The February NBA Trade deadline presents one last shot for contending teams to add that one last piece to bolster their title hopes. Rebuilding teams, too, have a chance to jump-start their squad in preparation for the next season.
With the 2019-20 trade deadline just around the corner, expect teams — those contending for the title or are in the rebuilding process — to come up with deals that they believe will alter the future of their organization. Before all hell breaks loose, let’s take a look back at the three most shocking trades ever made at the NBA trade deadline.
Isaiah Thomas to Boston Celtics
This deal wasn’t initially a shocker. Back in 2014, Thomas was trying to make a name for himself with his new team, the Phoenix Suns. He was an automatic 15-20-point night player but was still considered a backup guard to Eric Bledsoe. The Celtics, too, were still deep in the rebuilding process after the Big 3 era featuring Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.
As such, the deal went relatively unnoticed. But fast forward to the 2015-16 and 2016-17 NBA seasons, the 5-foot-9 Thomas quickly rose up to the ranks as an MVP candidate. Brad Stevens was able to utilize Thomas — who’s height was always seen as a liability — into a bona fide NBA star. In Thomas’ short tenure donning the legendary Green and White, he guided the squad to three consecutive playoff appearances including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Danny Ainge was already considered a genius when he created the first Big 3 in the modern era. But when everyone saw how the Thomas deal panned out, analysts have constantly kept an eye at what he’ll do next.
Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks
Unlike Thomas heading to the Celtics, when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks, it immediately sent shock waves all over the league. After all, Anthony was at the height of his career. The seven and a half seasons he spent with the Denver Nuggets were tangible signs of his sheer talent. Nuggets fans know how critical Anthony was in the transformation of the Nuggets squad from a bottomfeeding team into a perennial playoff squad.
When the Knicks fans heard the news about the blockbuster NBA trade, it was almost as if they won the title. And they were not disappointed one bit. In Anthony’s six and half year stint with them, he guided them to three playoff appearances including one trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And in the process, Anthony became an icon in New York — tagged as basketball’s mecca. His presence breathed life into the city and rejuvenated its millions of die-hard basketball fans.
Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers
When Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, analysts quickly described the deal as the “Pau Gasol Donation.” After all, Gasol was considered one of the best centers back then. All the Memphis Grizzlies had to do was to complement him with several players to turn the team into an elite squad.
Instead, they traded him away to the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol (Pau’s younger brother), and 2008 and 2010 first-round draft picks. It is important to note that Bryant and the Lakers were literally just one puzzle piece away from becoming a contender.
Legendary head coach Phil Jackson was back in the fold. Bryant was at the very peak of his career and was turning in an NBA MVP season. The Purple and Gold already had key pieces such as Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, and Derek Fisher. And in that season when the Lakers got Gasol, they headed straight to the 2008 NBA Finals.
While they lost that year at the hands of the Boston Celtics, they won the next two titles, cementing the Gasol-Lakers trade as one of the best and most shocking deals in the February NBA trade deadline.