Throughout the history of the NBA, there are plenty of examples of catastrophic trades. However, the way we see it, these 10 deals are the worst of the bunch.
10. Bucks say, ‘bye, bye’ to Nowitzki
In the 1998 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks had the surprising foresight to select an international player from Germany by the name of Dirk Nowitzki with the No. 9 overall pick. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the same organization to throw it all away.
For reasons beyond comprehension, the Bucks shipped Nowitzki — along with Pat Garrity — off to Dallas in exchange for Michigan’s Robert “Tractor” Traylor (the No. 6 overall pick in the 1998 draft). While Traylor would last seven seasons in the league, starting just 73 games, Nowitzki would go to forge a surefire Hall of Fame career while becoming one of the greatest scorers in NBA history (currently No. 6 on the all-time scoring list). That has to hurt.
9. 76ers send Barkley to Phoenix
In 1992, Charles Barkley wanted out of Philadelphia, and the Sixers were happy to oblige him, shipping the future Hall of Famer off to the Phoenix Suns. Yet, here’s the thing, if you’re going to trade a player who just averaged 23.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game the season before, you better make sure you get a substantial value in return. The 76ers, of course, did not.
In exchange for the player who would go on to win the MVP award in the 1992–93 season, Philadelphia got Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry. Is it any wonder the Sixers would fail to make the playoffs for the next six years? We think not.
8. Portland opts to trade Malone
The Portland Trail Blazers received two picks in the dispersal draft following the 1975–76 season. With the second of those two selections, the Blazers took Moses Malone from the Spirits of St. Louis — a slam-dunk pick if we’ve ever seen one. Too bad the organization didn’t seem to feel the same way.
In exchange for a 1978 first-round pick, which would eventually be used on Rick Robey, Portland sent the Chairman of the Boards to the Buffalo Braves. By the time Malone’s career was over, he’d have earned three MVP awards, played in 12 NBA All-Star Games, scored 27,409 points (No. 8 all time), and pulled down 16,212 rebounds (No. 5 all time). Talk about a classic Portland Trail Blazers draft decision — it sort of reminds us of this one.
7. Cavs give Worthy to the Lakers
For the record, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t trade James Worthy to the Los Angeles Lakers. They simply traded away the pick that would eventually land the purple and gold future Hall of Famer. How is that possible? We’ll explain.
The 1979-80 Cavs, a team that would go on to finish the season with a 37-45 record, opted to trade their 1982 first-round pick and Butch Lee to the Lakers for Don Ford and L.A.’s first-round selection in the upcoming 1980 draft (because that’s exactly what you should do when your team is terrible and the team you’re making a deal with is about to win the NBA title). As we’re sure you’ve figured out by now, that 1982 pick turned into a No. 1 overall which the Lakers used to select Worthy. Or as we like to call him “Big Game James.”
6. Sonics trade Pippen to the Bulls
Using a pick that originally belonged to the New York Knicks, the Seattle Supersonics selected Scottie Pippen No. 5 overall in the 1987 NBA draft. However, in exchange for Olden Polynice, a 1988 second-round pick, and a first-round pick in 1989, the Sonics thought it’d be wise to ship Pippen — along with a 1989 first-round pick of their own — to Chicago. Big mistake.
Pippen would go on to help Michael Jordan and the Bulls capture six championships, he would put together a Hall-of-Fame career of his own, and he would be named one of the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA. The Sonics, well, they now reside in Oklahoma City. We’re sure the people of Seattle are over this faux pas by now. Someone should ask them.