10 current or past All-Stars who have been traded twice or more
These active players all have All-Star appearances in their past and have all had to deal with being traded at least 2 times in their career.
There’s a very good chance Trevor Ariza won’t be traded Thursday, although you never really know.
Ariza is the most swapped player in NBA history; he’s now with the Heat — his fourth team since the end of the 2019-20 season — and therefore is running up a collection of jerseys with his name on the back. Ariza has received a phone call wishing him well in the future from his general manager 11 times.
Most of his trades were done for convenience, either for salary cap reasons or his team needed help at another position or simply didn’t feel Ariza was in its present or future plans. That’s why Oklahoma City sent him to the Heat for nothing. Meyers Leonard was told by OKC not to bother showing up and will also decline Leonard’s option for next season. And by the way, Ariza never stepped foot in OKC, either; he was held out for this very reason — a trade.
Ariza has been a decent player in his career. However, trading All-Stars are more complicated. Those are only done if the player becomes devalued for any reason, or gets disgruntled with the direction of the club, or turns old. Trading a star once isn’t too unusual; more than once is odd.
With the NBA trade deadline approaching — and Ariza apparently not on the block — on March 25, here’s a list of 10 current or past All Stars who have been dealt at least twice, and the circumstances that made them happen.
Dwight Howard (traded four times): In a pure and perfect world, Howard would still be with Orlando, where his career began, where it was built, where his legacy was at its highest and best. But: Howard became ornery and quirky and burned his way out of town — remember the uncomfortable Dwightmare period where he and the Orlando Magic tried and failed to prevent a divorce?
Since then, Howard has stayed in places where his welcome was quickly worn out: A poor relationship with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in L.A., another one in Houston with James Harden, a return to his home city in Atlanta that fell flat and then being dumped on the Hornets who had no use for him. From there, the future Hall of Famer has lived on a steady diet of cheap short-term free agent deals at various stops; at least one, a return to the Lakers, resulted in a championship.
Chris Paul (four times): Of all the trades involving Paul, the one that stands out is the one that didn’t happen: Paul to the Lakers, where he would have teamed up with Kobe. But the pre-Pelicans Hornets were in disarray then, and the league had to step in to manage the club, and commissioner David Stern didn’t think the Hornets received enough in return so he vetoed the deal. Eventually, Paul was sent to the Clippers, where “Lob City” was born but, unfortunately, no championship followed.
Since then, Paul has traveled to places where he made a difference. With the Rockets, he helped Houston and James Harden to the brink of a Finals appearance in 2018 before a costly hamstring injury benched him in the West finals with the Rockets up 3-2 on the Golden State Warriors. With the Thunder, Paul was a solid leader and All-Star during his one season in OKC. And now with the Suns, he’s a difference-maker for a once-perennial basement-dweller that’s now among the best in the West.
Carmelo Anthony (four times): His trade from the Nuggets to the Knicks in 2011 had quite the ripple effect. Remember, this was when Anthony was nearing his peak as a lethal scorer, and so he had value and also leverage because he was in a contract year. Rather than wait three months and sign him outright in free agency, the Knicks (strongly encouraged by owner James Dolan) traded a chunk of their rotation for Melo. This caused the hasty departure of GM Donnie Walsh, built the Nuggets into a consistent 50-game winner, enhanced then-Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri’s reputation as a deal-maker and turned Melo into a New York savior at least for six years.
Least memorable is when Anthony was traded to the Hawks in 2018. That might be the shortest and most forgettable stint in recent NBA history involving a player of his magnitude. His five-day, no-play stay in Atlanta ended with a buyout, and it was sandwiched between other forgettable stays, first in Oklahoma City and then Houston, where Melo began his free-fall from stardom. In between those stays, Anthony logged trade No. 4 when he was dealt to the Bulls (but never played there either) in 2019. Neither the Rockets nor the Thunder knew how to use his skills, and just as well, as a former franchise player with the Nuggets and Knicks, Anthony wouldn’t embrace being a role player, not like now with the Blazers.
Jimmy Butler (three times): Not long ago, Butler said he never saw himself leaving the Bulls, the team that drafted him. But the business of basketball had other ideas, and three teams later, Butler is in Miami with the Heat, where he’s enjoying his best times.
There’s no question about his worst time: Minnesota. That was an experience that barely lasted more than a season, and very little of it memorable except for the infamous team scrimmage which quickly became legend. That’s when Butler and four bench players whipped the other starters, with Butler talking smack the entire time, as if to prove a point about the Wolves’ lack of killer instinct. Minnesota, by the way, surrendered Zach LaVine to the Bulls to get Butler, and has nothing to show for the subsequent trade that sent Butler to Philly.
