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NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade

NBA Trade Deadline: Three weeks remain until the 2023–24 NBA trade deadline, and fans and media alike are scurrying to find out which big-name deal—if any—will make headlines this year. This gave us the idea to take a retrospective look at the last ten years and reexamine the largest and most significant transactions made before the deadline to help teams strengthen their squads, either on that day or in the days preceding it.

These ten largest transactions since 2014–15 are all actual deadline deals because they all happened within a few days of the NBA trade deadline. Because of this, even though it was by far the greatest trade-off that season, the James Harden to the Nets transaction from 2021 will not be included because it took place three weeks before the deadline.

In the past ten seasons, the NBA trade deadline has resulted in the departure of some of the greatest names and most skilled players in the NBA. Let’s examine these large-scale transactions and their implications for the league as a whole in more detail.

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade

1. Nets Trade Kevin Durant To The Phoenix Suns

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Suns Receive: Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren
  • Nets Receive: Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Juan Vaulet
  • Pacers Receive: George Hill, Jordan Nwora, Serge Ibaka
  • Bucks Receive: Jae Crowder

On February 8, 2023, NBA fans went to bed with no idea that a transaction this big was about to happen. Mat Ishbia, the new owner of the Phoenix Suns, immediately established himself with the team by acquiring superstar Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. With good cause, the transfer was hailed as the greatest blockbuster ever finished before the trade deadline the moment it was announced.

With the Nets having traded all three of Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden in the course of a single year, the move effectively put an end to the Big 3 era in Brooklyn. After playing for the Nets on the East Coast for two and a half seasons, Durant was the final player to go, returning to the West. Durant’s signing created a lot of excitement in Phoenix as he joined Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton as the “Big 4.”

Durant has participated in 41 games since joining the Suns, averaging 28.4 points per contest on 53/48/87 shooting splits. The Suns are hoping that a new Big 3 of Durant, Booker, and Bradley Beal can help them advance in 2024 after they were unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs in 2023. The Suns are seventh in the West after 40 games, trailing first place by seven games. This season, they are 22-18.

You might also be interested in reading this: NBA Midseason Awards 2023–2024 – 5 Top Prospects For Trophy

2. The 76ers acquire James Harden from the Nets.

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • 76ers Receive: James Harden, Paul Millsap
  • Nets Receive: Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, Ben Simmons, 2023 First-Round Draft Pick, 2027 First-Round Draft Pick

On February 10, 2022, the trade deadline approached, and all eyes were on the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and an unhappy James Harden of the Nets. It was no secret in the days before the deadline that Harden was done with Brooklyn and that the 76ers were his top choice. With barely hours to spare, Philadelphia was able to get away from Ben Simmons, their own displeased former first overall selection, and get Harden.

Everyone had a fresh start, and the excitement around Harden and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia even led to comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe of the Lakers. Okay, by Kendrick Perkins exclusively, but you get the idea. Harden would play for the 76ers for the following 79 games, where he would earn an assists championship in 2023 and see teammate Joel Embiid take home the MVP honours. Harden’s transfer to the Clippers in the first round of the 2023–24 NBA playoffs, however, was the result of another trade request spurred by an epic collapse in the playoffs and unsuccessful contract talks.

For their part, the Nets have seen their efforts to get Harden falter over the last two seasons. Simmons has only appeared in 48 games while wearing a Nets uniform; Drummond and Curry have gone on to other endeavours.

3. The Dallas Mavericks acquire Kyrie Irving from the Nets.

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Nets Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith
  • Mavericks Received: Kyrie Irving, Markieff Morris

It was evident that Kyrie Irving and Nets top management couldn’t agree on the star point guard’s future prior to the 2023 trade deadline. Irving’s conduct on and off the court has earned the Nets constant criticism, and he had no intention of staying in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn would trade Irving to the Mavericks three days prior to the deadline for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, and two 2029 NBA Draft selections. Irving teamed up with Luka Doncic in the Dallas backcourt while Brooklyn began the rebuilding process that led to the Durant deal a few days later.

