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These midseason swaps stand out ... and stand test of time

Ten trade deadline-day deals that had lasting ripple effects in NBA

POSTED: Feb 16, 2016 11:26 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury

NBA.com

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Clyde Drexler's move to Houston in 1994 helped ignite a championship surge in the Rockets.

Quite often the rumors and talk are much more plentiful than action around the time of the annual trade deadline. But history says that smoke sometimes leads to a real fire. So with the Thursday deadline (3 p.m. ET) deadline approaching, we're taking a look back at 10 of the top midseason trades and their significance:

No. 1: Grizzlies trade Pau Gasol to Lakers (2008)

Trade skinny: Gasol traded with 2010 second-round Draft pick to Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie, a 2008 first-round Draft pick and a 2010 first-round Draft pick.

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The impact: It was only the previous spring when Kobe Bryant was throwing a public fit and demanding to get away from a Lakers organization that he didn't believe had the right stuff to get back to contender level. Then General Manager Mitch Kupchak managed to send Brown, Marc Gasol, Crittenton and two draft picks to Memphis for the older Gasol brother and history was quickly changed. Gasol became the second offensive force L.A. needed, a perennial All-Star and the Lakers went to The Finals three straight years and won it all twice. Without Pau, Kobe's five-championship legacy would look much different. Adding weight to significance of the deal was the blossoming of Marc Gasol into one of the league's top centers, the 2013 Kia Defensive Player of the Year in and foundational member of the Grizzlies' "grit-and-grind" gang.

No. 2: Blazers trade Clyde Drexler to Rockets (1995)

Trade skinny: Traded with Tracy Murray to Rockets for Otis Thorpe, Marcelo Nicola and a 1995 first-round Draft pick.

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The impact: The defending champs were kicking around in the middle of the pack, unable to reignite the spark from the previous season. Coach Rudy Tomjanovich was reluctant to break up his roster until the opportunity to land the beloved hometown hero Drexler presented itself -- fittingly enough -- on Valentine's Day. The Rockets gave up Thorpe, Nicola and a draft pick. The move was widely panned across the league and it didn't help when the Rockets finished the regular season with a 17-18 record after the deal. They entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed with much to prove and it wasn't long before Drexler did just that. His heroics lit the flame in series wins over 60-win Utah, 59-win Phoenix, 62-win San Antonio and then 57-win Orlando in the NBA Finals as the Rockets won back-to-back titles.

No. 3: Blazers trade Rasheed Wallace to Pistons (2004)

Trade skinny: Traded with Wesley Person to Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Dan Dickau and Theo Ratliff on Feb. 9, 2004. On Feb. 19, 2004, as part of a three-team trade, he was traded to Pistons by Hawks. Also in deal, Celtics traded Chris Mills to Hawks and Mike James to Pistons. Pistons traded Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a 2004 first-round Draft pick to the Hawks. Pistons traded Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter and a 2004 first-round Draft pick to the Celtics.

The impact: After two straight seasons of winning 50 games and then getting knocked out in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it was obvious that the Pistons were still missing a piece to get them over the hump. That piece would come in the form of the controversial and talented Wallace for almost the price of a song. After he'd spent just one game playing for Atlanta following a trade from Portland, Detroit had to give up just Rebraca, Sura and a first-round pick to land the 6-foot-10 forward who would help to anchor the lineup. Not only was Wallace able to stretch the floor with his shooting range, but was a fantastic defensive stopper who fit seamlessly into the identity and the game plan of the Pistons as they eventually brought down the mighty Lakers in The Finals and brought and end to the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant Era in L.A.

No. 4: Warriors trade Wilt Chamberlain to 76ers (1965)

Trade skinny: Traded by the San Francisco Warriors to 76ers for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash.

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The impact: There was no official trade deadline back in the prehistoric times of the league. But this was the first midseason blockbuster in NBA history. When the San Francisco Warriors ran into financial problems, Wilt was the biggest asset to help clear the books and was shipped back to his hometown of Philadelphia in exchange for Dierking, Neumann and Shaffer. It took a period of adjustment to sort things out with his new teammates Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Luke Jackson. But Chamberlain would go on to win three straight MVP awards and with the arrival of new coach Alex Hannum, the 1966-67 Sixers would run up what was then an NBA record 68-13 mark and ended the Boston dynasty of eight straight championships when they took down the Celtics in the East finals. Chamberlain won the first of his two NBA titles when the Sixers took down the Warriors for the crown.

No. 5: Cavaliers trade Kevin Johnson to Suns (1988)

Trade skinny: Traded by Cavaliers with Tyrone Corbin, Mark West, a 1988 first-round Draft pick, a 1988 second-round Draft pick and a 1989 second-round Draft pick to Suns for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a 1988 first-round Draft pick.

