Top-20 Worst NBA Trades Of All-Time

Worst NBA Trades Of All-Time
Photo: Keith Allison / CC BY-SA

What is the worst trade in NBA history?

Just like every other sport, trades happen between teams every season in the NBA. However, every trade doesn’t turn out to be a win-win situation for either franchise involved.

SportyTell takes a look at the top-20 lopsided worst NBA trades in the history of the franchise. Some trades happen to be a huge loss to a team with the traded player not living up to expectations. On the other hand, with the right trade move, it can be an additional boost to the performance of the team, with the traded player making a positive impact on the court.

Here are the worst NBA trades of all-time

20. 76ers trade Charles Barkley to Suns

Charles Barkley with Suns

Charles Barkley who was traded to the Phoenix Suns from the 76ers, for Tim Perry, Jeff Hornacek and Andrew Lang, was a pretty good deal for the Phoenix as he went on to an NBA final for the franchise as well as winning an MVP award. On the other hand, his counterpart whom he was traded for by the 76ers didn’t bring much to the table.

19. Raptors trade Andrea Bargnani to Knicks

Bargnani was a potential asset to the game in the early days of his career promoting the Knicks to have signed him. But Bargnani was a liability as he put on an unimpressive performance for the next two seasons with the Knicks. He cost the Knicks $11 million yearly and a 2016 1st round draft pick who happened to be Kawhi Leonard, one of the best players in the league. Bargnani lasted only 71 games with the Knicks.

18. Timberwolves trade Kevin Garnett to Celtics

This is one trade that hits Minnesota Timberwolves hard and causes them setbacks for almost a decade. Kelvin Garnett agreed to a trade to the Celtics. Minnesota got in return for Garnett, a couple of players including a 2009 1st round draft pick. Well, none of the traded players for Garnett made an impact in the court as Minnesota went into an endless losing form, whereas Garnett in that very season the trade deal happened went on winning a championship title with Celtics.

17. Bucks trade Dirk Nowitzki to Mavericks

Only if Milwaukee Bucks could turn back the hands of time, they’ll certainly grab that opportunity to overturn what would be one of the worst NBA trades ever. The Bucks lost a Hall of Famer which includes over 30,000 points and MVP as well as NBA championship to the Dallas Mavericks in the person of Dirk Nowitzki in the 1998 NBA Draft.

16. Blazers trade Gerald Wallace to Nets

A series of trade events which saw Wallace ending up with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 allowed Portland Trail Blazers a draft pick trade-in to get famous point guard Damian Lillard, who went on to become a 4-time All-Star and a 3-time All-NBA superstar.

15. Raptors trade Vince Carter to Nets

Vince Carter with New Jersey Nets
Photo: TheTruthAbout / CC BY-SA

The Brooklyn Nets have been unlucky with trade deals but it comes the times when they’ve nailed the right spot with some trades. 2004 saw the franchise exchanging three players and a 1st round draft who didn’t turn out into anything significant to secure Carter from the Toronto Raptors. It was a loss to the Raptors as Carter became a three-time All-Star.

14. Royals trade Oscar Robertson to Bucks

‘Big O’ as Oscar Robertson was fondly called was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for two players, Charlie Paulk and Flynn Robinson, leading Robertson to partner with teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and helping the Bucks to an NBA championship title that season. The other two players he was traded with to the Cincinnati Royals didn’t quite put in the work as the franchise never won a title or featured in a final for several years.

13. Timberwolves trade Kevin Love to Cavaliers

In some rare cases, a trade makes its imprint on the team’s performance, resulting in championship glory. That was the case of Kevin Love. The icing on the cake was that the players exchanged by the Minnesota Timberwolves in place of Love weren’t worth as much as time, later on, will prove. Love went on to help the Cleveland Cavaliers to the only title in the franchise’s history.

12. Clippers trade Kyrie Irving to Cavaliers

Don’t be quick to think that the Clippers never had Kyrie Irving. The Clippers in a bid to cover Baron Davis’ $28 million salaries owed a debt and sacrificed a draft pick, getting two expiring contract players, Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, from the Cavaliers. That unprotected draft pick saw the Cavaliers picking Irving who when on putting an impressive performance on the court for the franchise owning the most important shots a player has ever made in the Cavaliers history.

