A draft pick is an asset and we will get to these teams to try and replenish their assets this Thursday at the 2021 NBA Draft. Teams will utilize their picks to try and find the next star. There might be other teams that bump up the excitement by pulling off trades on draft night.
Conducting trades is all part of the business. In the past, some teams have capitalized on young prospects, while others have regretted the decision even 50 years later. As draft day approaches, teams will try to not repeat some of the mistakes seen in history. These ten draft night trades were the biggest of all time.
Rajon Rondo - 2006 NBA Draft
Suns Receive: 2007 First-Round Pick (used on Rudy Fernandez)
Celtics Receive: Rajon Rondo
The Suns had the No. 21 pick in the draft and used it to select Kentucky point guard Rajon Rondo. Phoenix traded Rondo to Boston for cash and a first-round pick, which was eventually used on Rudy Fernandez. However, the pick was sent to Portland for more cash. When all said it was done, Rondo was traded to get some money.
Rondo could have been the backup to Steve Nash at the time. Rondo, a two-time champion, is one of the best playoff performers in the modern era. He was the starting point guard for the Celtics’ championship team in 2008. Was the money worth it?
LaMarcus Aldridge - 2006 NBA Draft
Bulls Receive: Tyrus Thomas (Draft Rights), Viktor Khyrapa
Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge
In this trade, Chicago should have stuck to their gut. Instead of having Aldridge, who averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in nine seasons, the Bulls had Thomas, who played for the team just 2.5 seasons before being traded to the Hornets. Aldridge made four All-Star appearances in Portland, seven for his career, and was a respected veteran.
From afar, Chicago had to watch the combination of Damian Lillard and Aldridge succeed. The team could have had Derrick Rose and Aldridge lead the Bulls. Combine that with Joakim Noah, this team would have been stacked.
Steve Nash - 1998 NBA Draft
Suns Receive: Pat Garrity, Martin Muurspp, Bubba Wells, 1999 First-Round Pick (used on Shawn Marion)
Mavericks Receive: Steve Nash
In 1998, the Mavericks sent quite a haul to the Suns in exchange for Nash. Under Don Nelson, Nash developed into one of the best point guards in the league. He formed a deadly trio with Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. With Nash leading the offense, it brought out the best of Nowitzki’s game.
This trade almost helped the Sun's out more than the Mavericks. With the pick of Shawn Marion, as well as Nash’s return to Phoenix, the pair led the Suns to the league’s best offense over consecutive seasons. That also included Nash winning back-to-back MVPs.
10. Chris Webber - 1993 NBA Draft
Magic Receive: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway (Draft Rights), Three Future First-Round Picks
Warriors Receive: Chris Webber
Despite being traded No. 1 overall by the Magic, the Warrior swept in and acquired his draft rights. It came at a cost with Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks, which the Magic didn’t even keep. Those three picks were Tod Fuller (1996 NBA Draft), Vince Carter (1998 NBA Draft), and Mike Miller (2000 NBA Draft).
While Hardaway fit perfectly next to Shaquille O’Neal, which included a trip to the NBA Finals, Webber didn’t have his best years until he left Golden State, then Washington Bullets and joined the Sacramento Kings. Neither player won a championship, but both are considered to be some of the best players in the league in their primes.
9. Jayson Tatum - 2017 NBA Draft
76ers Receive: Markelle Fultz
Celtics Receive: Jayson Tatum (Draft Rights), 2019 First-Round Pick (used on Romeo Langford)
This trade delayed “the process” in Philadelphia, while it gave an accelerated progression to the Celtics. Tatum has drafted No. 3 overall thanks to a high draft pick from the Nets due to the Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett trade. Tatum has grown into one of the best young stars of the league. He also was a key contributor for the Celtics, who made two Conference Finals.
As for Fultz, he is starting to look like one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Fultz bottomed out due to injury and shooting woes. Now, he is rehabbing an injury with the Magic. His numbers are nowhere near Tatums. Had Philly not completed this trade and kept Tatum, we might be talking about the 76ers in the NBA Finals this season.
8. Luka Doncic - 2018 NBA Draft
Hawks Receive: Trae Young (Draft Rights), 2019 First-Round Pick (used on Cam Reddish)
Mavericks Receive: Luka Doncic
To the modern fan, this might be a toss-up of who you would rather have. Both players are All-Stars, while the Mavericks got their franchise player, while the Hawks got their franchise point guard.
Doncic is already a top-10 player in the league. Doncic is coming off a season where he averaged 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. Meanwhile, Young led the Hawks to the Conference Finals and averaged 25.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 9.4 assists. There is a lot of star power in this trade, which is why it’s even bigger than it happened on draft night.
7. Ray Allen - 2007 NBA Draft
SuperSonics Receive: Jeff Green (Draft Rights), Delonte West, Wally Szcerbiak, 2008 Second Round Pick (used on Trent Plaisted)
Celtics Receive: Ray Allen, Glen Davis (Draft Rights)
The Celtics were working hard to compete for an NBA championship this offseason. The Celtics had Paul Pierce and had made a trade for Kevin Garnett. On draft night, the team sent their draft rights to Georgetown star Jeff Green, as well as two other veterans for sharpshooter Ray Allen.