The impact: Maybe the question shouldn't be why the Cavaliers were so quick to give up on K.J., but why they made him their first-round draft pick in the first place when they already had Mark Price running the point? It didn't take long to make another one of those moves that has defined Cleveland sports franchise mistakes for decades. The Cavs shipped Johnson and two picks to Phoenix for veteran forward Larry Nance and spare change. Johnson became a three-time All-Star. One of those draft picks that came with him became Dan Majerle and the pair eventually teamed up with Charles Barkley to get the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993. Johnson is now in his third consecutive year as a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

No. 6: Hawks trade Dikembe Mutombo to 76ers (2001)

Trade skinny: Traded by Hawks with Roshown McLeod to 76ers for Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff and Pepe Sanchez.

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The impact: Coach Larry Brown's team had the best record in the Eastern Conference going to the trade deadline, but they also had just lost defensive forward Theo Ratliff to injury and needed another stopper. The Sixers also needed a teammate who could ride shotgun with resident superstar Allen Iverson without demanding too many shots in the offense. Enter Mutombo. The big man would wag his finger to the fourth Defensive Player of the Year award of his career and anchored the middle of the lineup as Iverson fired away and got overachieving Philly all the way to the NBA Finals, where the Sixers eventually lost to the champion Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. What was perhaps most amazing is that what the Sixers traded to Atlanta to get Mutombo was the injured Ratliff.

No. 7: Clippers trade Baron Davis to Cavaliers (2011)

Trade skinny: Traded by Clippers with a 2011 first-round Draft pick to Cavaliers for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams.

The impact: OK, this one isn't so clean and simple. What the Clippers were at the 2011 trade deadline was desperate to unload the heavy contract of Baron Davis. They found a willing partner in the Cavs, who gave up Williams and Moon. Oh, but also insisted on a No. 1 draft pick and the Clippers sent it along unprotected. When the Clippers finished with a 32-50 record, Cleveland had just a 2.8 percent chance of winning the Draft lottery with the pick. But that's just what happened and that No. 1 pick became Kyrie Irving. You know, the 2012 Kia Rookie of the Year, a three-time All-Star and the All-Star MVP 2014? You also know LeBron James doesn't return to Cleveland if Irving wasn't there. Yup, that's one big deal.

No. 8: 76ers trade Jeff Hornacek to Jazz (1994)

Trade skinny: Traded by 76ers with Sean Green and a 1995 second-round Draft pick to Jazz for Jeff Malone and a 1994 first-round Draft pick.

The impact: There weren't many splashy headlines when the Sixers gave up on their attempt to make Hornacek a point guard and shipped him to Utah for what they thought was the shooting guard they craved in Jeff Malone. Oh, if they had only known. Hornacek was the much-needed third leg of the stool with Karl Malone and John Stockton as the Jazz became perennial Western Conference contenders and reached the NBA Finals in 1997 and '98.

No. 9: Bucks trade Andrew Bogut to Warriors (2012)

Trade skinny: Traded by Bucks with Stephen Jackson to Warriors for Kwame Brown, Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh.

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The impact: The Warriors beat the deadline by two days in the lockout season to make one of those below-the-radar pickups that is only noticeable by the ripple effect down the line. Never mind that he's an excellent passer out of the low post and solid defender in the paint when Golden State plays big. The move to get the big man not only solidified the lineup, but opened the door for Stephen Curry to become Stephen Curry and all that followed. The swap for Bogut was also the move that shipped Monta Ellis out of the Bay Area, where neither he or Curry could thrive in the same backcourt. Send Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to Milwaukee and the beautiful game that produced a 2015 championship became possible.

No. 10: Nuggets trade Carmelo Anthony to Knicks (2011)

Trade skinny: As part of a three-team trade, traded by Nuggets with Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams to Knicks. Also in deal, Nuggets traded a 2015 second-round Draft pick to Timberwolves. Timberwolves traded Kosta Koufos to the Denver Nuggets. Timbewolves traded Corey Brewer to Knicks. Knicks traded Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, cash, a 2012 second-round Draft pick, a 2013 second-round Draft pick and a 2014 first-round Draft pick to Nuggets. Knicks also traded Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to the Timberwolves.

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The impact: It's always a big deal when one of the top five players in the game gets traded in the middle of a season and Anthony was that. It's also a bigger deal when a New York team is involved because, well, it's New York. The Knicks swapped practically their entire roster — Felton, Chandler, Gallinari and Mozgov — along with three draft picks to land their big fish in Anthony. The idea was to pair him with Amar'e Stoudemire and let the good times roll in at Madison Square Garden. Five seasons later, the Knicks are working on their fourth different coach, have made two playoff appearances with Anthony and have won exactly one playoff series. But it sure felt big at the time.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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