Sunday's stunning trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans is just the latest example of a woefully lopsided NBA deal. But as the basketball world rips the Kings for the move, they are far from the only organization that has gotten the short end of a trade. Not every swap has a clear winner and loser, but these transactions clearly benefited one team over another, sometimes shifting the balance of power in the league for years to come.
The Hawks shipped Kevin Willis and a first-round pick to Miami for Steve Smith and Grant Long in 1994. It wasn’t a blockbuster move, but it gave the Hawks their top scoring option on a perennial playoff team. Smith averaged 18.6 points during his five years in Atlanta. Long provided some size in the frontcourt and averaged double figures in scoring during his two years with the Hawks.
Honorable mention: Hawks acquire Mookie Blaylock and Roy Hinson from Nets for Rumeal Rominson.
When the player you acquired helped the franchise win 11 titles, that’s tough to beat. The Celtics picked up Bill Russell from the St. Louis Hawks for All-Star Ed Macauley and the draft rights to Cliff Hagan in the 1956 draft. It might have appeared to be a hefty price to pay for an NBA unknown, but Red Auerbach loved what he saw from Russell in college. The big man became the centerpiece of the Celtics’ dynasty during the '50s and '60s and is considered one of the greatest winners in sports history.
Honorable mention: Celtics acquire Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale for Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown in a draft-day deal.
The then-New Jersey Nets found their floor general in Jason Kidd, whom they acquired from the Suns for Stephon Marbury in 2001. The move paid immediate dividends for New Jersey, which reached the NBA Finals in each of Kidd’s first two years with the team. The do-everything point guard fueled New Jersey’s up-tempo offense and transformed the franchise into a title contender.
Honorable mention: Nets acquire Vince Carter from Raptors for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first-round picks in 2004.
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Jason Richardson provided the then-Charlotte Bobcats an offensive weapon when the club landed the explosive swingman from the Warriors for Brandon Wright in a 2007 draft-day trade. Richardson spent only two seasons in Charlotte but averaged 21.4 points, his highest average with any team during his 13-year career.
Honorable mention: Bobcats acquire first-round pick (Emeka Okafor) from the Clippers for two first-round picks in 2004.
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The Bulls landed Michael Jordan’s runningmate for the foreseeable future in 1987, when they traded Olden Polynice to the Sonics for Scottie Pippen during the draft. One of the 50 greatest players of all time, Pippen teamed with Jordan to form the best wing combination in NBA history. Pippen’s all-around game, especially his dogged defense, helped the Bulls three-peat twice.
Honorable mention: Bulls acquire Dennis Rodman from Spurs for Will Purdue in 1995.
Cavs fans should thank Mo Williams every day for Kyrie Irving. Cleveland traded Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round pick that eventually became the No. 1 pick. So why would LA make the move? The Clippers wanted to rid themselves of Davis’ contract, but they had no idea that the pick – which had the eighth-best odds to win the lottery – would become the top selection. Obviously, Irving’s presence is one of the main reasons the Cavs lured LeBron James back to Cleveland and traded for Kevin Love. Talk about a franchise-altering move.
Honorable mention: Cavs acquire 1986 first-round pick (Brad Daugherty) from the 76ers for Roy Hinson.
In yet another draft-day steal, the Mavericks traded Robert Traylor to the Bucks for a then-virtual unknown from Germany named Dirk Nowitzki in 1998. Nowitzki was a mold-breaking talent – a 7-footer who could shoot from beyond the arc and beat his man off the dribble. Dirk eventually became the face of the Mavericks, leading the franchise to its only NBA title.
Honorable mention: Mavs acquire Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca from the Bobcats for Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier and Eduardo Najera.
The Nuggets got the best years of one of the best scorers in NBA history in a 1980 trade that sent forward George McGinnis to the Pacers for Alex English and a first-round pick. English went on to average nearly 26 points a game during his 11 years with the Nuggets, winning one scoring title during his Hall of Fame career.
Honorable mention: Nuggets acquire Fat Lever, Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper and two picks from Blazers for Kiki Vandeweghe.
NBAE/Getty ImagesBrian Drake
The Pistons were in what seemed to be a no-win situation. Grant Hill had agreed to leave for the Magic in a sign-and-trade deal in 2000. Detroit didn’t have much leverage but landed a little-known undersized center named Ben Wallace, who would become a key member of a Pistons team that reached the conference finals six consecutive years. The four-time Defensive Player of the Year led the league in rebounding twice and helped the Pistons win the 2004 NBA title.
Honorable mention: Pistons acquire Mark Aguirre from the Mavericks for Adrian Dantley and future first-rounder.
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Golden State Warriors
Before the Splash Bros. reigned supreme, the Warriors put together an upstart squad that revolved around Baron Davis (5). Golden State acquired the explosive guard from the then-New Orleans Hornets for Speedy Claxton, Dale Davis and money in 2005. Davis helped turn around the struggling franchise and led the eight-seeded Warriors past the top-seeded Mavericks during a thrilling 2007 playoff run that re-energized the Bay Area fans.
