The NBA Draft is a time of the year when teams can make or break their futures. Teams can find diamonds in the rough later in the draft, or select players that turn out to be major busts. The unpredictability makes it one of the most defining dates of the year for NBA franchises.
Over the years, there has been a fair share of bad NBA trades on draft day. Teams have overvalued or undervalued prospects and have made some trades that have hurt their franchise for years to come.
Here are the 10 worst trades on draft day.
10. Nets trade Kyle Korver
The Nets and the 76ers completed a day on draft day in 2003 where the Nets traded Kyle Korver to the Philadephia 76ers for…Cash Considerations.
Although Kyle Korver may not be a superstar, Korver did make the All-Star team in 2015 and is one of the most prolific shooters of all time. In terms of return on investment, I think the 76ers win big with this trade.
Korver is a career 44.2% three point shooter and led the league in 3 point shooting 4 times over his 16-year career. Korver also ranks 4th all time in three-pointers made all time with 2,450.
Not a bad way to use your cash considerations.
9. Timberwolves trade Brandon Roy
The Timberwolves and the Blazers completed a trade on draft day in 2006.
The Timberwolves went all in for Villanova guard Randy Foye from the Blazers, to go along with Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a future 2nd round pick.
To get that, however, they had to give up Dan Dickau, Raef Lafrentz, and Brandon Roy.
If Brandon Roy had played a full career this trade would probably be higher on this list, but because he was plagued by injuries, this trade ranks at 9.
Roy won the rookie of the year in 2006-07 season, was a three time all-star and a two time all-nba player in only 6 years in the league. In his prime, Brandon Roy had takeover ability.
Roy led the Blazers to the playoffs in three straight years in the Western conference and provided the us with some very memorable exciting moments and game winners.
In return for the dynamic guard, the Timberwolves received a couple of role players and Randy Foye who was rather disappointing for a top 10 pick. Foye never made an all-star game in his career and averaged only 10.3 PPG on 40% shooting over his 10 year career.
He played 3 years from the Timberwolves before being traded to the Wizards.
Who knows, maybe if Brandon Roy played for the Timberwolves instead of the Blazers, he plays a full career? Regardless of what the outcome would have been, trading Brandon Roy on draft day was a terrible move.
8. Bulls trade Lamarcus Aldridge
The Bulls and the Blazers made a trade on draft day sending Lamarcus Aldridge to Portland in return for Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khyrapa.
At the time, this trade wasn’t terrible. Tyrus Thomas was the 4th overall selection in that same draft and had promise to be an impact player. Judging by how things turned out, however, it is easy to see that this was one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.
Tyrus Thomas made the all-rookie team in 2006-07, but didn’t improve much after that year. Thomas averaged 7.7 PPG and 4.8 RPG over his 8 year career. Thomas averaged over 10 points per game only two times in that span, and never averaged more than 7 rebounds per game in his career.
Lamarcus Aldridge on the other hand, is a 7 time all star, and 5 time all nba player who has only averaged less than 17 points per game only one time in his career (rookie year).
Aldridge has averaged 18.9 PPG, and 7.4 RPG on 49% FG over his impressive 12 year career. In those 12 years, Aldridge has 7 seasons where he has averaged 20 PPG, and two seasons with over 10 rebounds per game.
Lamarcus was the mould for what a big should look like in 2006. He was big, strong, and could play out of the post, pick and roll, and knock it down from the mid-range.
Aldridge led the Blazers to five playoff berths during his time there. I would say that’s pretty good return for what they gave up.
The Bulls made a big-time draft day blunder in 2006 by trading Lamarcus Aldridge.
7. Nuggets trade Rudy Gobert
The Nuggets and the Jazz made a draft day deal in 2013 sending Rudy Gobert to the Jazz in exchange for… a second round pick who ended up being Erick Green and cash considerations.
It’s safe to say that the Nuggets made a mistake in how that valuated the 7-footer from France, basically giving him away to the Jazz in 2013.
