The 2019 offseason has gone down in history as one of the most landscape-shifting summers in NBA history. Not only did it have arguably the most talent-packed free agency class ever, but this offseason also saw witness to some of the biggest blockbuster trades in recent history. Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets — the list goes on.
Blockbuster trades are always exciting in that it presents a fresh start for all parties involved. For the players, it’s an opportunity to play for a new team with a fresh slate. For the teams, it’s an indication of how they intend to approach the next few years of their franchise. This being the case, it’s also always a huge disappointment whenever a trade deal ends up being botched on the 13th hour. Below we have three of the biggest blockbuster deals that never came to fruition.
Scottie Pippen to the Seattle SuperSonics (1994)
Details of the deal: The Chicago Bulls send Scottie Pippen to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Shawn Kemp.
After the great Michael Jordan announced his shock retirement at the conclusion of the Bulls’ third NBA championship in 1993, Chicago’s front office were faced with a huge dilemma. They had in their possession arguably the second-best player in the league in Scottie Pippen, and the team had to make an important decision if they were willing to build their team around him. As it turns out, they seriously considered trading him for Sonics star Shawn Kemp, who at that time was on the rise.
Kemp, a 6-foot-10 big man, had the makings of becoming a cornerstone superstar for the Bulls, and with Jordan now out of the picture, perhaps Chicago thought that now would be an ideal time to rebuild. Pippen was already 28 at that time, and on paper, an up-and-coming Kemp, who had just featured in his first All-Star game, could be the man to build around.
Ultimately, the Bulls pulled the plug on the deal, which turned out to be one of the best decisions they ever made. Who knows, maybe MJ would not have returned had Chicago dealt Pippen. Even if he did, could Jordan have achieved that second three-peat without his Robin in Pippen?
Kobe Bryant to the Chicago Bulls/Detroit Pistons (2007)
Details of the deal (Bulls): The Los Angeles Lakers send Kobe Bryant to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and Joakim Noah
Details of the deal (Pistons): The Los Angeles Lakers send Kobe Bryant to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and future draft picks
We sort of cheated here, because this is a double whammy. In 2007, three years after Shaquille O’Neal left Tinseltown, the Lakers reportedly considered dealing Kobe Bryant. Although unimaginable today, this actually made a lot of sense from Bryant’s perspective. He was 28/29 at that time, and was in his prime. At this point, the Lakers were a mediocre team at best, and there was a certain sense that he was wasting away his best years with the Lakers.
The Pistons were willing to offer two of their key pieces in that historic 2004 NBA championship, and Byrant would have teamed up with Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Ben Wallace in the Motor City.
Reports say, however, that Detroit never really struck Bryant’s fancy, but that he was willing to go to Chicago, and perhaps follow in the footsteps of the great Michael Jordan. What a sight that would have been.
In the end, the Lakers stood their ground and were able to convince the NBA legend to stick it out with the franchise. Just a year later, L.A. traded for Pau Gasol, and the Kobe-Gasol duo went on to win two titles for the Purple & Gold.
Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers (2011)
Details of the deal: The Los Angeles Lakers get Chris Paul; The Charlotte Hornets get Kavin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, and a future first-round pick; The Houston Rockets get Pau Gasol
This one has got to be the biggest botched deal in league history. This is primarily because this was pretty much a done deal before then-league commissioner David Stern decided to veto the deal. Stern did not view the deal to be beneficial for all parties involved, and decided to use his almighty commissioner card to prevent this from happening.
Pairing a 26-year-old Paul with Kobe would have been quite a duo, and surely, would have boosted L.A.’s title hopes. It isn’t hard to imagine that Bryant could have gone for championship number 6 and beyond with Paul as his backckourt duo.
To make matters worse for the Lakers, Paul ended up signing for their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, where he had an amazing six-year stint as one of the top point guards in the entire league.