Thursday night’s 2023 NBA Draft saw multiple players and draft picks moved. Prospects including Bilal Coulibaly, Jarace Walker, Carson Wallace, and Dereck Lively III were all moved during a very busy night. While we won’t know the ramifications of these trades for months and potentially years, many trades have had significant impacts on players, teams, and the league. While we’re still waiting to see the long-term impact of teams such as the Luka Doncic for Trae Young trade, the following draft day trades have had impacts that can still be felt today.
Chicago Bulls Receive: Scottie Pippen (No. 5 Overall pick)
Seattle Supersonics Receive: Olden Polynice (No. 8 overall pick), future draft picks
In 1987, the Chicago Bulls were a promising team led by a young Michael Jordan. While the team had the potential, Scottie Pippen, and Bulls GM Jerry Krause would trade up in the 1987 draft to get Pippen. Trading the rights to the eighth pick in the draft (that would become Olden Polynice), as well as future picks, the Bulls were able to secure the rights to Pippen at the fifth overall pick. Alongside Jordan, Pippen played a huge role in the Bulls three-peating from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998. For the Sonics, Polynice would not become the player Seattle hoped for but would be a reliable player for the three and a half seasons he spent there. The biggest what-ifs from the trade are what would’ve happened with the Bulls in the 1990s without Scottie Pippen. If the Supersonics did not trade the rights to Pippen, many wonder what a big three of Scottie Pippen, Gary Payton, and Shawn Kemp could have accomplished together.
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 overall pick), Davis Bertans (No. 42 overall pick), Erazem Lorbek
Indiana Pacers Receive: George Hill
Indiana easily made the worst trade in their history on draft night 2011. A team with a young Paul George, the Pacers were looking to take that next step forward. Indiana thought that missing piece could be San Antonio Spurs guard George Hill. To acquire him, they would trade the rights to the 15th overall pick, the 42nd overall pick, and Erazem Lorbek. Those two picks would be Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans. Kawhi Leonard would become another franchise player for the Spurs, extending their championship window another handful of years. Leonard would play a role in San Antonio’s NBA Finals appearance in 2013 and be Finals MVP in 2014. While the Pacers had a couple of deep playoff runs, they missed out on the chance of a Paul George and Kawhi Leonard duo, something that would happen in Los Angeles by the end of the decade. The biggest what-if is what Leonard and George could’ve accomplished together on the Pacers. A team that challenged the big three Miami Heat in back-to-back Conference Finals, many wonder if a pre-injury PG and Kawhi could’ve turned the Pacers into a dynasty in the 2010s.
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Dirk Nowitzki (No. 9 overall pick), Pat Garrity (No. 19 overall pick)
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Robert Traylor (No. 6 overall pick)
This draft day 1998 trade would not only bring a future hall of famer to Dallas but be key in another big trade as well. The Milwaukee Bucks traded the rights to the ninth overall pick, Dirk Nowitzki, and 19th overall pick Pat Garrity to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert “Tractor” Traylor, the sixth overall pick in the draft. Coming off three years at Michigan averaging 13.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG, Milwaukee saw him as a promising player as the team looked to improve. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Traylor would not become the star they hoped, and he was gone after two seasons. For Dallas, the unknown 20-year-old would become the greatest player in the Mavericks history. In his career, Dirk led the Mavericks to 15 playoff appearances, two Finals appearances, and a championship in 2011. The trade was also key for trading the rights to Pat Garrity as a part of a package for Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash. Dirk and Nash would have some great years together, ultimately falling short of a championship. After 21 years, Dirk retired as the greatest Maverick as well as one of the best foreign NBA players of all time. This goes down as one of the best trades in Mavericks history while being one of the worst for Milwaukee.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Kobe Bryant (No. 13 overall pick)
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Vlade Divac
This trade is without a doubt the best draft day trade in NBA history. Following the showtime era of the 1980s, the Los Angeles Lakers fell hard from the dynasty they once were. After a couple of down seasons and early playoff exits, General Manager Jerry West made a move that would forever change the future of the Lakers and Hornets. On draft night in 1996, West traded Vlade Divac, a reliable center for a high school kid near the end of the lottery. That high school kid would be Kobe Bryant. That trade would also allow the Lakers to sign one of the best young big men in the league in Shaquille O’Neal. In the eight seasons, the two played together, the duo of Kobe and Shaq would lead the Lakers to four Finals appearances, winning three NBA championships in a row. Kobe would lead the Lakers to another two championships in 2009 and 2010. The late Black Mamba is a name always included when talking about the greatest players of all time. Without Kobe Bryant being traded to the Lakers, there is no telling how different the league would’ve been in the 2000s. As for the Charlotte Hornets, the trade did not help the team at all. While the two seasons following the trade were the two best for the franchise record-wise, the Hornets have not won more than 50 games since the 1997-98 season. The team has not been able to bring any notable names in, other than through the draft. There is no telling how different the trajectory of the Charlotte Hornets would’ve been with Kobe and if he would’ve developed into the megastar he became. This draft day trade is the perfect example of how focusing on the now could impact the future of the NBA.
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