One of the funniest things with being a sports fan is letting your imagination flow and wonder what could’ve happened if things would happen in a different way, making speculations and trying to imagine how would the league look like nowadays if some moves were made.
NBA franchises are always trading away players in order to compete for the immediate future, build for the upcoming seasons or just try to unload some money to have more space and cash to spend during the offseason to try and get better for the next year.
So, it’s pretty normal that some players with expiring contracts or with way more talent than the rest of his teammates are always in the middle of trade rumors and speculations, with several general managers trying to acquire their services at the best price.
Nevertheless, these moves don’t always go through due to many different reasons, like poor agreements or even vetoes from the Association. So, today we’ll take a look at the top 10 best NBA trades that almost happened.
10. Kevin Garnett - Phoenix Suns
Back then in 2007, Garnett was already on his way out of Minnesota to try and win an NBA Championship, and the Phoenix Suns were going to be his actual destination instead of the Boston Celtics.
Nonetheless, Shawn Marion demanded a lot of cash and his stubbornness wound up killing a three-team deal that would’ve sent the Big Ticket to the Suns instead of the TD Garden to play alongside Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Needless to say, it worked pretty well for Garnett and the Celtics, even forcing the Miami Heat to form that Big 3 and change the history of NBA as we knew it.
9. Tracy McGrady - Philadelphia 76ers
In a perfect universe, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson could’ve played together to form one of the most incredible duos in NBA history, had the Philadelphia 76ers pulled the trigger and traded Larry Hughes to pair McGrady with Iverson and Eric Snow.
Nevertheless, the Sixers’ Billy King got scared and backed off of the deal, as Hughes was already a star while McGrady was a surging talent. This just gets worse if we tell you that if this deal would've gone through, Philly would also get a 1st rounder alongside T-Mac, but you know, that’s the way it is.
8. Chris Paul - Los Angeles Lakers
This deal made a lot of noise several seasons ago when the Buss family were keen to bring CP3 to the Staples Center to play alongside Kobe Bryant, sending Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to New Orleans after it was pretty obvious that Paul wasn’t going to resign with the losing franchise.
Sadly, the NBA actually wound up vetoing this trade, which opened the door for the Los Angeles Clippers to pursue the All-Star point guard, as David Stern stated that he wanted to keep the league “pure”. Had this trade happened, the Hornets would’ve gotten Odom, Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and a 1st round pick (that eventually wound up being Jeremy Lamb), while the Rockets would've landed Gasol.
7. Scottie Pippen - Seattle Supersonics
The league was quite a mess amidst Michael Jordan’s retirement, with every single team wanting to make the most of the opportunity and finally have a shot at an NBA ring without MJ, which even led the Bulls to look ahead into their future and look to rebuild for the next era, making Pippen expendable.
So, even if there were serious talks to send Pippen to the Sonics back in 1994, it was Seattle that backed down from the deal concerned about how would the fans react if they traded Kemp. Gladly for the Bulls, Jordan came back and Pippen was still on the board, and the rest as you know, is history.
6. Julius Erving - Atlanta Hawks
Before landing in the NBA due to his contract problems with the Virginia Squires, Dr. J was actually pretty close to being teammates with Pistol Pete Maravich and his Atlanta Hawks. Well, to be even more exact, he wanted to go to the Hawks and even trained with Maravich during the entire preseason.
Sadly, he was forced to go back to the ABA with the Squires due to contract issues, since Erving played for the Hawks but was actually drafted by the Bucks, but neither could have his rights as he was still under contract with the Squires. After all that mess, Virginia sold him to the Nets, and you know how all that went.
5. Charles Barkley - Los Angeles Lakers
Way before the Lakers almost landed Chris Paul, they were also pretty close to acquiring the perennial All-Star power forward and Olympic champion Charles Barkley in exchange for James Worthy just after Magic’s retirement, but obviously he landed on the Suns instead.
Sadly, the 76ers backed out of from the deal after Chuck’s agent had called him to let him know that he was going to be a member of the Lakers. Barkley being Barkley, he got a bit drunk to celebrate just to find out that Philly didn’t want to deal him but -once again Barkley being Barkley- he decided to play anyways. In the end, the Sixers let him walk in exchange for Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang, blocking one of Chuck’s biggest shots at an NBA championship.
4. Michael Jordan - Los Angeles Clippers
Yes. We didn’t make a mistake, you just read it: Michael Jeffrey Jordan was almost a member of the Los Angeles Clippers back in 1987, as Donald Sterling was keen to send more than 5 players and all the draft picks necessary to convince the Bulls front office, but they backed out at the very last second.
As you know, the Clippers were pretty much a bad joke through most of their franchise history, but what could’ve been of them if they landed the best player this game has ever seen? We’re just glad this move fell off, as everything would be so… odd.
3. Kobe Bryant - Chicago Bulls
Kobe Bryant was always being compared with Michael Jordan, as both fierce shooting guards were incredibly talented and harsh competitors with nothing but championships in their minds, and for a brief moment, Kobe was actually going to follow Jordan’s steps and be a member of the Bulls.
Chicago would’ve sent Joakim Noah and Luol Deng to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the Black Mamba, something that seemed quite fair at the time, as Deng was one of the league’s elite scorers while Noah was an outstanding rim protector and passer. Nevertheless, the Lakers stated that they were going to “gut the team so badly that they wouldn’t be able to win for so many years”, so obviously nothing happened in the end.
2. Michael Jordan - Houston Rockets
Weird as it would be, this one would actually make way more sense. Truth is, the Rockets owned the rights of the reigning Rookie of the Year, Ralph Sampson, who was a main target of the Portland Trail Blazers.
So, the Blazers were keen to send Clyde Drexler and the 2nd overall pick of the upcoming draft just to land Sampson, something that would mean that Olajuwon, Drexler and Michael Jordan would’ve played together since Jordan’s day one in the NBA. WOW.
1. LeBron James - Los Angeles Lakers
This rumor was quite strong during the 2007 campaign, as apparently both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers were interested in trading LeBron for Kobe back then, although apparently Dan Gilbert backed down and offer pretty much everybody else on the roster to pair Kobe and James for another championship run.
Needless to say, the Lakers emphatically refused, but could you imagine if one of these deals got done? Bron on the Lakers would be a huge beast, while Kobe playing alongside the King on the Cavaliers would've definitely handed them a bunch of rings sparing the embarrassment of LeBron’s departure to the Miami Heat and all that surrounded that infamous move.