The Worst Trade in NBA History

The story of the Vancouver Grizzlies is a story of failure. NBA in Vancouver last 6 years, Grizzlies won 22% of their games and after beginning play in 1995, they were off to Memphis in 2001.

But the story of the Vancouver chapter didn’t end in 2001. It ended two years later, with the completion of the worst trade in NBA history.

In 1997, the Grizzlies traded a future first round pick for Otis Thorpe.

Thorpe, to his credit, averaged 14 ppg and 8.2 rpg over a lengthy career in which he started the majority of the 1,257 games he played over 17 seasons.

But entering his age 35 season, coming off a year where he averaged 10.2 ppg and 7.4 rpg for Detroit, was it really worth it for a terrible Grizzlies team to trade a first round pick?

The good news for the Grizzlies, is the pick came with lottery-protection rules. The bad news for the Grizzlies, is they were so bad for so long, that those lottery protections finally ran out and the worse news is they ran out during a historically epic draft.

Six years after trading a future first round pick for 35 year old Otis Thorpe, it was time to pay the price.

The 2002-03 season was the most successful for the franchise, who finished 28-54 in their second season in Memphis. After years of finishing last and failing to strike gold in the lottery, they finally won some games.

Grizzlies once again landing the #2 pick, despite 7.1% odds to do so. Except, according to the terms of the lottery protection, unless the pick was #1, the Grizzlies would convey the pick to the Pistons.

Therefore, because of Otis Thorpe, the Grizzlies sent the #2 pick to the Detroit Pistons, who were coming off of a 50-32 season in which they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Thorpe only played 47 games for the Grizzlies. He was traded halfway through the 1997-98 season to the Kings for Bobby Hurley and Michael Smith. His final NBA season was 2000-01, which means he was out of the league for two years and was 40 years old, when this pick was finally conveyed.

He was out of the league for two years and played 47 games! That’s what the Grizzlies traded a first round pick for.

So the 2003 NBA Draft…no big deal right? Well, Lebron James went first to the Cavs. Then, 3-4-5 was Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. 3 legends. 3 Hall of Famers. The Pistons drafted Darko Mililic #2, with the Grizzlies pick. For Detroit, it didn’t matter because they still won the NBA title in 2004.

For the Grizzlies? They missed out on history. They missed out on the chance to draft a legend! Instead, they had Otis Thorpe scoring 10 points a game for 47 games.

Just another said chapter in a series of sad and disappointing events during the NBA’s time in Vancouver.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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