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The 9 Biggest NBA Trade Deadline Deals of All-Time

| February 6, 2022 7:20 am PDT

The NBA trade deadline gives contending teams an opportunity to upgrade their team. On the flip side, struggling teams can sell off assets to position themselves for the future.

It’s not often you see a superstar dealt at the deadline, but it has happened. We’ve seen some NBA trade deadline deals have rippling effects.

Here are the biggest NBA trade deadline deals of all time.

9. Ray Allen to the Seattle Supersonics

Well, I mentioned how it’s rare for a superstar to move at the trade deadline. How about two?

That’s what happened in 2003 when the Milwaukee Bucks traded Ray Allen for Gary Payton. There were more players in the deal, but these players were the headliner.

Payton was a bit past his prime, but he was an all-star that season. Allen was seven years younger and on the verge of his prime. The trade didn’t do much for that particular season. The Seattle Supersonics missed the playoffs, and the Bucks lost in the first round.

Ultimately, Seattle walked as a big winner. Check out Allen’s scoring average in his four full seasons with the team.

  • 2003-04: 23.0
  • 2004-05: 23.9
  • 2005-06: 25.1
  • 2006-07: 26.4

He made the all-star team all four seasons. Payton on the other hand didn’t have as much success. He left the Bucks at the end of the 2002-03 season to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Payton’s scoring average went down in four straight seasons before retiring in 2007.

Allen put up great numbers with Seattle, but he only led them to one playoff series win. Seattle sent him to Boston in 2007.

8. Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks

This is an interesting trade because it wasn’t as much about Monta Ellis as what it did for the Golden State Warriors.

In 2012, the Warriors made a move to upgrade the center position, acquiring Andrew Bogut from the Milwaukee Bucks. In return, the Warriors sent Ellis to the Bucks.

This trade opened the door for Stephen Curry to take command of the Warriors.

Curry was in his third season but missed most of the season with an ankle and foot injury. There are conflicting reports that the Bucks had their choice between Ellis and Curry.

Ellis wasn’t an all-star, but he was a proven 20-point scorer. Curry was in the midst of an injury-filled season, and there were questions about his future.

Ultimately, this trade opened the door for the backcourt of Curry and Klay Thompson. Golden State drafted Draymond Green in 2012, and the dynasty was off and running.

Let’s check out Ellis’ numbers with the Bucks.

  • 18.9 points
  • 6.0 assists
  • 3.8 rebounds
  • 1.9 steals
  • 41.9 field goal percentage

He wasn’t bad, but the Bucks failed to win a playoff game with him. I should also note Bogut played an integral role in the Warriors 2015 NBA title.

7. Clyde Drexler to the Houston Rockets

We didn’t see many big trade deadline deals before 2000. Clyde Drexler to the Houston Rockets was one of the few exceptions.

Houston won the NBA Finals in 1994, but they were looking to upgrade their roster. Drexler was one of the best players in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was with the Portland Trail Blazers, but they weren’t in championship contention.

Portland honored Drexler’s trade request, sending him to the Rockets for Otis Thorpe and a first-round pick. Houston made the playoffs as a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, but Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon led them on an unlikely Finals run.

Olajuwon won Finals MVP, but Drexler put up respectable numbers in his own right.

  • 21.5 points
  • 9.8 rebounds
  • 6.8 assists
  • 45.0 field goal percentage

Drexler played three more seasons, making the all-star game twice. Thorpe only played 34 games with the Trail Blazers. He bounced around the league before retiring in 2001.

There’s no doubt Olajuwon was the driving force behind Houston’s championship run in 1995. However, it’s fair to wonder if they could’ve done it without Drexler.

6. Dikembe Mutombo to the Philadelphia 76ers

In 2001, the Philadelphia 76ers were in the midst of a big season. Allen Iverson was leading the 76ers to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the 76ers found themselves in need of a big man when Theo Ratcliff went down with a wrist injury.

That’s when Philadelphia acquired Dikembe Mutombo from the Atlanta Hawks for Ratcliff, Toni Kukoc, and others.

Mutombo helped lead the 76ers to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Check out his regular-season numbers with the 76ers.

  • 11.7 points
  • 12.4 rebounds
  • 2.5 blocks
  • 49.55 field goal percentage

Philadelphia came into the playoffs with (+700) odds to win the NBA Finals. They won a pair of Game 7s to make the NBA Finals. Mutombo exploded in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting up 23 points, 19 rebounds, and seven blocks.

The 76ers ultimately came up short in the NBA Finals. Mutombo lasted one more season with the 76ers, averaging 11.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. Unfortunately, Philadelphia didn’t make it past the first round.

Even so, the trade was a big win for the 76ers. Ratcliff never replicated his all-star season with Philadelphia and left the Hawks in the 2003-04 season.

5. Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics

In 2015, the Phoenix Suns had a logjam at point guard. It included Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Eric Bledsoe. The Boston Celtics came calling, acquiring Thomas for Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick.

The trade took his game to new heights. Thomas averaged 19.0 points and 5.4 assists in his 21 games with the Celtics in 2014-15.

