We won’t forget the 2018 NBA trade deadline anytime soon. Deadline day began with the Cleveland Cavaliers trading Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers. By the end of the day the Cavs had sent out and received so many players that they had become a completely new team.
The impetus for the Cavs pushing the reset button: the squad was falling apart. The locker room was a disaster. Stars were calling out other stars. It was evident that some guys on the court weren’t even trying, and LeBron James was clearly fed up with the whole situation.
This downward spiral started in July, when someone leaked to Kyrie Irving that the Cavs’ front office had brainstormed potentially trading him. Kyrie was already unhappy with his role in Cleveland, so when he heard the rumor, he told the team he wanted out. The Cavs traded him to Eastern Conference rival Boston.
Seven months later, that deal looks like a huge win for the Celtics. Kyrie has emerged as an MVP candidate in his new alpha role, and the players the Cavs received in the deal—most notably Thomas and Jae Crowder—looked like shells of their former selves when they suited up for Cleveland. They are both gone now.
From a big-picture perspective, the trade wasn’t a complete disaster—the Cavs made shrewd moves at the deadline to hemorrhage their wounds. But in a vacuum, the Boston-Cleveland deal of this past offseason is one of the most lopsided trades that we’ve seen in years.
The deal looks worse as time goes on. One from this offseason that has gradually looked more even: the Bulls trading Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. Fans were quick to overreact – seriously, that’s all you could get for Jimmy Butler? – but the young pieces Chicago received in return have looked great. The same could be said for the Paul-George-to-Oklahoma-City trade.
Some trades looks awful immediately and better as time goes on. Others look awful immediately and still look awful years down the road.
Over the years, NBA fans have seen many a terrible trade unfold. Complex presents: The 20 Worst Trades In NBA History.
Honorable mention: Tim Hardaway to Heat, Dennis Johnson to Celtics, Elvin Hayes to Bullets, Damian Lillard* to Blazers, Andrew Bogut to Warriors, Tyson Chandler to Hornets, Andrea Bargnani to Knicks, Deron Williams to Nets, Vince Carter to Raptors.