Throughout NBA history, there have been numerous trades that have left fans, players, and executives shaking their heads in disbelief. These worst trades have had long-lasting consequences for the teams involved, often resulting in missed opportunities, lost championships, and franchise-altering mistakes. In this article, we rank and examine the ten worst trades in NBA history, highlighting the detrimental impact they had on the teams and the league as a whole.
Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers (1968)
One of the worst trades in NBA history occurred in 1968 when the Philadelphia 76ers sent Wilt Chamberlain, a dominant force in the league, to the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade weakened the 76ers considerably, and Chamberlain went on to win multiple championships with the Lakers. The move shifted the balance of power in the league and left Philadelphia struggling for years.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers (1975)
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ decision to trade Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975 ranks among the worst trades in NBA history. Abdul-Jabbar went on to have a legendary career with the Lakers, winning multiple championships and becoming the league’s all-time leading scorer. The trade deprived the Bucks of a generational talent and hindered their chances of sustained success.
Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings (1998)
In 1998, the Golden State Warriors made one of the worst trades in NBA history by sending Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings. Webber blossomed into a superstar in Sacramento, leading the Kings to multiple playoff appearances and forming one of the most exciting teams of the early 2000s. The trade proved to be a missed opportunity for the Warriors, who struggled in the aftermath.
Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets (1998)
The Toronto Raptors‘ decision to trade Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets in 2004 is widely regarded as one of the worst trades in NBA history. Carter was the face of the franchise and brought excitement and success to Toronto. The trade marked a turning point for the Raptors, as they struggled to find a suitable replacement for their superstar.
Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns (1992)
The Philadelphia 76ers’ trade of Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns in 1992 is considered one of the worst trades in NBA history. Barkley went on to have a highly successful stint with the Suns, leading them to the NBA Finals and winning the league MVP award. The trade weakened the 76ers and deprived them of a franchise player for years to come.
Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics (2007)
The Minnesota Timberwolves‘ decision to trade Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in 2007 ranks among the worst trades in NBA history. Garnett played a pivotal role in leading the Celtics to the championship in 2008 and revitalizing the franchise. The trade left the Timberwolves in a rebuilding phase and without a franchise player for years.
James Harden to the Houston Rockets (2012)
The Oklahoma City Thunder‘s trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012 is widely regarded as one of the worst trades in NBA history. Harden went on to become an MVP and one of the league’s top scorers with the Rockets. The trade diminished the Thunder’s championship prospects and altered the trajectory of the franchise.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets (2013)
The Boston Celtics’ trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 is considered one of the worst trades in NBA history. The trade, which aimed to accelerate the Nets’ championship aspirations, ultimately backfired, as Pierce and Garnett’s impact diminished, and the Nets were left with an aging roster and depleted future assets.
Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat (2004)
The Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to trade Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004 is widely regarded as one of the worst trades in NBA history. O’Neal formed a dynamic duo with Dwyane Wade in Miami, winning the NBA championship in 2006. The trade marked the end of the Lakers’ dominant era and left them searching for a new identity.
Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors (2018)
The San Antonio Spurs‘ trade of Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in 2018 is considered one of the worst trades in NBA history. Leonard played a pivotal role in leading the Raptors to their first NBA championship in 2019. The trade had significant implications for both franchises, as the Spurs lost a superstar and the Raptors enjoyed a brief but memorable period of success.
These ten worst trades in NBA history serve as cautionary tales for teams and general managers, showcasing the lasting impact of poor decision-making and short-sightedness. These trades changed the fortunes of franchises, altered the league’s landscape, and reminded everyone of the importance of valuing talent, long-term planning, and making sound basketball decisions.