There are fewer players on a basketball team than there are in any other major professional sport. That means that the right player can have an incredible impact on a team. This is especially true once the team makes the playoffs.
In February, NBA teams looking to make a final push for players are given a strick trade deadline. Some of the League’s biggest deals have been made at this time, including a 2020 swap involving two superstars under 25-years-old! These are the most memorable, and controversial, deals made in NBA trade deadline history!
A Flip Of The Gasol Bros.
The Memphis Grizzlies acquired Pau Gasol in 2001. The Spaniard was the 3rd overall pick in that year’s draft and quickly became one of the first stars for the Memphis franchise.
By 2008, though, the Grizzlies decided to trade Gasol and dealt him to the Lakers who were in the middle of a dynasty. The trade was mocked as uneven and completely favorable for LA. While the Lakers won another title with Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies received his little brother Marc in return. Marc went on to help the Grizzlies become a 50 win team and made 3 All-Star teams.
The Wolves Finally Grab D. Lo
The Minnesota Timberwolves lucked into Karl Anthony Towns with the 1st selection of the 2015 draft. Since then, they’ve struggled to surround the superstar with talent. In response, Towns has pleaded with the team to acquire his friend and fellow star 23-year-old, D’Angelo Russell.
While Russell was a free agent in the summer of 2019, the Wolves did not have the cap room to sign him to a max deal and he went to the Warriors. Fearing they could lose Towns’ interest, the Timberwolves dealt 24-year-old small forward Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors and brought Russell into the fold.
Gerald Wallace Becomes Damian Lillard
The Nets have been a reasonably respectable team over the last 20 years, but have also been very careless with draft picks. In 2012, they traded for high flying small forward Gerald Wallace, using a first-round pick to acquire him.
The Nets had some foresight though, thinking it was a three-player draft in 2012 and added some protections to the pick. The Blazers ended up with the 6th pick in the draft. They selected point guard Damian Lillard who has made the NBA All-Star team five times.
The Glide Heads To Houston
You would think that the Houston Rockets of the mid-1990s didn’t need so much in the way of reinforcements. The 1994 Rockets took home the NBA title led by all-world center Hakeem Olajuwon and some very steady role players.
The 1995 Rockets, though, decided they could use one more superstars and dealt Otis Thorpe and a future first-round pick to the Blazers for Clyde Drexler. The shooting guard, who played his college ball in Houston, helped the Rockets to another title in 1995.
The Celtics Give Up On Joe Johnson
Every rookie in the NBA is different. For every Luka Doncic that is ready to dominate from day one, there are players who need a number of years to develop. Joe Johnson, taken out of Arkansas in 2001 was one of those players.
The Boston Celtics showed very little patience with Johnson and traded him at the deadline to Phoenix for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. Johnson went on to become a premier scorer in the league and made seven All-Star teams.
Ron Artest And Jalen Rose Switch Places
Ron Artest and Jalen Rose were similar in ways and completely different in others. Rose was a better offensive player, capable of a triple-double at any time. Artest was a good offensive player who played hard-nosed defense and could shut down any wing in the league.
The two were swapped for each other in 2002 when Rose went to the Bulls and Artest went to the Pacers. The swap ended up having profound meaning in 2004 when Artest went into the crowd and fought with fans.
A Star For A Star
There are so few stars in the NBA that once one star is traded for another star, it is a pretty big deal. One of these star for star trades happened in 2003 when Gary Payton was traded for Ray Allen.
There was a bit of an age gap between the two players as Payton was 34 and Allen was only 27. And the best was yet to come for both stars as Payton would win a title with the Heat in 2006 and Allen would win a title with the Celtics in 2008 and 2013.
Shaq At The End Is Still Shaq
There are very few basketball players that have had a career quite like the one of Shaquille O’Neal. And some players, regardless of age, can still play an important role in a team with championship aspirations.
Shaq had played in the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic before winning chips with both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. After a shocking trade to the Phoenix Suns, he failed to get the deep shot bombing team over the top.
Melo Works His Way Out Of Denver
There was once a point where star players wanted to work their way into Madison Square Garden. On their way to the Knicks, though, they probably wanted to make sure the team retained some of their real assets.
The Knicks really wanted a star like Carmelo Anthony to pair with Amare Stoudemire in 2011. The team, however, drained itself of all its talented young players to acquire him. Despite a 54 win season in 2013, the Knicks Carmelo experience would ultimately be considered a disappointment.
The Clips Give Up On Blake Griffin
There’s basically never been a time where the Lakers weren’t the biggest deal in Los Angeles. The tides started to turn in 2009 when the Clippers landed Blake Griffin. Later on, the Clips landed Chris Paul to go along with DeAndre Jordan and Lob City came into reality.