Irving has re-signed with the franchise through 2024–25, with a $43 million player option for 2025–26, after coming to Dallas. Dallas gets off to a strong 24-18 start in 2023–24 thanks to the play of Irving and Doncic, who both missed the playoffs in 2022–23. Despite battling a heel ailment early in the season, Irving is leading Dallas into the NBA playoffs with an average of 25.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. Brooklyn has a 16–24 record and is limping through 2023–24 thus far.

4. Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis are traded by the Kings and Pacers.

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Pacers Receive: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson
  • Kings Receive: Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, 2023 Second-Round Draft Pick

Fans of both teams were equally astonished when the Kings and Pacers revealed on deadline day in 2022 that they were trading Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis. While Sabonis was the astute veteran who had grown to be a fan favourite in Indiana, Haliburton was meant to represent the Kings’ future. It turns out that everyone concerned benefited greatly from this arrangement.

Tyrese Haliburton has elevated his game since moving to Indiana, putting his exceptional playmaking and shooting on display. In addition to being within striking distance of being selected for his first All-NBA Team, Haliburton is expected to lead the Pacers to a postseason run in 2023–2024 after being named an All-Star for the first time in 2023.

In the previous season, Sabonis led the NBA in rebounds and was named an All-standout and All-NBA team member. The Kings broke their 17-year postseason curse when they partnered him with standout guard De’Aaron Fox. Sabonis has established himself as the third-best centre in the NBA with averages of 19.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game since joining the Kings. When everything is said and done, this transaction could end up being the most equitable trade in NBA history.

5. Warriors acquire Andrew Wiggins from Timberwolves

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Warriors Receive: Andrew Wiggins
  • Timberwolves Receive: D’Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman, Jacob Evans

From the outside, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ decision to let go of Andrew Wiggins the day before the 2020 trade deadline was perceived as a push. Wiggins, an agile wing defender, went to the Warriors, while D’Angelo Russell, a point guard, went to the Timberwolves.

Despite their inconsistent first two seasons, the Warriors would show in 2022 that they were the real deal. Wiggins averaged 17.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game that season, good enough to win a starting position in the All-Star Game. More significantly, Wiggins would play a key role in the Warriors’ championship run later that year, contributing not just timely shots and all-around effective play, but also excellent defensive play in the Conference and NBA Finals.

Eighteen months after winning the title, Wiggins appears to be considering leaving Golden State once more. If the Warriors had to do this transaction over again, they would do it quickly because they would know it would result in a championship.

6. The Raptors acquire Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Raptors Receive: Marc Gasol
  • Grizzlies Receive: Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright

At the trade deadline in 2019, Masai Ujiri threw all of his remaining chips in the middle of the table when the Toronto Raptors acquired veteran centre Marc Gasol. Gasol joined Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and starter centre Jonas Valanciunas in a roster that also featured two role players and a 2024 draft selection, which Ujiri gave to Memphis.

It was a surprise to many that Gasol’s arrival would be the key to the Raptors’ unlikely championship push later in the season. They would never have won the NBA without Gasol’s willingness to get dirty and take care of the little things that people overlook, even if Leonard was undoubtedly the team’s captain and top player throughout that run.

Gasol helped Toronto win their first NBA championship in franchise history during the playoffs, averaging 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. They needed every minute of his effort to win.

7. Denver Nuggets Get Aaron Gordon From The Magic

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Nuggets Receive: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
  • Magic Receive: R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris

From 2015 to the NBA trade deadline in 2021, Aaron Gordon was fading away with the Orlando Magic, save from his captivating efforts in the Slam Dunk Contest. That is until the Magic made the decision to completely rebuild and assemble an abundance of youthful talent and assets for the future. Consequently, the Magic traded the great forward to Denver for two young players who showed promise: Gary Harris and R.J. Hampton.