Over the next two seasons, the Celtics moved Thomas into the starting lineup. That’s when we saw him become one of the best point guards in the NBA. Let’s check out his numbers.

2015-16 2016-17
Points 22.2 28.9
Assists 6.2 5.9
Field Goal Percentage 42.8 46.3
Three-Point Percentage 35.9 37.9

In the 2016-17 season, Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference. He kept up his success in the postseason, including a 53-point game that came not long after the death of his sister. That performance was one of the best of all time following a tragedy.

Thomas suffered a hip injury in the Eastern Conference Finals that ended his Celtics tenure. His success ultimately helped Boston land Kyrie Irving.

There’s no doubt Thomas made a significant impact on the Celtics. He even left his mark after leaving the team.

4. Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks

The New York Knicks were among the worst franchises in the 2000s. They only made the playoffs once from 2002-2010, losing in a four-game sweep to the New Jersey Nets.

In 2011, help was on the way with Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was a free agent following the season, but both sides decided not to wait until then. The Knicks acquired Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. Denver received Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, and draft picks.

Anthony’s arrival brought hope to New York. Check out their championship odds in his first three full-time seasons with the team.

2011-12+1600
2012-13+3300
2013-14+2200

From 2002-2011, their best preseason odds were (+4000) in 2010-11.

Anthony led the Knicks to the playoffs in his first three seasons. Unfortunately, they won one playoff series in that stretch.

It didn’t translate to much postseason success, but Anthony put up big numbers in his seven seasons with the Knicks. He averaged 24.7 points on 44.3 percent field goal shooting.

The trade didn’t work out terribly for the Nuggets. They made the playoffs in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Like the Knicks, they had little to no postseason success.

3. Baron Davis to the Cleveland Cavaliers

This is somewhat similar to the Monta Ellis trade. None of the players involved made a big impact, but a draft pick had ripping effects.

In 2011, the Los Angeles Clippers were looking to get rid of Baron Davis’ contract. They found a trade partner, sending Davis and their first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.

Davis and Moon were out of the league in 2012, and Williams only played 52 games with the Clippers.

As it turns out, the first-round pick turned into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Cleveland used that pick to select Kyrie Irving. Needless to say, that worked out pretty well for Cleveland.

Irving put up big numbers, but it wasn’t translating to wins. However, it caught the eye of one superstar.

In 2014, LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers. It was one of the best signings in NBA history, as he and Irving helped Cleveland win their first title in franchise history.

It seems like James was always destined to return to Cleveland, but would he have done it without an established star like Irving? That’s why this trade deadline deal is one of the most impactful.

2. Rasheed Wallace to the Detroit Pistons

This is an interesting case because Rasheed Wallace found himself in two trades at the 2004 trade deadline.

The Portland Trail Blazers traded him to the Atlanta Hawks. Wallace played one game with the Hawks before they sent him to the Detroit Pistons.

Wallace’s addition helped the Pistons finish third in the Eastern Conference with a 54-28 record. He didn’t make a significant impact on offense, but his defense was on full display in the regular season.

  • 7.0 rebounds
  • 2.0 blocks
  • 1.1 steals

Detroit overcame a 3-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to advance to the Conference Finals. Detroit was the underdog, but they took care of business to move to the NBA Finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers were a massive (-700) favorite to win the championship. Wallace was quiet early in the series, but he put together a big performance in Game 4.

Detroit took a commanding 3-1 series lead, and went on to win the Finals in five games. Wallace spent six seasons with the Pistons, making the all-star game twice.

It’s possible the Pistons made this move because of their blunder in the 2003 NBA Draft. They selected Darko Milicic, one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

1. Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers

It might seem like the Los Angeles Lakers were always in championship contention with Kobe Bryant, but that wasn’t the case. Following their loss in the 2004 NBA Finals, the Lakers went three years without winning a playoff series.

Bryant was becoming unhappy with the team, and Los Angeles knew they needed to make a move.

In 2008, they acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis received Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and draft picks. One of those picks became Marc Gasol, but that was the only impact player for Memphis.

The trade was a big win for the Lakers. Gasol helped the Lakers go 29-9 in the final three months of the 2007-08 season. Los Angeles made it to the Finals in 2008, losing to the Boston Celtics.

However, that was the beginning of their success.

Gasol spent seven seasons with the Lakers, acting as Bryant’s second star in their back-to-back championships. He averaged 17.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

Perhaps the biggest thing this trade did was potentially keep Bryant in Los Angeles. There was a time he was unhappy with the organization, so it’s fair to wonder if this move kept him in Los Angeles.

Impact of the NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA trade deadline can have rippling effects. Most of these trades featured star players, but it doesn’t always have to be like that.

That first-round pick in 2011 changed the landscape of the NBA for a decade. You could say the same with Monta Ellis leaving the Golden State Warriors. One impactful player can make the difference in making the playoffs and winning the NBA Finals.

Another thing these trades did was impact the betting market. Make sure you keep up with the top NBA betting sites to see how trades affect championship odds.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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