James Harden (twice): The first trade broke up a potential dynasty, the second one broke a franchise. Each time he left town — first in OKC (in 2012) and then Houston (2021) — Harden left shattered pieces if not feelings. Leaving the Thunder will always be debated for decades as Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reached The Finals before any of them turned 25. Naturally, the future of the franchise seemed solid. But with Harden’s rookie contract still having another year to run, OKC panicked, refused to give a sixth man (at the time) $54 million over four years while knowing Durant and Westbrook would cost more, and sent him to Houston.
Given his own team to run, Harden became a superstar and the Rockets tried admirably yet failed to build a championship nucleus around him. When those attempts were exhausted, Harden surrendered. His exit strategy was to moan, whine, report late and disrupt enough to force the Rockets to accelerate his departure. It worked, as Harden is in Brooklyn and reunited with Durant. They’re poised to travel further in the postseason than he ever did in Houston, which is in shambles.
Russell Westbrook (twice): He was destined to spend his entire career in OKC mainly because the Thunder super-maxed him and also the club needed a credible player after Durant (and before him, Harden) left town. But once Paul George leveraged his way to the LA Clippers to join a new co-star (Kawhi Leonard), OKC was left with a dilemma: Rebuild around Westbrook — who, at this point, began to show decline — or press the red button and scrub him (and more importantly, his remaining salary) off the roster?
That began a process of Westbrook’s bloated salary being kicked to someone else, with OKC preceding the Rockets preceding the Wizards, and here we are. With his shooting range shrinking by the minute while his salary soars into the $40 million-a-year range, Westbrook is no longer an All-Star. We’ve all seen this movie before: he’ll either be a buyout guy or his contract will be kicked to someone else.
Paul George (twice): George has the distinction of not once, but twice asking to be traded from a team that didn’t want to let him leave. This became fodder for Damian Lillard last fall when the two stars trolled each other during their bubble dust-up. The good news for George is not only did he wind up where he ultimately wanted to be — Los Angeles — but with the Clippers he probably has a better shot at contending for a title than in Indiana and OKC. Plus, he signed a whopping contract extension two months ago, so what’s not to like from his end?
His trade from the Pacers was harder on the locals than when OKC shipped him. George only played two seasons there and so the roots didn’t run as deep (he was drafted by and spent seven seasons with the Pacers). Still, as a multiple All-Star and All-NBA selection with the Pacers, he should have his jersey retired in Indiana … but that’s probably not in the works.
Kyle Lowry (twice): It’s easy to forget Lowry once had a previous NBA life. Even tougher to comprehend that in this previous life is that he couldn’t beat out Aaron Brooks for the starting point guard spot. But, while strange, it’s true: Lowry was a steady-but-unspectacular player before he joined the Raptors and made himself a champion and potential Hall of Famer.
Before backing up Brooks in Houston (Lowry eventually became the starter for the Rockets), Lowry lost out to Mike Conley in Memphis. He became unhappy, and the Grizzlies did him a solid by sending him to the Rockets, who in turn did him a bigger one by jettisoning him to Canada. Long story short: Other than Vince Carter, nobody has had a bigger impact on basketball Up North than Lowry.
Andre Iguodala (three times): Iguodala has been with five teams but joined two essentially through free agency (Denver and Golden State). He then was a Warriors’ trade casualty because the club needed to refresh after three championships and was dealt to Memphis. Then Iguodala became part of a trend: He stayed away, by mutual agreement, from the rebuilding Grizzlies until the team could trade him. In Miami, Iguodala is valued for his wisdom and leadership. However, it’s also clear his best basketball was two teams ago.
Jrue Holiday (twice): He’s probably the league’s most valuable player despite having made only one All-Star team (and that was eight seasons ago) and no All-NBA teams. Why’s this? Because Holiday indirectly was involved in desperate attempts by his team to keep its franchise player happy and in town.
Holiday was traded from Philly to New Orleans in 2013 mainly so he could compliment Anthony Davis, and four years later was given a big extension mainly to pacify Davis. But Davis demanded out anyway two years after that. Last fall, Holiday was sent to the Bucks mainly to pacify Giannis Antetokounmpo, who then signed a supermax contract. Good news also for Jrue: He’ll have the hammer this summer during contract negotiations because the Bucks must sign him or else have nothing to show for a trade that cost them a handful of first-round picks.
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