NBA Blockbuster Trades That Never Happened

By: Kevin Sinatra

As sports fans, oftentimes the off-season can be just as interesting and action-packed as the actual season. With the draft, free agency signings, and most importantly, trades, our favorite teams can often be impacted without even having to play. In this article we will discuss some of the biggest NBA Blockbuster Trades That Never Happened

6. Charles Barkley to the Lakers (1992)

Throughout his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Charles Barkley was definitely not the easiest player to deal with. Whether it was getting thrown out of games, receiving technical fouls on the court, or expressing his opinions to the media off the court, around 1991 most basketball fans could see Barkely’s time with the 76ers coming to an end. Yet, with all that, Barkely was still a premiere superstar that many teams had interest in and a dominant force on the court. The end was more realistic as rumors that a trade had been agreed on between the 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers had started to generate.  Through this trade, Philadelphia would ship Barkely and Ron Anderson to L.A. and in return, acquire James Worthy and Elden Campbell. The trade was pretty much finalized to the point where Barkely’s agent had called him that morning, bringing the news that he had been traded to the Lakers. After going out for celebratory drinks, Barkely was later disappointed with the news that Philly had ended up backing out of the trade. Barkely later went on to be traded to the Phoenix Suns, where he went on to win MVP in 1993 and led the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals. To this day, many fans contemplate how different Barkely’s legacy would have been had he ended up in Los Angeles. 

5. Tracy McGrady to 76ers (1999)

After only a couple of seasons in the NBA, two young stars were starting to emerge in Tracy McGrady, of the Toronto Raptors, and Larry Hughes, of the Philadelphia 76ers. Although Larry Hughes was the better player at the time, in most basketball fans’ eyes, Tracy McGrady was destined for a better career and showed enormously more upside in his game. However, Glen Grunwald didn’t see it that way. In 1999 trade talks had heated up between the Raptors and 76ers; a trade that would send Larry hughes to Toronto in exchange for Tracy McGrady AND a Philly first-round pick, in which Toronto threw in as a gift to the Sixers for “all of their troubles too”. Although this trade could have eventually gone down as one of the most illogical in NBA History, luckily for Glenwald’s reputation the trade never happened. Many basketball fans speculate that the pairing of T-Mac and Allen Iverson in Philly would have eventually led to a championship. 

4. Kevin Garnett to Suns (2007)

A trade that most basketball fans never knew about…

After many dominating years as arguably the league’s most elite forward, while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett was looking for a new home. Finishing 30-52 during the 2006-2007 season, the hopes of creating a championship culture in Minnesota were fading away. Being such a dominating defender and elite scorer, many teams were interested in Garnett with Phoenix as the frontrunner. After reaching a deal with the Suns, the Timberwolves agreed to send Garnett to Phoenix in a three team trade. Among Garnett joining Phoenix, the trade would’ve also sent Amar’e Stoudemire to Atlanta, Shawn Marion to the Celtics, with Minnesota acquiring Boston’s 2007 first-round pick. After Shawn Marion’s contract demands, it allowed him to pretty much deny the trade, resulting in KG joining forces with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Boston. We all know what happens from there.

3. Chris Paul to Lakers (2011)

Easily one of the most controversial moments in NBA History, many speculate this could have changed the current status of the NBA as we know it. 

After entering the league in 2005, and having 6 seasons as one of the league's best point guards, Chris Paul wanted out of New Orleans to play for a legitimate contender. This was when conversations sparked between the Lakers and Hornets. Eventually reaching a 3-way deal with the Lakers and Rockets, the Hornets agreed to ship Chris Paul to the LA in return for Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and some picks. Also through this trade, Houston would acquire Lakers’ Center Pau Gasol. At the time this trade was an absolute blockbuster, as Paul would be joining one of the greatest players to ever play the game, in Kobe Bryant, potentially creating one of the best backcourts the league had ever seen. After analysis, NBA Commissioner David Stern had vetoed the trade for “basketball purposes," explaining that the trade was “not fair compensation.” The vetoing of this trade led to controversy, which broke out across the entire league and sports world, targeting David Stern as “stopping Kobe from getting his 6th ring” and many other accusations. People speculate that the Lakers with CP3 would have won a ring, I would have to disagree due to the lack of depth the Lakers had at the time. With Odom and Gasol being such big contributors to the Lakers’ success in the previous years, it is a stretch to imagine that Paul would have been able to carry such a heavy load. 

2. Kobe Bryant to Detroit or Chicago (2007)

Although Kobe is one of the best Lakers ever, and widely appreciated for only playing for one organization his entire career, this wasn’t always the case.

In 2007, a few years after what some would call “Post-Shaq Depression,” it was no secret

that the Lakers were on a decline, giving Kobe no option but to demand a trade, which would ultimately grant him the chance to play for a championship contender once again. Surprisingly, the Lakers did just that. After shopping around, the Lakers had eventually narrowed down deals with two teams, the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. In the deal with the Pistons, LA would send Kobe to Detroit in return for Richard “RIP” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and some draft picks. Now although many may think to themselves that RIP and Prince were a crucial part of the Pistons’ success at the time, keep in mind we are talking about prime Kobe Bryant here. After conversations with the front office, Kobe had pretty much turned down the trade, commenting that he did not want to play for Detroit.

Therefore, with this trade now about as good as none, next up was Chicago. At the time Chicago had offered the Lakers a few different packages, including players such as Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah and many other valuable Bulls’ pieces, but ultimately, all of these packages included Luol Deng. At the time, Deng was arguably the Bulls’ most valuable piece, and the one player LA wanted in a return package for Kobe. Wanting to play with Deng, Kobe was not happy about going to Chicago if Deng was to be traded. This eventually caused the trade to fall through as Kobe explained that he would not play in Chicago without another piece. Had Kobe been traded to Chicago, who knows if he would have ever won rings number 4 and 5. 

1. Scottie Pippen to Sonics (1994)

What would have arguably been the most influential trade in league history, in 1994 the Chicago Bulls were going to trade Scottie Pippen.

Being one of the most dominant team’s the league had ever seen, the Chicago Bulls were the NBA in the 1990s. Dominating the league and being the first team to ever 3-peat (1991, 1992, 1993), there was no secret that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were amongst the best, if not the best, duo to ever play the game. After Jordan’s retirement, in order to pursue his professional baseball career, the Bulls started looking in other directions. With the mindset that Jordan was done for good, the Bulls were trying to rebuild, and to do so they would have to get rid of some valuable assets, one being the Bulls’ now best player, Scottie Pippen. After having a deal in place with the Seattle Sonics, Chicago had agreed to trade Pippen in return for All-Star Small Forward Shawn Kemp and two-time Sixth Man of the Year, Ricky Pierce. Now at the time, there were rumors about Michael Jordan potentially coming back and rejoining the Bulls, but after hearing the trade rumors surrounding Scottie Pippen, Jordan publicly explained that if the Bulls were to trade Pippen, that he would not come back to the Bulls, or the NBA. Hearing this statement from Jordan, and having hopes that he in fact would return, the Bulls pulled out of the Seattle trade, rightfully so. Keeping Scottie Pippen and eventually regaining Jordan, the Bulls went on to another 3-peat, and the rest was history! 

Had the Bulls pulled the trigger on the Seattle trade, who knows how the NBA would have panned out. If Pippen was traded, and Jordan had ended up staying retired, resulting in only 3 rings, I’m sure the “GOAT” conversations would be a lot different today

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