Erick Green played only 52 games in the NBA over two years and never averaged more than 3.4 PPG in his brief stint in the NBA.
Rudy Gobert on the other hand, is a two time defensive player of the year, one time all star, three time all nba, and four time all-defensive team player. He’s been a defensive anchor for the Jazz over the last few years and has helped them reach the playoffs in four straight seasons.
At age 27 it can be assumed that Gobert is poised to continue to make an impact on the defensive end and potentially be an all-star for years to come.
It’s not like Nuggets really need Gobert because they already have Jokic, but the fact that they traded him for next to nothing on draft day has got to sting.
6. Nuggets trade Donovan Mitchell
I know what you’re thinking. Are the Nuggets just giving these guys away to the Jazz?
The Jazz are almost fully indebt to the Nuggets for helping build a promising young future.
Trey Lyles played two years for Denver where he never once eclipsed 10 PPG in a season and Tyler Lydon has only played 26 games for the Nuggets where he’s scored 23 total points.
Donovan Mitchell on the other hand has a career average of 24.0 PPG and has been the main reason as to why the Jazz have made the playoffs in the western conference every year since he’s been in the league.
In the 2020 playoffs Mitchell averaged 36.3 PPG against the very same Nuggets that drafted him only three years prior. Although it wasn’t enough to knockoff Jokic and Murray, it would be outrageous to disregard Mitchell’s incredible scoring performance.
Just imagine if the Nuggets kept Mitchell?
Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Donovan Mitchell would be sure to make the Nuggets legitimate title contenders every year. This trade must sting for Denver.
Donovan Mitchell is an NBA superstar who is only getting better. The fact that the Nuggets traded him away for next to nothing makes this one of the worst trades in NBA draft day history.
5. Suns trade Steve Nash
The Suns and the Mavericks executed a trade on draft day in 1998 where the Mavericks traded away Bubba Wells, Pat Garrity, Martin Muursepp and a 1st round pick in the following year (1999) in return for Steve Nash.
Just to give you an idea of how much of travesty this was for Phoenix, none of those three players ever averaged more than 11 PPG in a season, and Bubba Wells and Martin Muursepp played a combined total of 122 games in the NBA. The return that Phoenix received for Nash was abysmal.
Dallas scored Nash for next to nothing on draft day which elevated Dirk Nowitzki’s game immediately. Nash’s playmaking could have been a major reason as to why Dirk’s development was as consistent and quick as it was.
Nash played 6 seasons in Dallas where he averaged 14.2 PPG and 7.6 APG while shooting incredibly high percentages from anywhere on the floor. Nash and Nowitzki was one of the greatest shows on the court.
The Suns did get the last laugh at the end of the day by signing Nash after his 6 year stint with the Mavericks. In his years in Phoenix he won back to back MVP’s in 2004-05 and 2005-06 and led the Suns to a conference final, just one game away from making the NBA finals.
Despite getting Nash back, the draft day trade to give him away in the first place is one of the worst of all time.
4. Supersonics trade Scottie Pippen
The Seattle Supersonics and the Chicago Bulls executed a trade during the 1987 NBA Draft where the Sonics sent Scottie Pippen to the Bulls in exchange for Olden Polynice, a 1st round pick in 1989 (Shawn Kemp), and a 2nd round pick in 1988.
To be fair, Shawn Kemp ended up being an all-star for Seattle so it wasn’t an awful return, but it is crazy to think that Shawn Kemp and Olden Polynice is a fair return for one of the best two way players to ever play.
Pippen is a six time NBA champion, seven time all star, seven time all nba, and ten time all defensive team player. An incredible career that the Supersonics traded away without ever seeing him suit up in an NBA game.
Olden Polynice was a good role player in the NBA, averaging 7.8 PPG and 6.7 RPG. He was solid for the Sonics over five seasons.
