The NBA is continuously fluttered with insignificant, irrelevant, and unexplained swaps. These trades aren’t anything that raises fans’ spirits, gets them into the stadium seats, or even motivates them to buy a shirt jersey. Rather, they are obscure swaps that fill the rooms with crickets chirping, lights flickering, and fans dozing off. They impact a team like a fly landing on an elephant, or wind blowing furiously against a house of bricks. That is to say, these trades are hollow like a cave or a smoke box in a steam locomotive.
These are the 4 strangest NBA trades.
4. Josh Smith, Sergei Lishouk, and cash for Maarty Leunen
Let me preface by saying that Josh Smith used to be relevant. There was a universe where Smith dominated the boards, won a dunk contest, and hit threes consistently (Okay that never happened but Smith was still pretty good at basketball at one point). Of course, he was playing poorly for the Stan Van Gundy-led Pistons teams before and refused to stop heaving wide-open (there was a reason he was left open every time) and contested threes every opportunity he got.
In 2014, Josh Smith was significant enough to a Rockets team that marched all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Smith averaged 12.5 points 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the regular season, providing a necessary spark for a team with a malnourished bench. He even stepped up his game in the playoffs, where he put his intrepid playing style on full display. He produced 13.5 points 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in a meager 23.5 minutes per game. Smith was Harden’s direct outlet when he got tired (or bored), by flashing at the key, high post, elbow, and short corner.
So when Smith’s playing style did not fit in with the Lob City Clippers and the Rockets were struggling to retain that zeal they flaunted in 2014, the two were seemingly a match made in heaven. Games are not, in fact, played on paper though and that was none more visible than the Smith-Rockets pairing in 2016.
Smith had lost even more of his athleticism since his last Rockets go-round, and now instead of being a shell of his Hawks-self, his shell was now broken and his body on the side of the road labeled roadkill. He simply was not the player he once was and didn’t even look the part of an NBA player. His 34.3% from the field looked more like a three-point percentage and his 6.6 points and 2.9 rebounds looked more like rookie statistics. This trade, while hyped, was inconsequential to either the Rockets or Clippers. Don’t even get me started on Sergei Lishouk and Maarty Leunen (because I have no idea who they are).
3. Blake Griffin for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, 2018 first-round pick, and 2019 second-round pick
Doc Rivers had a perplexing career as Clippers GM. From signing his son to a questionable player-friendly contract to thinking Byron Mullens was third-big on a championship team. So when 2017 Summer arrived and the Clippers inked Blake Griffin to a 5 year $173 million contract, it seemed like another blunder by the organization. They even called Blake Griffin a Clipper for life. Then the franchise did a full 360.
Doc Rivers was axed as GM just a month following the enormous Blake Griffin signing. Lawrence Frank eventually replaced him. The Clipper for Life moniker seemed to diminish just a tiny bit after the firing.
Yet the Clipper for life had no idea.
Many people do not know Griffin has a stand-up career and once joked about NBA trades being like a girlfriend dumping you to hook up with someone else. That joke quickly became a reality when he was traded to Detroit.
We found out two things when the trade went down: Jokes aren’t as funny when they become true and Doc Rivers is the worst GM ever.
2. Luke Ridnour traded 4 times in a week.
This is not a particular trade, but rather a set of trades that are highly questionable. Since coming out of Marquette, Luke Ridnour had proved to be a decent backup point guard. Ridnour produced 10.0 points 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Luke played for three teams in 10 seasons and was not necessarily acclimated to the grueling business of the NBA.
In 2015, Ridnour ran into a brick wall. First, he was traded from Orlando to Memphis. That was on Wednesday. The next day, Ridnour was shipped to Charlotte for Matt Barne. On the same day (!), Luke was sent to Oklahoma City for Jeremy Lamb. Luke was tired and ready to settle in after three trades in a matter of two days. But it wasn’t over yet. 5 days later, Ridnour was sent to Toronto for cash considerations.
Ridnour (probably) sat down and just said I’m done, as he sat out the 2015-2016 season. He has not returned to the NBA since. Welp, the NBA is a business after all. I am sure Luke Ridnour knows all about the business.
1. Demarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, and 2017 first pick and 2017 second round pick
Demarcus Cousins was often tangled up in drama in Sacramento.
This trade was a nauseating one, which also aptly describes Vivek Ranadive’s career in Sacramento’s front office. First, Vivek’s move to hire Vlade Divac seemed like an aim at nostalgia to fans who hadn’t got a whiff of the playoffs in 12 years.
Then, mounting up a mountain of losses led them to a myriad of chances at talented players in the lottery. Their first grasp at talent came in 2010 when they grabbed Cousins with the 4th pick. As I detailed in my Demarcus Cousins piece, Cousins was a mercurial player and an issue in the locker room. Even for his boundless ability, he was a net negative for a Kings organization. By expediting the growing process, the Kings took a massive step back.
Everyone watches criminal shows. There is a crucial scene in every crime story where he/she forgot to wear gloves when they stole the jewelry and needs to go back to erase any evidence. The criminal needed to cover his tracks so he’s not tracked down by the police. This crime scene is like the Cousins trade. Ranadive, the criminal, messed up and recognized he did, so he needed to cover his tracks as soon as possible.
What is the easiest way to cover your tracks? By comparing Buddy Hield to Steph Curry, apparently. Buddy Hield is like Steph Curry, except he is half the shooter, can’t create for himself or teammates, and does not play a lick of defense. Prior to the trade, Hield was shooting 39.2% from the field and 36.9% from three and producing just 8.6 points per game and 1.4 assists. In Sacramento, Hield has averaged a meager 13.5 points.