Every NBA Team’s Most Regretful Trade
NBA teams can change their franchise forever with a big trade. Many teams to win the NBA Championship have either made a huge trade to gain a Superstar or a minor one to find a missing piece. The Houston Rockets acquired NBA legend Clyde Drexler towards the end of his prime to win the 1995 NBA Championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers recently trading for Kevin Love and formed a new big three that helped the franchise win their first title. Big moves can truly change the landscape of a franchise. Those two examples show how much success can come from a good trade.
The opposite side of this features negative moves that damage the short term and long term of a franchise. A bad trade can truly sink a team for many years as we’ll look at with the following deals. These specific deals are remembered in heartbreaking fashion for fans of these franchises. Every team has made various bad moves due to the nature of basketball being predictable. These however stand out as the worst of the worst. We’ll take a look at each specific franchise’s most regrettable trade in team history that still haunts the fan base to this very day.
30. ATLANTA HAWKS: TRADING AWAY BILL RUSSELL
Bill Russell will always be remembered as one of the greatest winners in NBA history. The center won a shocking eleven NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics. Boston however had to trade for the future legend following the 1956 NBA Draft. The St. Louis Hawks (now Atlanta Hawks) traded Russell after drafting him in exchange for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan.
Russell went on to dominant the NBA with the Celtics dynasty and is still a beloved figure in the game. The Hawks missed out on a potential legend rocking their uniform. Russell may not have won as many rings outside of Boston, but he still would have been a great player. Talent like that being sent away will always provide regret for a franchise. Atlanta fans could only wish to see Russell’s retired jersey and presence in the franchise today.
29. BOSTON CELTICS: TRADING AWAY JOE JOHNSON
The Boston Celtics have benefited from many trades in their storied history. The franchise’s worst trades are often minor but one clearly showed poor judgment. Boston traded Joe Johnson during his rookie season to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers. The two role players did very little to improve the Celtics and Johnson went on to become a Superstar.
Many people overlook the success of Johnson during his time on the Suns, Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets, but the incredible seven All-Star appearances says it all. Johnson would have been an even bigger star playing for a high profile franchise like Boston. This isn’t a trade that haunts the Celtics given their success. It still is the worst move they’ve ever made by giving up a future star for nothing.
28. BROOKLYN NETS: TRADING FOR KEVIN GARNETT AND PAUL PIERCE
The worst trade in recent memory featured the Brooklyn Nets completely ruining their franchise. Brooklyn desperately wanted to make an impact by contending for a title. The Nets made a massive trade acquiring veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to form an impressive starting lineup with fellow former All-Stars Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
Lopez suffered a season ending injury and the Nets were disappointed by the aging of Garnett and Pierce. Brooklyn sadly gave up three unprotected first round picks and the right to swap this recent draft pick. The Nets ended up winning the draft lottery sending the top overall pick to the Celtics. It will take quite some time for Brooklyn to be a playoff team again thanks to the long term effects of this trade.
27. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: TRADING AWAY KOBE BRYANT
Kobe Bryant has been a Los Angeles Laker for the entirety of his NBA career, but they weren’t the team to actually draft him. The Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft out of high school. Charlotte wasn’t sold on the idea of having a player with no college experience on their team and specifically drafted him for trade purposes.
The Lakers sent center Vlade Divac in exchange for Bryant. Divac was a very good center but had nowhere near the talent or potential of Kobe. To make matters worse, Divac left the Hornets after a few seasons to join the Sacramento Kings. Bryant went on to become an iconic player and the second best shooting guard in the history of the NBA after Michael Jordan.
26. CHICAGO BULLS: TRADING AWAY LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE
The Chicago Bulls have made a few terrible moves following the Michael Jordan era as they looked to become a contender again. One horrible mistake featured them trading away an extremely talented rookie. Chicago drafted LaMarcus Aldridge with the second overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Aldridge however ended up on the Portland Trail Blazers his rookie season due to the horrible trade.
Chicago missed out on a top tier power forward and returned the combination of Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryap in return. If you know what Thomas and Khyrap are doing today, you’re a better basketball fan than 99.9% of the world. The Bulls could have had their next big star with Aldridge but instead received two busts in return.
25. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: LOSING OUT ON JAMES WORTHY
Another all-time terrible trade that revolved around draft night featured the Cleveland Cavaliers missing out on James Worthy. Cleveland gave up their first round pick in the 1982 NBA Draft along with a few other assets to the Los Angeles Lakers for the services of Don Ford. The pick that the Cavaliers traded away ended up being the first overall pick of Worthy.
The Lakers once again caught a huge break by drafting a future Hall of Famer. Worthy spent his entire career in Los Angeles racking up the accomplishments. Seven All-Star appearances, three NBA Championship wins and one NBA Finals MVP perfectly sums up the greatness of Worthy. Cleveland could have had the superb play of Worthy for their franchise if not for overestimating the value of Ford.