Last week’s swap between the Celtics and Pistons doesn’t typify the sort of trade that’s taken place within a couple of weeks of the start of the regular season in recent years. Neither would the near-deal between the Nets and Sixers involving Marquis Teague. Recent history suggests significant names will be on the move before the games start to count on Tuesday. Legitimate game-changers like Chris Paul, James Harden and Marcin Gortat have changed hands within in two weeks of opening night in the past three preseasons, and even a more subtle move still wound up having a significant impact.
Here’s a look at the four most important trades to happen within two weeks of opening night since the start of 2010. The preseason trades from 2011 took place in December after the lockout pushed opening night back two months.
October 25th, 2013 (Four days before opening night)
- Wizards acquire Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, and Malcolm Lee from the Suns in exchange for Emeka Okafor and Washington’s top-12 protected 2014 first-round pick. — Gortat was the clear centerpiece of this exchange, and the Wizards waived Brown, Marshall and Lee shortly after the deal. The Polish Hammer replaced the injured Okafor in the lineup and helped the Wizards to their best postseason performance in more than three decades, which prompted Washington to re-sign him to a five-year, $60MM contract.
October 27th, 2012 (Three days before opening night)
- Rockets acquire James Harden, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward from the Thunder in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, Dallas’ protected 2013 first-round pick (Mitch McGary, 2014), Toronto’s protected 2013 first-round pick (Steven Adams) and the Bobcats’ 2013 second-round pick (Alex Abrines). — Perhaps the most controversial trade of the 2010s lifted the previously stripped-down Rockets, who immediately signed Harden to a max extension, to the playoffs by the end of the 2012/13 season. The Thunder, who refused to give Harden an extension quite as lucrative as he sought, remain an elite team, but they haven’t returned to the Finals since the deal. For more on this deal, check out our Trade Retrospective.
December 24th, 2011 (One day before opening night)
- Hornets (now Pelicans) acquire Greivis Vasquez from the Grizzlies in exchange for Quincy Pondexter. — It took another season before the effects of the trade paid dividends for either team, but Vasquez went from an afterthought in Memphis to averaging 9.0 assists per game for New Orleans in 2012/13. Pondexter’s 45.3% three-point shooting for the Grizzlies in the 2013 playoffs helped him net a four-year, $14MM extension.
December 14th, 2011 (11 days before opening night)
- Clippers acquire Chris Paul, Memphis’ 2015 second-round pick (converted to cash) and New Orleans’ 2015 second-round pick from the Hornets (now Pelicans) in exchange for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and the more favorable of the Clippers and Minnesota’s 2012 first-round picks (Austin Rivers) — If the Harden trade wasn’t the most controversial in recent years, this one was, if only because of its juxtaposition against a deal that would have sent Paul to the Lakers before the NBA, which owned the New Orleans franchise at that point, rejected the proposal. Paul has turned the Clippers into contenders, and the Hornets-turned-Pelicans haven’t made it back to the playoffs. For more on this deal, check out our Trade Retrospective.