Aside from the actual selections during the NBA Draft, the potential for league-changing trades makes it perhaps the most interesting in sports. Whether it’s a swap of picks, a trade for an established star, or teams trying to clear cap space for that next big free agent, the landscape of the league can change wildly every late June.
Since most NBA Draft prospects, save for your occasional consensus No. 1’s like LeBron James or Anthony Davis, are relatively unknown commodities, it’s not always immediately clear what teams will come out on top of prospect trades. Many of them fly relatively under the radar for years—who remembers where they were when the Nuggets traded Rudy Gobert to the Jazz? How many people even knew Rudy Gobert was drafted by the Nuggets?
It takes a while for the legacy of these trades to be cemented. But when they are, they can live in infamy. Just ask the Hornets what they think about Kobe Bryant, the Sonics how they feel about Scottie Pippen, the Warriors about their trade of Vince Carter, or the Pacers about Kawhi Leonard’s hour-long tenure with them. While these players may not have been household names at the time of their respective deals, their careers made these overlooked trades some of the most notoriously one-sided in league history.
This year’s NBA Draft looks ripe for trades, especially with the news of Kawhi Leonard’s desire to leave the Spurs and LeBron James’ likely upcoming free agency. So with this year’s draft here, let’s take a look at some cautionary tales for would-be dealing NBA teams. These are the 20 worst NBA Draft day trades.