With NBA All-Star weekend having wrapped up, basketball minds now turn their full attention to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. While trying to predict the outcome of trade rumors is more difficult than convincing LeBron James to join the dunk contest, one thing is certain: the trade deadline always brings surprises. Sure, the majority of deadline deals are about as exciting as last year’s blockbuster trade between the Thunder and Knicks, who negotiated a deal involving Ronnie Brewer and a second-round draft pick; nevertheless, numerous deadline trades have stunned the NBA world. So, instead of trying to decipher if a small trade that took place was relevant or outlining which teams most needed a change, let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember some of the jaw-dropping deadline trades of the last five years.
5. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers to Houston Rockets (2012)
With 16 championship banners hanging from their rafters, the Los Angeles Lakers are without a doubt one of the most successful franchises in professional sports. Winning 5 championships over the last 14 years, the Lakers have continued their legacy into the 21st century. While no one can deny the contributions of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol, any conversation about the Lakers’ recent success must include Derek Fisher. Fisher helped the Lakers win 5 NBA titles, starting as their point guard for 3 of them. His clutch play and leadership proved invaluable.
That’s why the Lakers’ decision to unload Fisher to Houston prior to the 2012 deadline came as such a shock. Certainly his on-court performances had digressed at the ripe-old-age of 37, but considering his locker-room presence and local fame, many Lakers’ fans considered his $3.4 million contract a small price to pay. Still, in an effort to save salary and free up playing time for younger guards, Lakers’ management, despite its reservations, traded Derek Fisher and a first-round draft pick in exchange for the promising young forward, Jordan Hill. Houston immediately bought out Fisher, who then signed with Oklahoma City, where he is still playing today.
4. Gerald Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers to New Jersey Nets (2012)
Any article involving recent trades must have some reference to Dwight Howard, right? In 2011, after the New Jersey Nets landed former Jazz superstar, Deron Williams, the Nets turned their sights on Dwight Howard. Having experienced a disappointing end to the 2011 season, Howard and the Magic faced an uncertain future. As emotions ran high among team members and executives, Howard trade rumors intensified among the talking heads. Trade speculation only increased as contract extension negotiations between the Magic and Howard — who had one guaranteed year remaining on his current contract – fizzled. The Nets and the Lakers were the presumed front-runners to land Howard in a potential league-altering trade.
What started as mere speculation became a reality when Howard demanded a trade in late 2011 — his preferred destination being the New Jersey Nets. Then, during the week of the 2012 trade deadline, Howard changed his tone. He decided to remain with the Magic for at least one more year (waiving the early termination option of his contract). The depleted Nets, meanwhile, were still determined to strengthen their roster in an effort to please their new star, Deron Williams. All this to say the Nets were feeling a little trigger happy and thus, the Nets mortgaged the future and traded away their first-round draft pick to Portland for an aging talent, Gerald Wallace. Wallace, a serviceable player, was a weak consolation prize following the rigors of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
3. Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics to Oklahoma City Thunder (2011)
The summer of 2007 gave the loyal Boston Celtics’ fan base a much-needed sigh of relief. In a series of astute deals, Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, assembled a “super-team” of savvy veteran stars that would immediately compete for an NBA title. Prior to these trades, the Celtics hadn’t won an NBA title in over two decades – a desolate period for a franchise accustomed to success. The “Big 3” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce joined forces and instantaneously dominated the competition. With young, complementary role players such as Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, the new-look Celtics notched the best record in the league and defeated a hot L.A. Lakers team in the 2008 NBA Finals. This same Celtic core nearly won a second championship in 2010.
Then, less than a year later, loyal Celtics fans heard the unsettling news: Their championship-caliber roster was to be dismantled. Just before the 2011 trade deadline, the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Certainly, Green’s potential and Perkins’ refusal to sign a proposed contract extension with Boston factored into this deadline trade, but the news was hard to stomach for the Boston players, coaches, and fans who stood in disbelief as their starting center journeyed west.
2. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets to New York Knicks (2011)
In the summer of 2010, when it seemed that nearly every NBA superstar was involved in a game of musical chairs and roster rearrangement, Carmelo Anthony, one of the league’s most prolific scorers, and his team, the Denver Nuggets, found themselves in the midst of their own contract mayhem. The Nuggets offered Anthony, who was under contract for at least one more season, a three-year, $65 million contract extension. As the months passed, Anthony had yet to sign the extension. Fearing that their star-player would not rejoin the team after the coming season, the Nuggets entertained trade offers. Months later, Anthony reportedly refused to sign Denver’s $65 million contract extension unless he was traded to the New York Knicks. As Anthony’s wishes to continue his career as a Knick became public knowledge, the Nuggets were left with little negotiating power as they sought to trade their four-time all-star.
The February 2011 trade deadline approached, and the Nuggets negotiated a favorable deal with the Knicks. In a trade centered around Anthony, the Knicks agreed to send to Denver four of their best players: Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, and Timofey Mozgov. As part of the deal, the Nuggets also acquired young Center, Kosta Koufos, a load of cash, and a number of draft picks. Though Anthony’s departure was inevitable, the Nuggets made the most of a potentially disastrous situation. As a result of their adept negotiations, the retooled roster surpassed expectations. The Nuggets may have lost a superstar, but they received skilled, capable players that would allow them to remain competitive in a tough Western Conference. What’s more, the Nuggets had coveted assets in the coming drafts, allowing them to add important pieces to an already balanced team.
1. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz to New Jersey Nets (2011)
The Utah Jazz started the 2010-2011 season with optimism and promise. With arguably the game’s best point guard, Deron Williams, and the league’s most respected coach, Jerry Sloan, the team was primed to make a deep run in the playoffs. Skies soon turned gray, however, on the once-pleasant Salt Lake City skyline. With rumors of Williams’ growing discontent in Utah and rumblings of an altercation between Williams and Sloan, the Jazz’s once promising season disintegrated in a matter of weeks.
On February 10, 2011, Sloan startled the basketball world and resigned from coaching after 23 years at Utah’s helm. Jazz fans, with little time to grieve the loss of their Hall-of-Fame coach, sustained another dramatic blow just two weeks later, when the Jazz announced that their all-star guard had been traded to the New Jersey Nets prior to the trade deadline. Though the Nets sent talented young forward, Derrick Favors, and former all-star guard, Devin Harris, along with draft picks and cash to the Jazz, Utah fans knew it would take years to recover from this recent deadline wreckage. With their playoff hopes buried in the rubble, the Jazz slowly emerged from the trade deadline and began walking the long, rebuilding road ahead.
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