Honorable mention: Warriors acquire Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell from the Pacers for Ike Diogu, Mike Dunleavey, Keith McLeod and Troy Murphy.
James Harden’s rise to superstardom might never had occurred if not for this 2012 trade. The Rockets sent Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and two future first-rounders and a second-rounder to the Thunder for Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward. Harden went from star sixth man on a loaded OKC team to the No. 1 option on an upstart Rockets squad. The Beard took full advantage, becoming one of the best all-around guards in the league and the centerpiece of Houston’s franchise.
Honorable mention: Rockets acquire Moses Malone from the Buffalo Braves for Wesley Cox and Michael Ray Richardson.
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A season after losing in the NBA Finals, the Pacers revamped their roster, bringing in young, up-and-coming players. And Jermaine O’Neal was the ultimate building block. Indiana traded Dale Davis to the Blazers for O’Neal and Joe Kleine in 2000. The 22-year-old O’Neal would go on to average 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in Indiana, helping the Pacers reached the playoffs six of his eight years there.
Honorable mention: Pacers acquire Mark Jackson and Greg Minor from Clippers for Pooh Richardson, Malik Sealy and Eric Piatkowski.
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Lob City was born the day the Clippers acquired Chris Paul from the then-New Orleans Hornets for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round pick in 2011. The move, which immediately transformed the Clippers into a title contender, came a week after the NBA vetoed a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. The Clippers have made the playoffs in each of Paul’s first five years with the team but have yet to reach a conference finals, thanks in part to injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.
Honorable mention: Clippers acquire Elton Brand from the Bulls for Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner.
The Lakers have been on the winning side of a number of notable trades, but landing Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac in a draft-day deal with the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 beats them all. Then-Lakers GM Jerry West was enamored of the 17-year-old high school guard and believed he would be a superstar. The rest is history. Bryant finished his career with five titles and leads the illustrious franchise in a number of categories, including points, minutes played and steals. And the Lakers got all 20 years of Kobe’s spectacular career thanks to this draft-day move.
Honorable mention: Lakers acquire Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley from Bucks for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman.
At first glance, this Grizzlies looked like they got swindled in this trade. How could you not think that was the case in 2008, when Memphis dealt Pau Gasol and a second-round pick to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and Pau’s younger brother Marc. The deal sent shockwaves through the league, with many claiming it was incredibly lopsided in the Lakers’ favor. And early on, it was. The Lakers won two titles with Pau, but Marc emerged as one of the best all-around centers in the game and the best player on a gritty Grizzlies squad.
Honorable mention: Grizzlies acquire Pau Gasol from Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Raheem.
The Lakers’ dysfunction became the Heat’s good fortune. The drama between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had become too much for the Lakers, who dealt O’Neal to the Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Bryant Grant and a future first-round pick in 2004. Miami definitely paid a price for Shaq – giving up a 25-year-old Odom and a rising star in Butler – but it all paid off in 2006, when O’Neal and a young Dwyane Wade captured the franchise’s first title.
Honorable mention: Heat acquire Tim Hardaway and Chris Gatling from Warriors for Kevin Willis and Bimbo Coles.
Oscar Robertson wasn’t in his prime when the Bucks acquired the all-time great, but the Big O was still the Big O. The Bucks traded Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk to the Cincinnati Royals for Robertson in 1970. And though he didn’t put up his eye-popping triple-double numbers in Milwaukee, he did do something he never did in Cincinnati – win a title. Pairing Robertson with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks won the 1971 crown in the Big O’s first season in Milwaukee.
Honorable mention: Bucks acquire Ray Allen and Rasho Nesterovic from the Timberwolves for Stephon Marbury.
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Not much has gone right for the Timberwolves in the post-Kevin Garnett era, but their draft-day trade for Kevin Love was definitely a bright spot. In 2008, Minnesota dealt O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner to the Grizzlies for Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins. Love might not have made a huge difference in the standings, but his ability to stuff a stat sheet with the Timberwolves was almost unmatched. Love became the franchise’s go-to player for six years, mixing an inside game and outside shot while being a voracious rebounder.
Honorable mention: Timberwolves acquire Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell and Ervin Johnson from the Knicks for Joe Smith and Terrell Brandon in a four-team trade.
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New Orleans Pelicans
The ink hasn't officially dried on this one, but pairing DeMarcus Cousins with Anthony Davis is as big as a move this league has seen in years. The Pelicans sent Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a future first-round and a future second-round pick in the reported deal for Cousins, who is one of the best big men in the league but also has clashed with coaches and the front office. Now, the Pelicans have to hope they can re-sign Cousins to a long-term deal.
Honorable mention: Then-Hornets acquire Tyson Chandler from the Bulls for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith.
New York Knicks
Forming one of the best backcourts in NBA history, the Knicks dealt Dave Stallworth, Mike Riordan and cash to the Baltimore Bullets for Earl Monroe in 1971. Two years after winning the title, New York reached the Finals in Monroe’s first season. And though the Knicks didn’t win it in 1972, they claimed the 1973 crown – a title the franchise has yet to replicate.
