Biggest Trade Deadline Steals of All-Time
Every year at the trade deadline, teams scour the league for a trading partner in the hopes that they can drastically improve their rosters. Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn’t, but the following is a list of the biggest trade deadline steals in the history of the league:
At the time, this looked like a great deal for the Suns, sending away Dragic for a pretty big expiring deal in Brooks, who also happened to be coming off a Most Improved Player award. However, it became pretty obvious last season that Dragic was far and away the better player, which is why the Suns paid Dragic big bucks to return to Phoenix this past offseason. In the meantime, though, Houston got a great deal for a player they ended up really needing when Kyle Lowry missed major time last year.
While Thabeet has proven to be one of the most disappointing No. 2 overall picks in the history of the game, Battier was a major asset in Memphis’s thrilling first-round upset of the top-seed San Antonio Spurs later that spring. He didn’t stick with the team beyond that season, but he did a lot while he was there, helping the Grizzlies to turn a corner as a franchise.
This doesn’t seem like much for either side, but a future first-round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats is something to value. There are still a ton of protections on this first-round selection, but it is completely unprotected by 2016, which means Chicago could potentially end up with a pretty decent pick for a player in Thomas who has completely fizzled out.
At the time, the Pau Gasol trade looked like one of the most lop-sided deals in NBA history, but since that time Marc has actually looked like the better Gasol brother. This year, for example, Pau is on the shelf until late March, while Marc is a borderline All-Star and one of the best all-around centers in the league. As a sweetener, Greivis Vasquez is what came out of the draft pick in this trade, though he wouldn’t emerge until after getting traded to New Orleans in December of 2011. Now, though, he’s third in the league in assists per game and averaging a career-high 13.9 ppg, something that the Lakers, along with Marc Gasol, could certainly use right now. (Not that Pau didn’t help them win two championships, right?)
Atlanta was able to purge Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s big deal in their trade for Rasheed, then flip him into a pick that would end up being one of the team’s best players for almost a decade thereafter.
1994 – Utah Jazz trade Jeff Malone and a draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jeff Hornacek, Sean Green, and a draft pick
While Malone had some great scoring seasons for the Jazz, Utah traded him at exactly the right time for a player in Hornacek that was an exponentially better three-point shooter. That spread the floor for Karl Malone and John Stockton and allowed them to do all sorts of amazing things together. Were it not for Michael Jordan, the combination of those three Jazz players might have won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.
1994 – Chicago Bulls trade Stacey King to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Luc Longley and Dragan Tarlac
While King was a solid role player for Chicago’s first trio of championships, Longley was much better fit for the next three, starting at center and proving to be a perfect passing big man for the triangle offense. King, meanwhile, had the best stretch of his career for that half a season after getting traded, but fizzled out quickly thereafter, never playing more than 50 games in a season again and retiring in 1997.
1989 – Indiana Pacers trade Herb Williams to the Dallas Mavericks for Detlef Schrempf
Schrempf immediately paid dividends for Indiana, earning two Sixth Man of the Year awards in 1991 and 1992, and by 1993 he was an NBA All-Star. He made three All-Star appearances in all as a Pacer and was even named to the All-NBA Third Team in 1995, while Williams never ended up being more than a rotation player for the rest of his career.
1988 – Phoenix Suns trade Larry Nance to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kevin Johnson, Mark West and the draft pick that would eventually become Dan Majerle
While Nance was named an All-Star two more times after this trade went down, the Suns got a couple of players in Johnson and Majerle that turned into the cornerstones of a franchise that would eventually make the NBA Finals in 1993. There may not be two more beloved Suns players in the history of that franchise, and Phoenix got both of them in the same deadline deal.
1984 – Kansas City Kings trade Steve Johnson and three draft picks (none of which amounted to anything of substance) to the Chicago Bulls for Reggie Theus
After Theus was inexplicably benched for the first half of Chicago’s 1983-84 season, he requested a trade and got one to the then-Kansas City Kings. Once a member of the Kings, Theus got right back to scoring the ball like crazy and ended up being the team’s best player as they transitioned to a new city in Sacramento.
1980 – Denver Nuggets trade George McGinnnis to the Indiana Pacers for Alex English
McGinnis was a former All-Star who played his best years as a member of the ABA’s Indiana Pacers, so Indy made a nostalgic move by trading a burgeoning star in English to bring McGinnis back to Indianapolis. English, of course, ended up being one of the best scorers in league history, appearing in eight All-Star games as a Nugget and leading the team to nine playoff appearances during his tenure there. McGinnis, meanwhile, was never an All-Star again and retired in 1982.
1965 – Philadelphia 76ers trade Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash to the San Francisco Warriors for Wilt Chamberlain
This one is technically cheating because there was no trade deadline back in 1965, but since this ridiculously lopsided trade happened right around the All-Star break that season, we’re going to count it anyway. This doesn’t need a lot of explanation; Chamberlain is one of the five best players of all time, and most of today’s NBA fans have never even heard of the rest of those guys.
Every trade involves a certain amount of risk, but deadline deals are just a little bit more exciting than offseason deals because of the immediacy associated with them. In haste, mistakes are made, which means good things for the beneficiaries of those mistakes, and the deals listed above are the ones that proved to be the biggest steals at the deadline. Every year that passes, more are added to the list.
What other deadline deals do you think proved to be major steals? Hit up the comments section with your two cents, because there have been a lot of deadline deals over the years. This list is just the beginning.