Trades happen all the time in the National Basketball Association, as franchises are constantly looking forward to the future and either try to acquire top-tier talents to contend, or they try to make the most of the assets they currently own.
Obviously, all teams in the world are keen to land top-notch players and All-Star caliber talents, something that’s unlikely to land via trade, so they have to wait for the Draft or the offseason when they can start talks with other teams after they become free agents.
Nonetheless, over the course of basketball history, we’ve witnessed some star players get dealt when they’re in their prime, either because they’re sick and tired of losing in their respective teams (like Paul George), or because the team is no current position to contend and they need to move those stars in exchange of several assets for the future.
Today, we’re going to talk about the top 15 players that were traded during their primes.
15. DeMarcus Cousins
Of all of the trades that we’re bound to mention, Cousins’ is the most recent and didn’t come as much of a surprise. See, DMC’s time at Sacramento was coming to an end for a very long time, and his name had been in the trade block for several seasons after several misunderstandings with former coaches and the team’s front office.
Nonetheless, the fact that he was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans was a huge surprise, but that pairing with Anthony Davis has worked great so far, and he’s playing the best ball of his career with averages of 25.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.2 dimes and 1.4 blocks per game. In order to land him, the Pelicans parted ways with Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and a couple of picks.
14. Grant Hill
Grant Hill is one of history’s greatest “what ifs”, as he was considered to be the second coming of Michael Jordan soon after His Royal Airness retired, and he was carrying that torch as the most gifted and dominant perimeter player, but also hold the ability of playing as much as 3 different positions.
So, after averaging 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists with 1.4 steals per game for the Detroit Pistons in the 1999-00 season, he was dealt away to the Orlando Magic in exchange of Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. Even though Hill was paired with Tracy McGrady, the Magic struggled and wasn’t relevant despite their great efforts.
13. Vince Carter
Vince Carter was the biggest idol for the Toronto Raptors as one of the most dominant, strong and athletic players in the history of the game, a human highlight reel, the guy that made basketball popular in Canada and one of the greatest to ever lace them up.
Still, the Raptors weren’t quite fair with their All-Star, dealing him to the New Jersey Nets after suffering an Achilles strain in exchange of Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and a couple of 1st round picks. Of course, Carter would go on and thrive at New Jersey alongside Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd, but he still wasn’t able to take home an NBA Championship.
12. Kevin Love
Kevin Love’s trade was extremely controversial, as the Cleveland Cavaliers entered win-now mode when LeBron James decided to go back to the Q, and the team needed another star beside him and Kyrie Irving to become a legit threat in the Eastern Conference following the Miami Heat era.
Love was a huge beast for the Timberwolves but had constantly failed to get the team into playoff contentions spot, so he was pretty happy to get out of Minneapolis. In order to land him, the Timberwolves received a couple of 1st overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young, while Love would go on to play in 3 consecutive NBA Finals and win a ring next to James.
11. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard was set to kick-start the dawn of a new era at the Staples Center playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, an experiment that got off to a very dramatic ending after Howard and Bryant struggled to develop any chemistry on and off the court.
Still, the move was looking quite good for Los Angeles fans back then during the 2011-12 season, as they would receive Howard with one year left on his deal and DH12 was still hurt from that heartbreaking loss in the finals with Orlando. For that deal to happen, the Lakers sent Bynum to the 76ers and the 76ers sent Iguodala to Denver, while the Magic received several picks and young assets.
10. Julius Erving
Julius Erving was one of the most influential and dominant players of his era, he was a living sensation that pretty much everybody wanted to go see play, and he was the best basketball player in the world that didn’t play in the NBA at the time, spending his early years with the New Jersey Nets of the ABA.
Sadly for the ABA, they’d have to see their best player walk away to the rival league due to high fees and fines the Nets had to fine. With New Jersey broke, they dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers and the rest, as you may already know by now, is history.
9. Carmelo Anthony
Before heading towards the Madison Square Garden, Carmelo Anthony was perhaps the most versatile and explosive offensive player in the entire NBA, so after averaging 25.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.8 dimes per game on 45% from the field, it was pretty clear that Melo was way better than the rest of his teammates.