And for a number of years, Paul and Jordan and Griffin delighted the NBA with their dunking proficiency. The shine started to wear off after a while though and Blake was dealt to the Pistons. The Clips, meanwhile, are trying to recreate the magic with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Pelicans Finally Get Anthony Davis Some Help
The New Orleans Pelicans hit the jackpot in 2012 and won the opportunity to select Anthony Davis. Davis was just as good as advertised and became one of the best players in the league overnight.
The problem for New Orleans, though, was surrounding him with other stars. They tried to rectify this in 2017 with a trade for Kings star DeMarcus Cousins. After half a season with the Pelicans, Cousins tore his Achilles and now both Davis and Cousins are Lakers.
Phoenix Lands KJ
Kevin Johnson was a good player at Cal Berkeley. Good enough for the Cavaliers to select him 7th overall in the 1987 Draft. The Cavs, though, already had a great point guard in Mark Price.
Cleveland shipped off Johnson to Phoenix in a deal that netted them NBA veteran Larry Nance. Meanwhile, Johnson became a tremendous player for the Suns making three All-Star teams and making a trip to the NBA finals during the 1993 season.
Jeff Hornacek Finds His Perfect Fit With The Jazz
Jeff Hornacek spent a fair portion of his career looking for the right fit. He began his career with the Suns before going to Philly in the Charles Barkley trade. After a failed attempt by the Sixers to turn him into a point guard, the team dealt him to Utah.
The Jazz turned out the be the perfect fit for the sharpshooter. Hornacek became the third wheel on a Utah team that made multiple finals appearances. The shooting guard’s number was retired by the Jazz in 2002.
The Pacers Reacquire Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson had a special talent at making his teammates look very good. He did so for some excellent Pacers team in the mid-1990s. Looking to get younger, the Pacers dealt Jackson to the Nuggets for Jalen Rose.
The team quickly realized it made a big mistake as they fell out of the playoff race. Less than a year after dealing him, Indiana made a deal with the Nuggets to reacquire Jackson. He later led the team the 2000 NBA Finals.
Tim Hardway Heats Up
There were few things cooler in the 1990’s NBA than the Golden State Warriors Run TMC trio of Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. For some reason, Coach Rick Adelman decided the break up the trio in 1996 by making Hardaway the 6th man.
Hardaway was clearly unhappy at the arrangement and demanded a trade. The point guard was moved to the Miami Heat and continued to be a star for the perennial title contender making two more All-Star teams.
Sheed Is The Final Piece
In 2004, Michael Jordan was finally gone from the Eastern Conference and the Championship scene was wide open. The Detroit Pistons of the early 2000s were really close to getting over the hump. They just needed one more guy.
That guy was Rasheed Wallace, who Detroit acquired from the Atlanta Hawks. Wallace balled out for the Pistons and they shockingly beat the LA Lakers for the title in only 5 games. The power forward then signed a five-year deal to remain in Detroit.
Dikembe Teams With Iverson
Allen Iverson was an absolute megastar for the Philadelphia 76ers. So good, in fact, that he put the team in title contention almost by himself. He just needed a running mate to help the team get over the top.
Dikembe Mutombo, acquired from the Nuggets in 2001 was a picture-perfect fit. Most of the star center’s value was in his tenacious defense and rebounding. Iverson needed the ball to be effective, Dikembe didn’t. The pair flourished making the 2001 NBA Finals.
Baron Goes To California
The Charlotte Hornets had some very nice teams in the early to mid-’90s when they had Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. Their dip after those players left allowed them the draft Baron Davis 3rd overall in 1999.
And Davis was a terrific player for them over the next half-decade. When things went south in the relationship, they dealt him to Golden State in 2005 for relative peanuts. The point guard continued to star in the Bay Area, leading the Warriors to a massive playoff upset over the Mavericks in 2007.
Shaq Heads To The Suns
In 2008, Shaquille O’Neal was nearing the end of his career. He was still ferociously strong and capable of scoring and defending at a decent level. His athleticism was mostly gone, though, which made him an odd fit for the uber-fast Suns.
That’s not to say he was bad in Phoenix, as he still averaged 18 points a game and made the All-Star team. He did, however, prevent the Suns from playing the way they wanted to play and O’Neal ended his career in Boston.
Jason Kidd Takes The Mavs Over The Top
Many people don’t remember that Jason Kidd began his career with the Mavericks back in 1994. The legendary point guard is more often remembered as a Phoenix Sun or a New Jersey Net or even a Dallas Maverick.
Kidd returned to the Mavs in a 2008 deadline deal. He was a steadying force for the star-laden Dallas team. He achieved a massive career highlight in 2011 when he helped the Mavericks upset the Miami Heat to win the NBA Title.