11. Warriors trade Vince Carter to Raptors

In 1993, the Golden State Warriors, in a trade deal to get Chris Webber gave up several drafts picks. It came back hunting them. One of those draft pick after undergoing a series of exchange routes between NBA teams came back as a 5th pick in the 1998 draft to the Warriors. Ignorantly, the Warriors gave up that 5th overall pick in exchange for a 4th overall pick with the Toronto Raptors. That made them lose the legendary Vince Carter who achieved feats with the Raptors in exchange for an unknown Antawn Jamison.

10. Suns trade Rajon Rondo to Celtics

Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
Photo: Aaron Frutman / CC BY-SA

The point guard didn’t make much impact in the 2006 NBA draft, so it made sense that the Phoenix Suns traded him away. However, in years to come Rondo would later prove influential on the court as he developed into a 4-time All-Star and a key player to the Boston Celtics NBA finals victory. Bill Grant and a draft pick who they got in return for Rondo didn’t match up as they expected. The Phoenix Suns are still in need of a point guard till date.

9. Hornets trade Chris Paul to Clippers

The New Orleans Hornets lost a valuable asset after trading off Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers to get three players and a first-round draft pick that didn’t sum equivalently on the court to Chris Paul. The trade is one of the worst NBA trades in history as it took the Hornets almost a decade to win an NBA playoff series.

8. Wizards trade Chris Webber to Kings

The Washington Bullets / Wizards gambled wrongly when they exchanged a rising talent for an established star who was at the close end of his career. They traded young Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. Webber went on staring in multiple playoffs and earning All-Star team appearance four times with the Sacramento Kings. The Washington Wizards, however, didn’t even make it to the playoffs for close to a decade after that trade.

7. Cavaliers trade James Worthy to Lakers

1980 saw the Cavaliers and the Lakers making series of trade. At first, it didn’t seem like any significant loss to both parties. But when those series of trade and draft pick resulted to the Lakers landing with the No. 1 overall pick, in the person of James Worthy who became a final MVP and a Hall of Famer, it made a difference and became a loss to the Cavaliers.

6. Supersonics trade Scottie Pippen to Bulls

In this situation, a draft pick trade came back hunting the Seattle SuperSonics as they traded off future Hall of Famer, Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice. Scottie Pippen became a huge asset to the bulls as he became the greatest defensive forward the game ever seen. Olden Polynice, however, didn’t live up to expectation on the court as nothing phenomenal happened during his time with the Sonics.

5.  Thunder trade James Harden to Rockets

James Harden with Houston Rockets
Photo: Keith Allison / CC BY-SA

Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Rockets getting in return three players of which one is now out of the league, one is a bench player and the last one a draft pick which resulted in them landing in Steven Adams. Well, Adams seems to be soothing the pain of that bad trade as he seems to be the only good coming out of it.

4. 76ers trade Wilt Chamberlain to Lakers

This trade wouldn’t have happened if Wilt Chamberlain hadn’t demanded it. The Philadelphia 76ers had no option but to trade Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers. They got a couple of players in return but wasn’t as impactful to fill the vacuum Chamberlain left in the team. Meanwhile, Chamberlain aided the Lakers to a title in 1972, during his five-season stint with the franchise.

3. Bucks trade Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Lakers

Milwaukee Bucks made one big mistake in this trade deal which became one of the worst trades in NBA history. They got in return four players who became unknown. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, on the other hand, went on winning five championships with the Lakers and three MVPs to his record.

2. Hornets trade Kobe Bryant to Lakers

Kobe Bryant with Los Angeles Lakers
Photo: Keith Allison / CC BY-SA

In the 1996 draft night, the Lakers all had to put Vlade Divac on the table to win the draft lottery and secure the services of Kobe Bryant. Bryant went on winning five championships for the Lakers as well as an MVP and many other accolades. Lakers profited hugely from Bryant.

1. Hawks trade Bill Russell to Celtics

Bill Russell to Boston Celtics - Worst Trade in NBA History
Photo: Public Domain

St. Louis Hawks gave up 1956 draft, Bill Russell to the Celtics for two Hall of Famers in what could be termed as the worst trade in NBA history. Although the two players Hawks got in return for Russell, Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley were fine players who did well on the court, none was as impactful as Russell who went on winning 11 titles in 13 years for the Celtics.


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