NBA Saturday: 8 Stars Traded Before Rookie Season


The Cleveland Cavaliers are poised to send Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a trade for Kevin Love, according to reports, dealing the number one pick before his first season begins. Will the Cavs miss out on a future star? They are swapping potential for a proven game changer.

This isn’t the first time a high pick will be moved before his pro debut. Take a look back at eight standout players who were traded away before the start of their rookie years. (Heads up: These moves will have you wondering, “Why?”)

Kobe Bryant
The Charlotte Hornets didn’t really need Kobe Bryant, right? This trade is still a head-scratcher nearly 20 years later. The Hornets selected Bryant, then a teenager, 13th overall in 1996. Then, they dealt him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. Bryant exploded into one of the best to ever play the game, spending his entire career with the Lakers. Divac only played two seasons in Charlotte. The Hornets remained a playoff contender in the late 90s and eventually spiraled into a lottery team for a long stretch.

Dirk Nowitzki
The Dallas Mavericks knew a good thing when they got it. The team has locked in Dirk Nowitzki since acquiring him on draft night in 1998. That year, the Milwaukee Bucks picked Nowitzki ninth overall and traded him (and 19th pick Pat Garrity) to the Mavericks for sixth pick Robert Traylor. Nowitzki has been the cornerstone of the organization, winning a title and MVP award among other honors. The late Traylor played his first two seasons for the Bucks, averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds during that time.

Ray Allen
At the time, swapping Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury wasn’t an outlandish idea — Marbury was the fourth pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Allen was the fifth. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Allen and a future first round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for Marbury, only to watch the two careers go in completely different directions. Marbury has been out of the league since 2009 and has been playing in China. Allen, on the other hand, could return for his 19th season. He has won two championships, earned 10 All-Star nods and holds the NBA all-time three-point record.

Kevin Love
Kevin Love is now one of the most coveted players in the NBA, but back in 2008 the Memphis Grizzlies were willing to part ways with him. The Grizzlies drafted Love at number five and sent him to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a package deal in which they acquired third pick O.J. Mayo. (In total, the Grizzlies traded Love, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and Mike Miller to the Timberwolves for Mayo, Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker.) Mayo averaged 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season for the Milwaukee Bucks. Love, a three-time All-Star, posted 26.1 points, 12.5 boards and 4.4 dimes.

Pau Gasol
Before Pau Gasol was moved from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Lakers, he had also been on the move on draft night in 2001. The Atlanta Hawks selected him with the third overall pick, then traded him, Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright to the (then) Vancouver Grizzlies for Shareef Adbur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley. Gasol’s trade to the Lakers in 2008 is a memorable move, but that may not have happened if the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion hadn’t been traded by the Hawks in the first place.

Rajon Rondo
Rondo fell to the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, and once he was selected by the Phoenix Suns, they shipped him to the Boston Celtics that night. In return, the Suns received a first-round pick later used to select Rudy Fernandez. Rondo has gone on to become one of the top point guards in the league, an All-Star and championship winner.

Luol Deng
Two years prior to moving Rondo, the Suns drafted Luol Deng with the seventh pick in 2004 and traded the Duke University standout to the Chicago Bulls for Jackson Vroman and a 2005 first-round pick. Vroman appeared in 10 games for the Suns his rookie year before being traded again to the New Orleans Hornets. Deng is a two-time All-Star with a career average of 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge
Way back when Tyrus Thomas had high trade value, the Chicago Bulls drafted LaMarcus Aldridge with the second pick in 2006 and then sent him and a future-second round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. Aldridge is now a three-time All-Star, averaged 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds last season, and has lived up to his draft stock. Thomas, on the other hand, did not play in the league last season after being waived by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2013.

Hearing from Another Top Pick

Along with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett will reportedly be included in the blockbuster deal. See what the 2013 first round pick has been working on for his second season and how he is looking to improve after a disappointing rookie campaign.

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About Jessica Camerato

Jessica Camerato

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.