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The Top Five Most Impactful NBA Trades of the Decade

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:26 PM
Aaron Weaver
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:26 PM
  • NBA trade season has officially begun.
  • Some of the biggest moves of the decade helped create dynasties.
  • The most impactful trade helped demolish a dynasty.

NBA trade season has officially begun. In recent days, the Utah Jazz sent Dante Exum and picks to Cleveland for Jordan Clarkson.  This is the first NBA trade in over five months, but it certainly won’t be the last.

After a monumental amount of player movement over the summer , it’s a good time to reflect on the most impactful NBA trades of the decade. Impactful can mean the effect on a team, a player, or the entire league. Let’s take a look.

5) TIE – AD to Lakers/ PG to Clippers (2019)

The impact of these trades will only expand as time progresses, but since they both happened just this summer, the two teams share the fifth spot. What makes these moves unique is they’ve instantly created two title contenders where there were none. The Anthony Davis experiment is working out better than anyone could’ve imagined so far. LeBron is having an epic 17th season, but without AD, it would be futile.

Paul George linking up with Kawhi Leonard gives the Clippers a two-way wing duo like we haven’t seen since Jordan and Pippen. Combined, these teams have brought Los Angeles back into the center of the NBA universe.

4) Kevin Love to Cleveland Cavaliers (2014)

When LeBron announced he was returning home, he made sure he wasn’t doing it alone. Having gotten used to big threes in Miami, LeBron found himself with yet another in Cleveland. Minnesota traded their franchise player, Kevin Love, for what they thought would be their new franchise player in Andrew Wiggins.

The Wolves had just drafted Wiggins first overall as a highly regarded prospect. Five years later, Wiggins still hasn’t quite panned out, despite starting this season on fire.

Love and LeBron joined Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and went on to dominate the East for four years. The trio gave us one of the most memorable Finals in NBA history in 2016 when they beat the unstoppable Warriors.

3) Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors (2013)

This isn’t the most memorable trade since it took time to blossom, but without it, it’s likely that the Warriors never become the Warriors.

Golden State acquired Iguodala in 2013 from Denver. While the move didn’t make significant waves back then, it would end up having a massive impact on the league. Iguodala helped lead the young Warriors to their first 50 win season in 20 years before losing to the Clippers in the first round.

The following year, the Warriors would win 67 games, the championship, and Iggy would be named Finals MVP. Without him, the Warriors may have been just another good team.

2) James Harden to Houston Rockets (2012)

While this move hasn’t resulted in any titles for Houston, it likely allowed other teams to win them. By trading away James Harden for Kevin Martin and picks in 2012, the Thunder broke up one of the most interesting young cores ever assembled. Sure, the Thunder were excellent for years to come, but they could’ve had three MVPs, in their prime, on one team. That’s will likely never happen again.

Instead, Harden went to the Rockets, where he and head coach Mike D’Antoni have led some of the most explosive offenses the game has ever seen.

1) Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors (2018)

This was one of the riskiest NBA trades in recent memory. In 2018, Toronto GM Masai Ujuri decided to trade a franchise cornerstone for a player who would likely only be there for a year. He was hoping it would be a great year. It was.

After acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poetl, the Toronto Raptors went on to win their first NBA Championship in 2018-19.

In doing so, the Raptors helped destroy one of the most dominant franchises in NBA history and return parity to the league. Yes, Kevin Durant may have left the Warriors no matter what, but ending Golden State’s reign with a defeat felt like a nail in the coffin. The Warriors can still rebound, but there’s no longer a clear-cut dominant team in the league thanks to this trade.