Idiots Guide: Worst NBA Trades of All-Time

In most team sports, a bad trade can set a franchise back a few years. In the NBA a lopsided trade can set a franchise back a decade or more. In some cases franchises never fully recover. Conversely, a teams fortune can change instantly if they are the beneficiary of a favorable trade. Ask the Los Angeles Lakers about what I speak. This list is dominated by trades involving the white, purple and gold team from LaLa land. Enjoy the ride.

#8. Dirk Nowitzki  / Traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert Traylor. (1998)  

Dirk Nowitzki (L) of the Dallas Mavericks works to

With the 9th pick in the 1998 NBA Draft the Milwaukee Bucks picked up a 7 foot power forward/center from Germany with skinny legs. With a last name that was strange to pronounce, and a background that consisted of grainy european video. Better still, he was drafted ahead of Paul Pierce, the highly touted player out of Kansas. Believing that Dirk didn’t have an NBA ready body, the Bucks traded for Robert Traylor, an overweight center out of Michigan. The Dallas Maverick’s received a future Hall of Fame talent. Milwaukee passed on Paul Pierce, and traded Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas. Unless the Bucks were taking notes from the Portland Trailblazers, they couldn’t screw up a draft better than that.

#7. Charles Barkley / Traded to the Phoenix Suns for a bag of potato chips. (1992) 


Perhaps this trade (Barkley wanted out of Philly) wouldn’t have been as egregious if the Sixers had gotten at least ONE future draft pick. They did not. What did they receive in return for future Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley?  Some guy named Tim Perry, an other side of his prime Jeff Hornacek,  and someone named Andrew Lang. True story.

#6. Scottie Pippen / Traded by Seattle for Olden Polynice.  (1987) 


Another draft day nightmare trade. The then Seattle Super Sonics decided to trade Scottie Pippen who would go on to be named one of the 50 greatest players of all-time, for Olden Polynice. To be fair Polynice would go on to have a long NBA career playing 17 seasons, however Pippen went on to win 6 World Titles, in addition to being an all-time great.

#5.  James Worthy / Cleveland traded Worthy’s 1st round pick for Chad Kinch. (1980)   

James Worthy

The Los Angeles Lakers have made an art form out of fleecing NBA franchises of their talent for what would translate into nickels, hell, pennies on the dollar. It’s the L.A. ‘Mind Trick’, and teams have fallen for it time and again. In this case the Cleveland Cavaliers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to hang their future hats on Don Ford, and traded away their #1 pick for a man named Chad Kinch. Two million years from now, that decision will  still make absolute zero sense by any stretch of the imagination.

#4. Kobe Bryant / Traded by the Charlotte Hornets for  Vlade Divac. (1996) 

Kobe Charlotte

It’s hard not to laugh at this one. They almost had it made. With the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, Charlotte had Kobe Bryant drafted, healthy, and not bothering anyone. But they couldn’t leave well enough alone. Feeling that they needed a ‘big man’ to take them to the title, they fell for the L.A. ‘Mind Trick’ and sent a gift wrapped Kobe Bryant to the City of Angels. In exchange for a decent, but never great Vlade Divac. Kobe of course went on have a lock 1st ballot Hall of Fame career that ends this season (2015-16). Oy Vey!

#3. Wilt Chamberlain / Traded by Philadelphia for 3 Ambrosia salads. (1968)

wilt-chamberlain lakers

It could be argued that at the time, Wilt Chamberlin was nearing the twilight of his career. With that being said, you just don’t trade a transcendent, once in a generation talent for essentially 3 journeymen named Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark, and Darrall Imhoff. Talk about running through a stop sign. Especially when Wilt had enough in the tank to lead the Lakers to their first of many NBA titles. #Mindboggling.

#2. Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson / Traded by New Orleans for Gail Goodrich. (1979) 

magic johnson

The New Orleans Jazz made many moves prior to the 1979 NBA Draft. Among them was trading their draft pick with Magic Johnson’s name on it to the Lakers, while the Lakers sent them Gail Goodrich, and two guys named Essie Hollis and Jack Givens. Remember that L.A. ‘Mind Trick’ I keep mentioning? This is a prime example. It’s basically not worth the typeset to explain all the ways in which this trade was bananas. Lakers win, again.

#1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar / Traded by the Milwaukee Bucks for a pan of Lasagna. (1975) 

Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks, Historical, 3/1/70

For reasons that are as quixotic as the search for Aliens on earth, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Lew Alcinder (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) in 1975 for four players that history has forgotten, if in fact it ever knew them at all. Allow me to introduce Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters. It’s alright if you have no idea who these men are/were. Nobody does. By the way, Kareem went on to lead the Lakers (Yes, they did it again) to 5 World Titles, giving him 6 World Titles overall. One of the greatest ever.

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