Kemp was formidable during his time in Seattle, averaging 16.2 PPG and 9.6 RPG in 8 seasons with the Supersonics. Kemp even helped Gary Payton and the Sonics reach an NBA finals 1996.
Regardless of Kemp’s solid career, he is no Scottie Pippen. This trade helped the Bulls win six NBA Championships and dominate the NBA for the better part of a decade. Pippen is regarded as the best #2 in NBA history and helped build Michael Jordan’s incredible legacy.
None of that would have happened if the Sonics didn’t make the terrible mistake of trading Scottie Pippen on draft day.
3. Pacers trade Kawhi Leonard
The Pacers and the Spurs executed a draft day trade in 2011, where the Spurs traded away budding guard, George Hill, in exchange for Davis Bertans and Kawhi Leonard.
George Hill spent five seasons with the Pacers where he averaged 12.3 PPG and 4.0 APG on 44.8% shooting. He never made an all-star game, but he was solid for the Pacers.
Was he worth Kawhi Leonard and. Davis Bertans? Absolutely not.
Kawhi Leonard is a two time NBA Champ, two time finals mvp, two time defensive player of the year, four time all-nba, four time all-star and six time all-defensive team player.
Leonard is one of the most accomplished players in the NBA currently and is regarded as a top five player in the NBA. He is one of the best two way players the NBA has ever seen, and he didn’t play a single second for the team that drafted him.
Davis Bertans is not bad either. Bertans averaged 15.4 PPG last season with the Wizards and looks to be one of the most promising players to hit free agency in 2020.
George Hill is a solid player, but the Klaw is a first ballot hall of famer. What a blunder from Indiana.
2. Bucks trade Dirk Nowitzki
In 1998-99 NBA draft featured a major draft day trade where the Bucks traded away Dirk Nowitzki and the 19th overall pick, Pat Garrity to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Robert Traylor.
As you may know, Dirk Nowitzki had an incredible NBA career, winning a championship, finals mvp, league mvp, fourteen time all star and twelve time all-nba.
Dirk averaged 20.7 PPG and 7.5 RPG throughout his twenty year career spent with the Mavericks. Sustained excellence from the German seven footer.
Dirk was a pioneer for the offensive big man in the NBA and is recognized as one of the greatest power forwards ever.
The Bucks traded him away for Robert Traylor who averaged 4.5 PPG and 3.2 RPG during his measly two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Just a few seasons later the Bucks fell just short of the NBA Finals, losing to the 76ers in 7 games. It is no doubt that having Dirk Nowitzki on those teams instead of Robert Traylor would have made a monumental difference.
Instead, we reflect on this draft day deal to conclude that this is one of the worst draft day trades in NBA history.
1. Hornets trade Kobe Bryant
The 1996 NBA Draft featured some incredible players, but none more incredible than the Mamba, Kobe Bryant.
With Shaquille O’Neal joining the Lakers in 1996, the Lakers did not have any room for 7 footer, Vlade Divac.
Divac was solid for the lakers, but parting ways with Divac in return for Kobe Bryant is a trade that will always be remembered as the worst draft day mistake in NBA history.
Divac was solid for the Hornets in two seasons, averaging 11.7 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Although at the time Divac was an established big man, his career does not compare to Kobe Bryants.
It is very well known that Kobe is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but just to recap, here are some of his accomplishments.
- 5 time NBA Champion
- 2 x Finals MVP
- 1 x League MVP
- 15 x All NBA
- 12 x All Defensive
- 18 x All Star
- 2 x Scoring Champ
- 25.0 PPG career average on 44.7% FG.
The list goes on and on. Kobe Bryant had an exceptional career and is a certified NBA legend.
This one does not need any more explanation. The Hornets must be kicking themselves after deciding to make the worst draft day trade in NBA history: trading away Kobe Bryant.
Every year there are going to be draft day trades that shock the world. Some good enough to turn franchises into playoff teams, and some bad enough to make playoff contenders become bottom feeders.
Draft day trades are what make the draft one of the most exciting nights of the year.