December 15th is the unofficial start of trade season in the NBA, and less than two weeks remain until that date, when most offseason signees become eligible for inclusion in trades. Some Decembers are more active than others, but several fairly significant transactions have taken place in recent seasons. We’ll rank the top six most important December trades of the last five years here:
1. December 14th, 2011
— The Clippers get Chris Paul and two second-round picks (one became Arturas Gudaitis, whose rights are held by the Kings, and the other was converted to cash, which went to the Nuggets).
— The Pelicans get Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and a 2012 first-round pick (Austin Rivers).
- No December move in the past five years has had the lasting impact that this one has. Paul transformed the Clippers, providing the proper complement to Blake Griffin. The Clippers never won 60% or more of their games in any season before this trade, which took place before the tip of the lockout-shortened 2011/12 campaign. They haven’t failed to win that many in any of the four seasons since. The Pelicans have only Gordon to show from the deal at this point, but it helped the franchise to reboot, win the lottery, and score Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012.
- Only one trade took place in December 2013, but it was a doozy, and a matter of addition by subtraction for the Raptors. Patterson is the lone player Toronto received that day who remains with the team, but offloading Gay, who clearly wasn’t a fit, allowed the Raptors to turn the reigns over to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who’ve led the franchise to back-to-back playoff appearances. The Gay trade was to be the first move of a teardown north of the border, but instead it sparked a revival. That applied to Gay, too, and he delivered a career high 21.1 points per game last season for the Kings, who signed him to a three-year, $40MM extension in November 2014.
3. December 11th, 2011
— The Mavericks get Lamar Odom, a 2012 second-round pick (Darius Johnson-Odom) and the right to swap 2013 second-round picks with the Lakers (not exercised).
— The Lakers get a 2012 first-round pick (Mitch McGary).
- The fortunes of both teams turned for the worse after this swap, which Mark Cuban called “by far the worst” personnel decision the Mavs have made in his tenure as owner, as Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted earlier this year (on Twitter). Dallas had won the championship just months before the move, but Odom never again played as well as he had for the Lakers, and the Mavs, who haven’t escaped the first round since, traded him to the Clippers in the summer of 2012. The Lakers used the trade exception they reaped from the deal to acquire Steve Nash, who never lived up to the contract or lofty expectations that accompanied him to L.A., and the franchise has been in a tailspin ever since. The Lakers traded away the pick that became McGary long before the Thunder used it on the former Michigan center.
— The Mavericks get Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell.
— The Celtics get Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Dallas’ 2015 first-round pick if it falls anywhere from No. 4 to No. 14, and the move favorable of Dallas’ 2016 second-round pick and Memphis’ 2016 second-round pick.
- Last year’s Rondo trade turned out to be another flop for Dallas, though not to the degree of the Odom deal. Wright and Nelson are long gone from Boston, but Crowder re-signed on a five-year deal, and the Celtics are likely to end up with that first-rounder after this season, as it’s now only top-seven protected. The threat of Rondo departing in free agency always loomed for Dallas, but few could have predicted that Powell, an early-season revelation, would be the most enduring figure from this trade for the Mavs.
5. December 18th, 2010
- Washington moved on from the Agent Zero era amid a gun scandal, and the Magic gave up a key part of its 2009 Eastern Conference championship team. Neither player was ever quite the same after the move, but the Wizards have more successfully reinvented themselves since the deal, notwithstanding the early-season results this year. That’s in part because just months before trading Arenas, the Wizards used the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft to select John Wall.
6. December 18th, 2010
- The best days of Richardson and Turkoglu were behind them, but the deal gave Gortat the chance to become a full-time starter for the first time. He proved worthy of the job, and the Wizards noticed, trading for him in 2013 and signing him to a five-year, $60MM contract the next summer. The Suns could still be reaping the benefits of the acquisition of the pick that became Mirotic had they not attached it to Goran Dragic in an ill-fated 2011 trade for Aaron Brooks.
Honorable mention: Corey Brewer was involved in two December trades, going from the Mavs to the Nuggets in 2011 and from the Timberwolves to the Rockets in 2014.
How would you rank these trades? Leave a comment to tell us.