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The worst trade deadline deals in NBA history

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February 5th, 2020

With the NBA trade deadline looming, some teams will try to make a last-ditch effort to salvage the season or free up cap space to rebuild. While some moves change the trajectory of a franchise forever, others end in disaster.

Welcome Back, Jason Kidd

The New Jersey Nets thought Jason Kidd’s prime was complete. To start their rebuilding effort and end the era that also featured Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, they sent Kidd, Antoine Wright and Malik Allen to Dallas for Keith Van Horn, Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Maurice Ager, Trenton Hassell and a couple of picks. Harris became an All-Star right away for the Nets, but three years later the Mavs proved they won the deal when Kidd helped Dallas take down Miami’s Big Three in the NBA Finals.  

Gasol for a Gasol

Entering the final stretch of Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career, the Lakers needed to add one more significant piece to the puzzle. The Grizzlies believed the younger Gasol brother was a  better investment. Pau proved them wrong by helping Kobe bring two more titles to Los Angeles. To his credit, Marc would make sure the trade wasn’t a complete waste, as he took the Grizzlies to the playoffs seven-straight times from 2011-17. 

Dumping Isaiah Thomas

In 2015 the Phoenix Suns had a backcourt problem. With Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Isaiah Thomas on the roster, someone had to go. They incorrectly chose Thomas. Traded to the Celtics for Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick, Thomas turned into an All-Star in his only two seasons with Celtics and carried the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017.

Boogie Cousins to the Pelicans

The story appeared to have a happy ending on the horizon, until an injury completely altered the course of the Pelicans’ franchise. DeMarcus Cousins could have stuck it out and signed a supermax deal in Sacramento. But after six seasons without a playoff appearance, Boogie was willing to bet on himself in free agency instead of cashing in with the Kings.

In 2017 the Pelicans sent Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a first and second-round pick (they turned those picks into Harry Giles and Justin Jackson) to Sacramento in exchange for Cousins and Omri Casspi. Initially, teaming up Davis and Boogie worked well. Each earned All-Star spots and put the Pelicans in the playoff race — until Cousins tore his Achilles tendon.

Unwilling to re-sign the rehabbing free agent, Cousins went to win a ring in Golden State, recover and play for a second chance to cash in as a free agent. He suffered another injury setback that cost him almost another entire year. He returned in time for the NBA Finals, only to witness firsthand the end of the Warriors’ dynasty. Meanwhile, a disgruntled Davis plotted to pull off a trade to the Lakers. Instead of teaming up with LeBron, the Pelicans pulled out the rug from under Davis right before the deadline, souring the relationship and causing both teams to collapse in the second half of the season.

The only party that benefitted was the Kings. One of the few moves that worked out for Vlade Divac, Hield is turning into one of the league’s best shooters, averaging over 20 points per game to put the Kings only five games out of the playoff hunt.  


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