So, the New York Knicks wanted to make the most out of it to go back to playoff contention, orchestrating a huge 13 player blockbuster deal in order to land Melo. New York sent Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov to Denver, Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to the Timberwolves; and landed Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams besides Melo.
8. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley was one of the league’s biggest stars during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, but their lack of playoff contention was starting to frustrate him madly, trying to force a move out of the Sixers that almost got him to the Los Angeles Lakers, but wound up being dealt to the Phoenix Suns instead.
Barkley would go on to become the best player in Suns history and if it wasn’t for Michael Jordan, he would’ve won at least a couple of Championships. For this deal to happen, Phoenix sent Philly Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.
7. Wilt Chamberlain
Despite his prime already coming to an end, Wilt Chamberlain was still a two time defending MVP back then in 1968, and he was pretty much done with living in Philadelphia and wanted to go to a bigger market, threatening the team to leave them and just walk away to the ABA if they didn’t deal him.
So, the Los Angeles Lakers were once again in all headlines after acquiring the most dominant player of his era to be paired with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, sending away Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff to Philadelphia.
6. Ray Allen
Ray Allen was the best three-point shooter in NBA history before Stephen Curry’s surge, and he was one of the most skilled scorers in the Association during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, but growing sick and tired of losing and having a lot of off-court issues with coach George Karl made him force his way out of the Bucks.
Allen would go on to thrive and take his game to a whole new level with the Seattle Supersonics, with the Buck also sending Flip Saunders, Kevin Ollie and a 1st round pick in exchange for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason. Needless to say, the Bucks didn’t win much in this trade.
5. Jason Kidd
Back in 2001, Jason Kidd was one of the best point guards in the Association, so it came as a huge surprise when the Phoenix Suns decided to send him to the New Jersey Nets during the offseason following a controversy-plagued campaign for Kidd after pleading guilty to spousal abuse.
The New Jersey Nets would be thrilled with Kidd replacing the also controversial Stephon Marbury, and the two-way star led them to a couple of failed NBA Finals stint before finally winning the Championship with the Dallas Mavericks.
4. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq’s primed lasted for like a decade so you could say he was traded during his prime at least a couple of times, first when he left the Orlando Magic to the Lakers and most importantly when he decided he couldn’t handle Kobe Bryant anymore and wanted the hell out of the Staples Center ASAP.
That time, the Los Angeles Lakers would have a tough time bouncing back from Shaq’s departure, sending him to the Miami Heat in exchange for Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, while O’Neal would create a monster partnership with Dwyane Wade and would win yet another NBA Championship.
3. Kevin Garnett
Long before Kevin Love, there was Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, and his situation was pretty much like Love’s also struggling to make some noise in the postseason despite being one of the most gifted big men in the league, and after a three year playoff drought, Minny decided it was time to let their superstar go to a place where he could actually compete.
In order to land the Big Ticket, the Boston Celtics sent 5 players and a couple of Draft picks to Minnesota, with the Timberwolves landing Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and a couple of draft picks (Wayne Ellington and Johnny Flynn), so after a hell of a run and an NBA ring, you know who got the best out of the deal.
2. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the best two way point guards in NBA history, and he has been ever since coming out of Wake Forest into the league, but he was yet another case of a superstar stuck on an island, and his New Orleans Hornets were constantly falling short of contention during the postseason despite his best efforts.
CP3 was heading towards the Los Angeles Lakers before the commissioner David Stern vetoed that trade, but him moving out of NOLA was going to happen either way. Landing in the Clippers, Los Angeles had to send Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu as well as a 1st round pick, with them receiving a couple of 2nd rounders to go along with the point god.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
And the greatest superstar to ever be dealt during his prime was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was tired of the low profile Milwaukee Bucks after being recognized as the greatest basketball player in the world, forcing a move to Hollywood to play for the Los Angeles Lakers to carry Jerry West’s torch.
The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t have a choice and were forced to deal the greatest scorer in NBA history, receiving Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters, while KAJ would go on to win 5 NBA Championships alongside Magic Johnson.