barkley for a ridiculously cheap package, as those three wouldn’t make any noise happen in Philadelphia, and they would soon be living in the land of the lottery. The Suns, on the other hand, landed a finals appearance and MVP season from Barkley. Even worse, the 76ers received no draft capital, which is what most superstars are traded for nowadays.

8. The Gasol Trade

Pau Gasol is widely known for his all-star career and being a Los Angeles Laker. Pau was a six-time all-star and made the All-NBA team four times throughout his career. He won two championships with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. For the low price of Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, and the rights to Marc Gasol (who was playing in Spain at the time), the Lakers got a great tenure from Pau and a second-round pick. Marc Gasol obviously finished with a great career, but at the time he was still playing in Spain, which made the decision even more questionable. 

7. Thunder Trade Harden For Role Players

James Harden was a young star in OKC, with the potential to be great. Off the bench at a young age, Harden played a key role in leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. The Thunder received Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-rounders, and a second-rounder in return for James Harden, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich, and Lazar Hayward. The Thunder, fortunately, didn’t lead themselves into the lottery, as they made it to the Conference Finals twice after this, but if they had kept Harden, there’s no telling what ceiling the Thunder could have had.

6. Lakers Send Draft Capital For Steve Nash

The Los Angeles Lakers were in a win-now scenario, so they decided to trade two first-round picks, and two second-round picks for 38-year-old Steve Nash who played in just 65 games in two seasons with the Lakers. The Lakers had traded for Dwight Howard, which left them with a solid squad on paper and looking at their names, but the plan didn’t pan out and the Lakers began their tenure in the draft lottery hoping to win a top pick in the draft.

5. Magic Trade for Serge Ibaka

The Magic thought Serge Ibaka was their answer to get over the hump and make a deep playoff run, but instead lost Ibaka after 56 games played to the Raptors, where Ibaka would win a championship. And for the Magic, it only gets worse as they traded two future all-stars. It wouldn’t have been bad if it was just one all-star but it was two for the Thunder in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder then traded their stars for Paul George, who was top-3 in MVP voting in his time with OKC. So, in retrospect, the Thunder got great value by trading Serge Ibaka to the Magic.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Lakers were able to capitalize off a superstar wanting out of Milwaukee when Abdul-Jabbar asked out. In 1975, Abdul-Jabbar was ready to leave and the Lakers were re-tooling. The Lakers struck gold when re-tooling by trading Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters for the hall of fame player. What the Bucks got back wasn’t a bad deal, but it was not a hall of fame play in the bright lights of Hollywood.

3. Bill Russell Finds His Way to 11 Championships

The Russell in St. Louis tenure was odd, and their reason for trading him was allegedly racially motivated, which ended up working out for the Celtics as they ended up winning 11 championships with Bill Russell leading the way. The Hawks, on the other hand, found little to no success after the trade. 

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2. Lakers Gut Their Roster For Russell Westbrook

This move was incredibly questionable for the Lakers. Westbrook’s fit with the Lakers was questionable before they made the trade, then they began constructing the oldest team in the league. Their roster wasn’t too solid as they missed out on the playoffs and Westbrook had one of his worst career years. Westbrook and the Lakers could both benefit from moving on, and the Wizards have utilized the Lakers’ old role players in a great way as they’ve remained decent while building around Bradley Beal. 

1. Celtics Steal The Nets' Future

The Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry for three role players and four first-round picks which would help the Celtics build one of the longest-standing contending teams. The Celtics haven’t had a losing team in quite some time, and have been regulars in the Eastern Conference Finals. While they haven’t yet won a Finals since their 2008 championship, they’ve been one of the winningest teams since. The Nets, on the other hand, have not been. They’ve actually been quite the opposite.


Kade has spent his last 3 years writing about the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has also been following the NBA for the past 11 years. Just recently, Kade began co-hosting the Boomtown Hoops Podcast.


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