5 NBA Trades That Went Wrong

March 8, 2014
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The NBA trade deadline came and went on February 20th, and many of us were a little disappointed by the lack of flashy transactions. Following the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, most teams are extra cautious and high draft picks are prized possessions, so one-sided deals with major consequences are less likely to happen. We love to look back at what could have been, though, so in the absence of sexier trades, here are five of the most ill-timed and disastrous trades in NBA history.

Hornets traded Kobe Bryant to the Lakers for Vlade Divac – 1996


Sure, Vlade was an established starting center who went on to have a pretty decent career; and at the time of the trade, a 17-year-old high school product still seemed quite risky. 18 years, 5 NBA titles and almost 32000 points later, it’s looking like Charlotte maybe gave up too much.

Hawks traded Bill Russell to the Celtics for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley – 1956


Yep, those two other non-Russell names are white guys. We get it, it was a different time, but regardless of the racist tendencies in certain American areas, you’re basically still trading the most impactful defensive center of all-time for two white dudes. Russell went on to win 11 NBA Championships and helped Boston completely dominate the 60s.

Bucks traded Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavericks for Robert Traylor – 1998


Just like with high school stars, European players were viewed as risky choices during the 90s drafts. That’s one way to rationalize the Bucks decision to trade future legend Dirk Nowitzki. The German forward has been a 12 time All-Star, an MVP and brought the Mavs their one and only title. Traylor, meanwhile, only started 73 games in a shorten career, and was eventually sentenced to three years probation for his role in money laundering for a major drug trafficker.

Warriors traded Robert Parish and their 3rd pick in the draft to the Celtics for Joe Barry Carroll and Ricky Brown. Boston eventually chose Kevin McHale with that 3rd pick – 1980


The late Red Auerbach knew how to trick them. In one quick swap, the Celtics put together the Hall of Fame frontcourt that would help Larry Bird win three championships and shifted the power back to Boston through the 80s.

76ers traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark, and Darrall Imhoff – 1968


I know, I also have no idea who Chambers, Clark and Imhoff were. Wilt, on the other hand, was one of the most dominant men in basketball history and a larger-than-life persona. Chamberlain would help the Lakers reach their first championship in Los Angeles.

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