With the NBA Trade Deadline fast approaching, general managers throughout the league are furiously working their phones in an effort to improve their clubs or move off some bad contracts. The trade deadline remains one of the most fluid and exciting afternoons in the NBA. Over the years, deals made on Trade Deadline day have reshaped the league and led directly to championships.
Here’s a look at the Top-10 Trade Deadline Deals of all-time.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 10: Tim Hardaway to the Heat
In 1996, Pat Riley continued his makeover of the Miami Heat into a power player in the Eastern Conference. In November of 1995, Riley traded for franchise-center piece Alonzo Mourning. Then, at the trade deadline in 1996, he stole Tim Hardaway from the Golden State Warriors. Riley landed Hardaway and Chris Gatling for Bimbo Coles and a past-his-prime Kevin Willis.
Hardaway went on to earn two All-Star selections in his five-plus seasons in Miami. He averaged 17.3 point-per-game and 7.8 assists-per-game in his time on South Beach. Arguably the best point guard in franchise history, Hardaway helped lead the Heat to the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to eventual NBA Champion Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 9: Dikembe Mutombo to the Sixers
In 2001, the Philadelphia 76ers had arguably one of the most electric players in league history in Allen Iverson. In the wake of Michael Jordan‘s retirement, the Sixers believed they had a chance at an NBA title. The Sixers went all-in for the finger-wagging, defensive-minded Dikembe Mutombo in an effort to upset the budding dynasty of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.
In the trade, the Sixers received Mutombo and Roshown McLeod from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc, Pepe Sanchez and Nazr Mohammed. The Sixers would win the Eastern Conference, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in a tightly contested seven-game series. Philadelphia, though, would lose to the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals 4-1.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 8: Kevin Johnson to the Suns
In 1988, the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the up-and-coming teams in the Eastern Conference with a solid starting point guard in Mark Price. The Cavs had a need at power forward, so they packaged rookie point guard Kevin Johnson, Tyrone Corbin, Mark West, a 1988 1st round pick, a 1988 2nd round pick and a 1989 2nd round pick in a trade deadline deal with the Phoenix Suns. In exchange, the Suns sent Cleveland Larry Nance and Mike Sanders, as well as a 1988 1st round pick.
Kevin Johnson went on to become one of the most exciting point guards of the 1990s. In his first four full seasons with the Suns, KJ averaged 21.1 points-per-game and 11.1 assists-per-game. Johnson and Charles Barkley, who arrived via trade in 1992, helped get Phoenix to the 1993 NBA Finals, where they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Although Nance was a solid rotational piece, and the first ever Slam Dunk Contest champion, to make matters worse for the Cavs, the 1988 1st round pick they sent Phoenix as part of the trade became Dan Majerle.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 7: Mark Jackson (back) to the Pacers
In the summer of 1996, Mark Jackson was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Denver Nuggets for Jalen Rose among other players. But both teams floundered in the wake of this deal. So at the trade deadline in 1997 the Pacers brought Jackson back to Indiana. The Pacers sent out Vincent Askew, Eddie Johnson and two 2nd round picks for Mark Jackson and LaSalle Thompson.
Jackson helped the Pacers become one of the primary foils for Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the late ’90s. With Jackson and Reggie Miller, the Pacers made two Eastern Conference Finals appearances and played in the 2000 NBA Finals, where they lost 4-2 to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 6: Jeff Hornacek to the Jazz
In 1994, the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jeff Hornacek, a 30-year-old former point guard, Sean Green and a 1995 2nd round pick to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Jeff Malone and a 1994 1st round pick. Hornacek was seen as a declining player at the time, but once the Jazz paired him with John Stockton and Karl Malone, Utah took off.
