With the NBA trade deadline approaching fast, teams across the league have the chance to change the trajectory of their franchise for the next decade-plus. Every year, impact players get shipped off to other teams, draft picks get swapped and so on. Every once in a while, however, a trade occurs that leaves a mark on the NBA.
5. Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans (2017)
This trade had the potential to be much higher on this list if Cousins didn’t end up leaving new Orleans after just a season and a half.
At the 2017 trade deadline, the Pelicans were looking to get some help for their All-Star big man Anthony Davis. They found that help in Sacramento Kings center Demarcus Cousins who, at the time, was considered one of, if not the, best big man in basketball.
In exchange for Cousins and veteran wing Omri Casspi, the Kings received Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and a first and second-round pick in 2017 (they turned those picks into Harry Giles and Justin Jackson.)
4. Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder (2011)
Kendrick Perkins was never a star with the Boston Celtics. However, the 6-foot-10 center was only 26. He was seen as a defensive anchor and integral part for a Boston squad that was still competing for a title.
The trade was originally a Perkins for James Harden swap, but Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti convinced Boston to take Jeff Green instead. The Celtics also traded Nate Robinson who was a big part of the team’s bench rotation.
Perkins never made a huge impact in OKC and neither did Green in Boston, but many think that Danny Ainge trading Perkins was a rare miss for the savvy GM.
3. Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics (2015)
The second Boston Celtics trade on this list. Ainge got away with highway robbery during the 2015 deadline.
Thomas was a solid player in Phoenix, averaging 15.6 points per game in a crowded backcourt. When Boston gave Marcus Thornton and a top-10 protected 2016 NBA Draft first-round pick, it didn’t seem like that bad of a trade.
Thomas made an immediate impact for Boston as the team’s leading scorer but, little did both sides know, Thomas would become a superstar just two seasons later.
During the 2016-17 season, the 5-foot-9 point guard exploded for 28.9 points per game which ranked third in the NBA. Thomas also led the Celtics to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012.
2. Baron Davis to the Cavaliers (2011)
Wait, what? This trade was pretty minor at the time. Davis, while still effective, was at the end of his career. In exchange for Davis and a 2011 first-round pick, the Los Angeles Clippers received Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
The reason this trade is so huge is that, despite having a 2.9 percent chance to get the top pick in the lottery, that pick would end up defying the odds and becoming Kyrie Irving.
While Irving is no longer with the Cavaliers, the point guard was a game-changing talent for the team and was likely a big reason why LeBron James returned to the Cavs and helped the franchise win their first-ever championship.
Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks (2011)
Yeah, the 2011 trade deadline was wild. At the time, the Denver Nuggets trading superstar small forward Carmelo Anthony was about as big of a deal as it gets.
The three-team trade (Nuggets, Knicks and Minneosta Timberwolves) involved a total of 12 players and multiple draft picks.
In total, the Knicks received Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter.
The Nuggets received Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, two second-round picks and a 2014 first-round pick that was later used in the Dwight Howard deal.
Minnesota would end up receiving just Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry, but did also get $3 million in cash considerations.
This trade may not have the long-term impact as some of the others on this list, but it tops this list due to the sheer size of the deal and the perceived magnitude at the time.
While Anthony continued to dominate as a Knick, he and Amare Stoudemire were never able to get past the Eastern Conference Semifinals.