Worst NBA Draft Day Trades In the Last 5 Years

A look back at some of the worst trades made during the NBA Draft, since 2016. Some of these were bad at the time, some of these are bad in hindsight.

Honorable mentions

Devonte’ Graham drafted by Hawks, traded to Hornets

Graham has emerged as a key player for the Hornets. He was drafted 34th overall by the Hawks in 2018 and dealt for two future second round picks. Over the last two seasons, Graham has averaged nearly 16 ppg and 6 apg. Meannwhile, backup PG has become a major need for the Hawks.

Zach Collins traded to Blazers

Portland traded the 15th and 20th picks in the 2017 Draft to the Kings, to move up to #10 and drafted Zach Collins. But this is about the bigger picture, more than it is about Collins. After being picked 10th, Donovan Mitchell (13) and Bam Adebayo (14) were picked later in the lottery. Injuries limited Collins to 11 games in 2021, but even prior, his development was off to a slow start. He is likely never going to be a big factor for Portland.

It’s honorable mention, because the picks Portland gave up never amounted to anything for Sacramento – Justin Jackson (15) and Harry Giles (20).

Dillon Brooks drafted by Rockets, traded to Grizzlies

Rockets drafted Dillon Brooks 45th overall in 2017 and traded him to the Grizzlies for a future second round pick. No one batted an eye when this deal was made. But looking back now, Rockets are rebuilding and Brooks has started every game he’s played the last two seasons, as a reliable scorer (16.5 ppg in just under 30 mpg).

6 Most Notable Horrible Trades

Nuggets draft and trade Donovan Mitchell

In 2017, Nuggets drafted Mitchell 13th overall and shortly after, trading him to the Jazz for the 24th pick (Tyler Lydon from Syracuse) and Trey Lyles.

Imagine a backcourt of Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, with Nikola Jokic dominating down low?

Magic draft and trade Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo to Thunder for Serge Ibaka

Talk about selling low… Magic also included Ersan Ilyasova in this deal to OKC. So three guys, for Ibaka. In Orlando’s defense, Ibaka was a healthy 27 year old at the time of the trade and fit the stereotypical player the Magic have been building around – defense first, toughness, rebounding, long wingspan.

Ibaka started 56 games and averaged 15.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg before being traded at the deadline to the Raptors for Terrance Ross.

What’s so painful about this trade is, while Ross has been good, Ibaka helped the Raptors win the NBA Finals in 2019. Sabonis and Oladipo were traded one year later to Indiana for Paul George. And have each made 2 All Star teams. Magic drafted Oladipo #2 overall in 2013 and clearly sold low on him, as they were unable to maximize his potential.

Jimmy Butler traded from Bulls to Wolves

Than Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Butler in Chicago, made it a priority to acquire him during the 2017 Draft. It cost the Wolves Kris Dunn (#5 pick from 2016), #7 pick in 2017 (which became Lauri Markkanen), and Zach LaVine (13th pick in 2014).

Butler helped snap a 13 year playoff drought for the Wolves in 2018, but was traded to Philly in 2019 in a sell-low deal (for Dario Saric and Robert Covington). Bulls never maximized their return on Dunn or Markkanen, but LaVine made his first All Star game in 2021.

Given how things ended for Minnesota and where they are today, might they have been better off rolling the dice on the young guys?

From the Bulls end, they haven’t made the Playoffs since the trade in 2017. Might they have been better off keeping Butler (I know he wanted out), who helped lead the Heat to the 2021 Finals.

76ers draft Mikal Bridges and trade him to Suns for Zhaire Smith

Insert facepalm emoji. YIKES!

Bridges is starting for the Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals and has played in every possible game since being drafted 10th overall in 2018.

Zhaire Smith has played 13 total NBA games and was out of the league in 2021.

What makes this worse is Bridges played his college ball at Villanova, was born in Philadelphia, and his mother works for the 76ers in a non-basketball capacity. The stage was set for the perfect marriage and Philly opted to make this deal instead.

Suns also included the Heat’s 2021 first round pick, which Philly later used to acquire Tobias Harris from the Clippers, and was then sent to OKC in the Paul George trade.

Suns and Kings made an awful trade during 2016 Draft

There were no winners here, just losers.

Suns traded 4 players for the rights to the Kings’ #8 pick. Suns would draft Marquesse Chriss, 4 spots after they drafted Dragan Bender 4th overall.

Kings received two 2016 picks – #13 and #28, 2020 second round and the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic.

With the 13th pick, Kings took someone named Georgios Papagiannis. I actually saw Papagiannis and his family on the streets of NYC after the draft, so I can confirm he is a real person. At #28, Kings got Skal Labissière, who was highly touted in high school and never quite lived up to his potential at Kentucky. The 2020 second round pick was Xavier Tillman (#35) and he was traded immediately to Memphis for Robert Woodard II and a 2022 second round pick. And Bogdanovic was a successful player for the Kings, but was allowed to leave as a free agent to the Hawks last summer and the Kings received nothing in return.

De’Andre Hunter traded to Hawks

With the #4 pick, the Lakers drafted Hunter in 2019. However, that pick was made for the Pelicans, as it was part of the large package LA sent to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis trade.

Separately, New Orleans made a trade to send #4 and Solomon Hill to Atlanta for the 8th and 17th picks. Pelicans drafted Jaxson Hayes (8) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17).

Hayes has averaged 16 mpg off the bench in his first two years and has been a weird fit next to Zion Williamson down low. Alexander-Walker has averaged 17 mpg off the bench (played 21 mpg in 2021) and has missed time due to injury, but has shown some potential.

Hunter, meanwhile, was a huge part of the Hawks finishing 5th in the East and was a big factor in their first round playoff series win, before his season ended due to a knee injury.

Pelicans are at a cross roads. Zion Williamson will have his third head coach in three years, they have some bad contracts on the books (Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams), and some free agents to make decisions on (Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart). Having Hunter in the mix, likely would have made their pending roster decisions a bit easier.

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.

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