Updated: May 21
Often times, NBA trade rumors go around without any real grounding in reality. Remember when the "insiders" said that Kawhi had a 97% chance of signing with the Lakers last summer?
But there are times when some crazy NBA trades are actually just moments away from happening, only to be shut down with a single word from a GM or a player. Here are some of the trades that might have changed the landscape of the NBA as we know it.
Warriors trade Klay Thompson for Kevin Love
The year is 2014, and the Warriors just came off a disappointing end to their season, losing in seven games to the Clippers in the first round. The Splash Brothers were a fun duo to watch, but they weren't seen as stars who can lead their team to an NBA title.
In came the talks of trading one Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, for Kevin Love, who was just coming off a season averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds in Minnesota. By all accounts, the Warriors front office genuinely considered pulling the trigger on this trade. Jerry West, however, would not let it happen under his watch.
The impact of this hypothetical trade cannot be understated. The Warriors may not have risen to dominance without Klay Thompson. The Cavaliers would have never acquired Kevin Love. If that never happens, what does LeBron James accomplish in Cleveland? Perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder would have more finals appearances, and Kevin Durant may have stayed. One thing is for sure: the NBA landscape would look nothing like it did today.
Bulls trade Scottie Pippen for Shawn Kemp
During Michael Jordan's first retirement, the Bulls considered trading Pippen to the SuperSonics, the team that had drafted him back in 1987, for All-Star forward Shawn Kemp.
What would have been the impact of this trade? First off, perhaps it would have pushed the Sonics to an NBA title in a few years. With a defensive duo in Gary Payton and Pippen, it would have been very difficult for any team to score against this team. In the 1996 Finals, the Sonics were able to hold Michael Jordan to an inefficient 41% field-goal percentage. Adding one of the greatest wing defenders of all-time to the Sonics roster is a scary thought.
Secondly, and most importantly, Michael Jordan probably would not have returned to the Bulls if Pippen did not stay in Chicago. ESPN's J.A. Adande actually asked Jordan if he would have played with Kemp if this trade had happened. His response?
"Probably not," Jordan said. "I could have played with Shawn, but I wouldn't have been as comfortable as I was with Scottie."
Without a second Bulls three-peat and Jordan perhaps playing for another team (or never returning at all), the way we see the NBA 90s as the "Jordan era" would not be the same.
Raptors send Tracy McGrady to the Sixers
In 1999, the Raptors considered not only swapping T-Mac for Larry Hughes, but also offered to send over a first-round draft pick to Philadelphia.
To be fair for the Raptors, it was hard to tell what McGrady would go on to become at the time. He had just finished his sophomore year in the NBA, averaging nine points per game. Larry Hughes just finished his rookie season averaging similar numbers.
Imagine if this trade went through. By the 2000-01 season, Tracy was averaging nearly 27 points per game. Though it's hard to tell if he would have developed to that level playing alongside Allen Iverson, it's undeniable how much better that Sixers roster looks with McGrady replacing average players like Eric Snow or George Lynch. Perhaps the Sixers would have had a fighting chance in the finals against the Shaq-Kobe Lakers.
Hornets agree to send Chris Paul to the Lakers in a blockbuster deal
Everyone knows about how David Stern vetoed this trade for "basketball reasons." The Hornets front office had agreed to trade Chris Paul to Los Angeles in a three-team deal during the summer of 2011. However, the Hornets were league-owned at the time, meaning that Stern had the power to nix this trade.
Here's what the deal entailed:
Lakers receive: Chris Paul
Hornets receive: Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and a first-round draft pick (from the Rockets, acquired via Knicks)
Rockets receive: Pau Gasol
Outside of the possibility of seeing a Kobe-CP3 duo, the impact of this trade is indescribable.
The Rockets would have lost valuable assets (especially Kevin Martin) to make the James Harden trade in the summer of 2012. Maybe James Harden would have stayed with OKC for a little longer, pushing the team to an NBA title.
The Hornets, with a roster including Odom, Kevin Martin, Scola, and Dragic, would probably not be bad enough in the 2011-12 NBA season to land the first overall pick and draft Anthony Davis.
The Lakers would most likely go on to realize the dream of a CP3-Kobe-Dwight trio for the 2012-13 season.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, "basketball reasons" had to get in the way.
Kobe Bryant traded to Chicago
Kobe Bryant was not happy with the Lakers. He was playing alongside Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. In the 2005-06 season, he had single-handedly dragged a severely undertalented squad to 45 wins, good for the 7th seed in the West, and nearly upset the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Lakers were nothing like the team that everyone had feared in the early 2000s, and many fans blamed Kobe for the split between him and Shaq.
Kobe wanted to play for a team with title aspirations, not first-round exits. During the 2006-07 season, Kobe reportedly demanded a trade, frustrated by the lack of help from his mediocre Lakers squad. Meanwhile, Shaq was coming off a championship season with Miami, only making the lackluster season more frustrating for Kobe.
One of his desired destinations was Chicago. Kobe embraced the Jordan comparisons at the time, and playing for the Bulls would only further ignite the GOAT debate. He also saw a roster that had plenty of young talent, with promising players like Luol Deng and Ben Gordon leading the team.
However, the Lakers demanded that they receive Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, and Ben Gordon for Kobe Bryant. With Kobe insisting that Deng would have to stay in Chicago in order for him to agree with the terms, the two teams were never able to reach an agreement.
The impact of this potential trade speaks for itself. With the trade never going through, the Lakers would go on to make three finals appearances and win two titles over the next four seasons. Kobe would go down as arguably the greatest Laker of all time. The Bulls, later drafting Derrick Rose in 2008, would only find their championship hopes dashed as Rose suffered through a career plagued with injuries and multiple "what-if" scenarios.
Preview photo credit: Kassa Imo