Included in the trade was “Big Baby” Glen Davis, who was a critical part of the bench for the 2008 NBA champions. With Pierce, Garnett, and Allen leading the way, the Celtics made the NBA Finals two times and enjoyed a four-year contention window before Allen split from the team to join a superteam in Miami.
6. Dirk Nowitzki - 1998 NBA Draft
Bucks Receive: Robert Traylor
Mavericks Receive: Dirk Nowitzki, Pat Garrity
What a draft night in 1998 for Dallas. Not only did the Mavericks pull off a trade for Steve Nash, but the team also swindled the Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki. The Bucks were shortsighted in this trade. They wanted an NBA-ready big man, but Nowitzki proved to be the greatest Maverick of all time, where he eventually set franchise records for points, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Nowitzki initially struggled his rookie season after feeling the difference between the NBA and international play. However, once he got settled in, he became an MVP and led the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006 and 2011. In 2011, he captured Finals MVP and helped the team win their first ever championship.
5. Kevin McHale - 1980 NBA Draft
Warriors Receive: Joe Barry Carroll, Rickey Brown
Celtics Receive: Kevin McHale (Draft Rights), Robert Parish
Red Auerbach in the history books when he completed this deal. Auerback traded the No. 1 and No. 13 overall selections in the draft to the Warriors for the No. 3 overall pick, which was used to take Kevin McHale. Parish, who was a four-time champion, and nine-time All-Star was also included in the deal.
McHale, a three-time champion, six-time All-Defensive selection, and two-time Sixth Man of the Year, was a huge part of the 1980s Celtics success. Meanwhile, the Warriors took Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown. Carroll made one All-Star team, no championships, while Brown played in the NBA from only 1980 to 1985.
4. Kawhi Leonard - 2011 NBA Draft
Pacers Receive: George Hill
Spurs Receive: Kawhi Leonard (Draft Rights), Davis Bertans, Erazem Lorbek
The Pacers were ready to contend. With Paul George fresh off a stellar sophomore year, the Pacers acquired their point guard of choice in George Hill. With Hill in the fold, George, David West, Lance Stephenson, and Roy Hibbert led the Pacers to a pair of Conference Finals appearances before the team was beaten by the Miami Heat in consecutive seasons.
Had the Pacers not made this trade, we might have been talking about the Pacers, not the Heat in 2012 and 2013. With the core of Leonard and George, it might have been enough to take down the Heat. Instead, Leonard eventually took down the Heat and won a Finals MVP in 2014. As for the Pacers, they are still trying to make the NBA Finals for the first time since the days of Reggie Miller.
3. Scottie Pippen - 1987 NBA Draft
Supersonics Receive: Olden Polynice (Draft Rights), 1988 Second-Round Pick (used on Sylvester Gray), option to exchange 1988 or 1989 First-Round Pick, top-three protected (B.J. Armstrong)
Bulls Receive: Scottie Pippen (Draft Rights), 1989 First-Round Pick (used on Jeff Sanders)
If the Bulls don’t make this trade, does Michael Jordan win six championships? In reality, it’s a fair question to ask. In 1988, 1989, and 1990, the Detroit Pistons were the superior team and were the franchise to knock out Jordan’s Bulls. However, once Pippen developed, he was a future Hall of Fame small forward that paired with Jordan to win six championships. To some, Pippen was so special that he belongs in the all-time starting five.
The Supersonics receive Olynice, who ended up having a strong 15-year career in the NBA, but nothing compares to six championships. Also, Armstrong never played a single game for Seattle and won three championships as a bench piece for the Bulls.
2. Kobe Bryant - 1996 NBA Draft
Hornets Receive: Vlade Divac
Lakers Receive: Kobe Bryant
Would the Hornets have won five championships in Charlotte had Kobe Bryant stayed? That is up for debate, but this remains one of the most iconic trades of all time. The Hornets had no intention of keeping Bryant because he was not in their future plans. Instead, they traded for Divac, who averaged 12.2 points and 8.5 rebounds the season before.
Bryant was an unproven player out of high school, so who would have thought he would have turned into a top-5 player of all time? In the end, his work ethic was second to none. Bryant is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time and headlined a tandem with Shaq for the league's last three-peat. As for Divac, he lasted just two seasons for Charlotte.
1. Bill Russell - 1956 NBA Draft
Hawks Receive: Cliff Hagan, Ed Macauley
Celtics Receive: Bill Russell (Draft Rights)
The Celtics won 11 championships with Bill Russell. Russell could not be stopped offensively and could stop anyone defensively. That right there is enough to award this draft night trade as the biggest of all time. While it’s a team sport, winning 11 championships in 13 years is saying something. The Celtics are tied with the Lakers for the most championships of all time with 17 with this era being the highlight of the franchise.
Meanwhile, the trade wasn’t all geared towards the Celtics. Acquiring Hagan was huge for the Hawks. He led the team to the 1958 NBA championship, made the All-Star team six times, and was a Hall of Famer. The amount of ring power associated with this trade is huge. Who knows the next time we will see something like this?