Remember watching Tyrus Thomas during LSU’s run to the Final Four in the 2006 NCAA Tournament? The man was an animal, destroying top overall seed Duke during a Sweet 16 matchup and then hanging 21 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking three shots against Texas in a regional final. He went from being a complete nobody during the preseason to looking like a surefire NBA star.
So what happened? He was drafted No. 4 overall by the Blazers and immediately traded to Chicago (along with forward Viktor Khryapa) for the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge, the No. 2 pick. From there, Thomas proceeded to get hurt seemingly every month, fight coaches, and never become a full-time starter, while Aldridge is now one of the best post players in the league, a two-time All Star who just averaged 21.1 points a night this year. Think the Bulls are still regretting this one?
Or how about in 2001 when Pau Gasol was chosen third overall by Atlanta and then shipped to the Grizzlies in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. From there, Gasol went on to produce what is shaping up to be a Hall of Fame career. Abdur-Rahim had three productive seasons in Atlanta, averaging around 20 points a night in all of them, before being traded to Portland. That hardly makes up for the loss of the Spaniard.
Those awful trades spawned the idea for this piece. What are some of the worst recent draft day trades? There have been a lot. Here are five more of the worst ones.
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Rockets trade RUDY GAY for SHANE BATTIER
Houston had landed in the lottery due to injuries to their star players Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Heading into draft night in 2006, the Rockets could’ve definitely used an infusion of talent right away, especially on the wing. They were coming off a season where David Wesley (!) had started 59 games for them while Keith Bogans was one of their core swingmen. Who would happen to slide down to eighth overall, gift-wrapped perfectly for Houston? Rudy Gay, the 6-8 athlete out of UConn, who has become one of the best players from the 2006 class (still not saying very much, though).
Yet Gay would never don white and red. He was shipped away to the Memphis Grizzlies that very same night in return for veteran forward Shane Battier. Battier, however, wasn’t a complete bust for the Rockets. He played a pivotal part of the team’s playoff run in 2009 that saw them advance to the Western Conference Semifinals and stretching the Lakers to seven games. All Gay did was become an offensive force, leading the Grizzlies in scoring before he was traded to the Toronto Raptors midway through this season.
The problem with this deal, and while we love Battier, is that the Rockets desperately needed size, youth and athleticism on the perimeter. They also had a bunch of castoffs masquerading as third scorers; after T-Mac and Yao, Houston had zero playmakers. Under Jeff Van Gundy, they were always going to be good defensively, which was the main sticking point in getting Battier, but Gay would’ve given them the jolt they needed to get out of the first round.