Honorable mention: Knicks acquire Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman from the Nuggets for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The then-SuperSonics made what seemed to be an innocuous move, trading Alton Lister to the Warriors for a first-round pick. As luck would have it for Seattle fans, that pick eventually became the No. 2 selection in the 1990 draft that netted Gary Payton. The 11-time All-Star led the Sonics to a Finals appearance in 1996 and teamed with Shawn Kemp to form one of the most devastating alley-oop combos in NBA history.
Honorable mention: Sonics acquire Lenny Wilkins from the Hawks for Walt Hazzard.
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The Magic hit the lottery in back-to-back years, selecting Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 and then getting the top pick in 1993. The Magic took the best player in that class – Chris Webber – but instead of forming a Twin Towers frontcourt, Orlando traded Webber to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first-rounders. Hardaway and Shaq created a dynamic young tandem that powered the Magic to the 1995 Finals, which they lost to the Rockets in a stunning sweep. Before knee injuries curtailed his career, Hardaway was an explosive guard who could do it all.
Honorable mention: Magic acquire Arron Afflalo, Nik Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and three first-rounders from Lakers for Dwight Howard.
NBAE/Getty ImagesBill Baptist
The 76ers took advantage of the cash-strapped Nets in 1976, paying $3 million to acquire Julius Erving. Dr. J was an All-Star in each of his 11 years with the 76ers and led Philly to four Finals appearances and won his lone NBA title in 1983. It was easily the best money the 76ers ever spent as Erving became an icon in Philly thanks to his flair for the spectacular.
Honorable mention: 76ers acquire Moses Malone from Rockets for Caldwell Jones and a first-round pick.
Charles Barkley had worn out his welcome in Philly, and the Suns were the benefactors of the fallout. In the summer of 1992, Phoenix traded Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang for the volatile power forward. Sir Charles immediately became the Suns’ go-to player and he delivered, leading Phoenix to the 1993 NBA Finals, which it eventually lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Barkley was an All-Star in each of his four seasons with the Suns and won his only MVP with the franchise.
Honorable mention: Suns acquire Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin and two draft picks from Cleveland for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first-round pick.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers pulled off one of the best draft-day trades in recent memory in 2006, when they sent Viktor Khryapa and Tyrus Thomas to the Bulls for LaMarcus Aldridge and a second-round pick. Aldridge turned into one of the NBA's better frontcourt offensive options, averaging 19.1 points and 8.3 rebounds during his nine years with the Blazers.
Honorable mention: Blazers acquire a first-round pick (Maurice Lucas) from the Hawks for Geoff Petrie and Steve Hawes.
The Kings’ fortunes dramatically changed when they landed Chris Webber from the Wizards for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe in 1998. The move helped Sacramento go from laughingstock to on the verge of a championship. Webber powered the Kings to a franchise-record 61 wins in 2001-02 and lost in seven games to the Lakers in one of the greatest conference finals in NBA history.
Honorable mention: Kings acquire Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy from the Raptors for John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.
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San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs’ transition from Tim Duncan to Kawhi Leonard would never have occurred if not for their 2011 draft-night trade, in which they acquired Leonard, Davis Bertans and Erazem Lorbek for George Hill. Leonard has become one of the best two-way players in the game. The 25-year-old has improved offensively each season and is averaging a career-high 25.9 points this season, helping the Spurs maintain their 20-year reign of success.
Honorable mention: Spurs acquire Artis Gilmore for Dave Corzine and Mark Olberding.
How often do you get a chance to trade for someone who’s half man and half amazing? The Raptors sent Antawn Jamison to the Warriors for Vince Carter and cash on draft day in 1998. Toronto had its franchise player, and Carter put the Raptors on the map thanks to his gravity-defying dunks and offensive firepower. Carter was spectacular in his seven-plus years in Toronto and helped the franchise transform from former expansion team to playoff contender.
Honorable mention: Raptors acquire Kyle Lowry from the Rockets for a first-round pick and Gary Forbes.
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The then-New Orleans Jazz rolled the dice in 1979, when they dealt Spencer Haywood to the Lakers for Adrian Dantley. The deal couldn’t have been better for the Jazz, who saw Dantley make an immediate impact for the franchise. He topped 30 points per game four times and he won two scoring titles. Dantley averaged nearly 30 points per game during his seven seasons with the Jazz.
Honorable mention: Jazz acquire Jeff Hornacek, Sean Green and a second-round pick from the 76ers for Jeff Malone and a first-round pick.
The then-Bullets traded Jack Marin to the Rockets for Elvin Hayes, a stunning move considering Hayes was an All-Star each of his first four seasons in the league before the deal. Hayes didn’t slow down after the move, averaging 21.3 points and 12.7 rebounds during his nine years with the Bullets that included a championship in 1978.
Honorable mention: Wizards acquire Caron Butler and Chucky Hayes from the Lakers for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.