In seven seasons with the Jazz, Hornacek averaged 14.4 points-per-game and 4.0 assists-per-game. He made 42.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Utah won two Western Conference Championships, but lost in the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in consecutive years, 1997 and 1998.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 5: Jason Kidd (back) to the Mavericks
Jason Kidd entered the league with the Dallas Mavericks in 1994, winning Rookie of the Year honors that season. But Kidd’s first tenure in Big D didn’t end well. He was eventually shipped off to Phoenix in 1996. Kidd found his footing in the league years later with the New Jersey Nets, leading them to back-to-back NBA Finals in the early 2000s.
In 2008, Dallas acquired Kidd from New Jersey with Malik Allen and Antoine Wright in exchange for Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop, Devin Harris, Trenton Hassell, Keith Van Horn, a 2008 1st round pick and a 2010 1st round pick. Kidd played a major role in Dallas’s upset of the Miami Heat’s Big-3 in the 2011 NBA Finals.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 4: Baron Davis (but really Kyrie Irving) to the Cavaliers
In 2011, the Los Angeles Clippers wanted to move off Baron Davis‘s contract so badly, that they attached an unprotected 1st round pick to him to do so. In the wake of LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach the summer of 2010, the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in need of a franchise makeover. The Cavs shipped Jamario Moon and one-time All-Star Mo Williams to Los Angeles for Davis and the 1st round pick that would eventually become Kyrie Irving.
Davis played in 15 games for the Cavaliers. His $26 million salary over two years was eventually amnestied by the team. When the ping-pong balls came up Clips in 2011, the No. 1 overall selection landed in Cleveland. This trade paved the way for LeBron’s return to Cleveland after a pair of NBA Championships with the Miami Heat. James and Kyrie would upset the Golden State Warriors in 2016 for the first major championship in Cleveland in over 50 years.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 3: Clyde Drexler to the Rockets
In 1995, the Houston Rockets were defending NBA Champions, coming off a hard-fought seven-game series win over the New York Knicks in 1994. In 1995, the Rockets were floundering in the Western Conference, so the team brought in a Houston native son. The team made a trade deadline deal with the Portland Trailblazers, acquiring Clyde Drexler and Tracy Murray in exchange for Otis Thorpe, Marcelo Nicola and a 1995 1st round pick.
Drexler arrived in February and helped propel Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets to their second straight NBA Championship. The ’95 Rockets became the lowest-seeded team in NBA history to win a championship. They swept Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. Drexler played three-plus seasons in Houston and made two All-Star teams. He averaged 19 points-per-game, 6.1 rebounds-per-game and 5.4 assists-per-game
Trade Deadline Deal No. 2: Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons
Rasheed Wallace was traded twice in a matter of 10 days in 2004. He went first from the Portland Trailblazers to the Atlanta Hawks as part of a package for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Wallace suited up for one game in Atlanta before getting flipped to the Pistons as part of a three-team trade. Wallace landed in Detroit with Mike James. The Hawks landed Chris Mills, Zeljko Rebraca, Bobby Sura and a 2004 1st round pick that would become Josh Smith. The Boston Celtics helped facilitate this deal and acquired Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter and a 2004 1st round pick that would become Tony Allen.
Wallace was the final piece of the puzzle in Detroit. He helped unlock the stifling defense that would dominate the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals. Soon after Detroit’s upset, the Lakers ended the Kobe/Shaq dynasty by trading O’Neal to the Miami Heat.
Trade Deadline Deal No. 1: Pau Gasol to the Lakers
The top trade deadline deal came a few days before the actual deadline itself. This trade can be directly linked to three Western Conference Championships and two NBA titles. In 2008, the Lakers shook up their roster by sending Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol and two 1st rounds picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol and a 2nd round pick.
Gasol helped spur the Lakers passed San Antonio to win their first conference title since trading away Shaquille O’Neal four years earlier. The Lakers would lose in the 2008 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, but would win the next two league titles with Kobe and Pau. The emergence of Marc Gasol prevents this trade from being a completely one-sided coup for LA, but it certainly remains the most effective trade deadline deal in NBA history.