In his first seven games with the organisation, Denver went 7-0 as Gordon got off to a quick start. Despite dealing with injuries for the following two seasons, Gordon kept up his good play and settled into the ideal position in Denver’s frontcourt with MVP Nikola Jokic.

All of it paid off in 2023 when Gordon led the Nuggets to their first-ever NBA championship by playing outstanding defence against players like LeBron James, Anthony Edwards, and Jimmy Butler. Gordon averaged 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game throughout the playoffs, but his outstanding defence helped the team win the NBA championship.

8. The Kings Give The Pelicans Their Demarcus Cousins

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Pelicans Receive: DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi
  • Kings Receive: Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield

DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings was one of the most sought-after players during the 2017 NBA trade deadline. A sleeper club, the New Orleans Pelicans, stepped up and won the sweepstakes by acquiring Cousins just as he was practically winding up his All-Star weekend celebrations, as rumours circulated about his next destination.

The combination of Cousins with powerful big man Anthony Davis caused a stir in the NBA. The prospects were virtually limitless for the newly-formed team, including a run at the NBA title. With Cousins averaging 25.0 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game in his first 65 games with the franchise, things were going well for him and the Pelicans seemed to be legitimate contenders in a stacked Western Conference.

Unfortunately, Cousins tore his Achilles tendon 48 games into the 2018 season, ending not just his career but also New Orleans’ chances of winning a title. After the injury, Cousins would have brief moments as the star player for Golden State, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Denver, but he would never be the same.

9. The Suns Give The Celtics Isaiah Thomas in Trade

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade
  • Celtics Receive: Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, Gigi Datome
  • Suns Receive: Marcus Thornton
  • Pistons Receive: Tayshaun Prince

Not much was said about the Boston Celtics’ under-the-radar transaction for point guard Isaiah Thomas during the 2015 NBA trade deadline. While Detroit was able to bring back Tayshaun Prince for a farewell tour, the Suns acquired Marcus Thornton and a first-round draft selection, while Boston acquired a 5’9″ point guard with no notable accomplishments.

Not much was said about the Boston Celtics’ under-the-radar transaction for point guard Isaiah Thomas during the 2015 NBA trade deadline. While Detroit was able to bring back Tayshaun Prince for a farewell tour, the Suns acquired Marcus Thornton and a first-round draft selection, while Boston acquired a 5’9″ point guard with no notable accomplishments.

Like it had so many times before, during the course of the following two seasons, it became clear that Danny Ainge, general manager of the Celtics, was a genius. In addition to being selected to the All-NBA Team and finishing in the top five for MVP in 2017, Thomas would go on to have back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2016 and 2017.

In addition, while dealing with a severe hip injury and his sister’s passing, Thomas led Boston on a run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 23.3 points and dishing out 6.7 assists per game on 42.5% shooting.

Even though Thomas would be dealt for Kyrie Irving by the Celtics the very following season, his play in Boston during that period made the 2016 and 2017 seasons considerably more thrilling.

10. The Chicago Bulls Receive Nikola Vucevic in a Magical Trade

NBA Trade Deadline Deals of the Past Decade

Unlike the previous nine deals on this list, the last one does not have an influence on the league’s future or championship chances. The Orlando Magic’s transfer of Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls, however, signalled the end of an era and the beginning of their reconstruction, while Chicago was preparing for their own roster expansion.

Vucevic was leaving Orlando after nine seasons and two All-Star appearances, where he was expected to be the offensive weapon and rebounding machine at centre that the team sorely needed to go to. He has averaged 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in his three-and-a-half seasons in Chicago, but the Bulls have been nothing short of disappointing throughout this period.

More than anything else, Vucevic’s deficiencies as an inside defender with the Bulls have been brought to light. Even though the Bulls were unsuccessful, the trade brought about a new chapter in Orlando’s history as they acquired young, promising centre Wendell Crater Jr. and used one of the choices to acquire Franz Wagner, a key player.

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