What Are The Best Summer Trades in NBA History?


With 2023 NBA free agency having died down and Summer League reaching its completion, the NBA has reached its summer dead time.

If you are someone that likes to follow the latest NBA odds, then you’ll have noticed online bookmakers like Bovada have made the reigning champion Denver Nuggets +450 favorites to retain the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy next season. They are closely followed in the betting odds by the Boston Celtics, who have been listed at +500.

Before the new campaign gets underway, however, the NBA must navigate its way through its annual ‘silly season’. 

This summer’s draft saw teams strengthen in crucial areas, and no one strengthened more than the San Antonio Spurs, who drafted towering French center Victor Wembanyama with their first overall pick. 

The NBA has seen some incredible free-agent signings over the years. From LeBron James and his iconic ‘Decision’ to join the Miami Heat back in 2010, to Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, there have been plenty of moves that have changed the course of basketball history.

But what about trades? 

During the NBA season, players are dealt left and right by nearly each franchise— especially on the annual February trade deadline day.

Offseason trades, however, can be just as impactful and sometimes even more surprising than straight-up signings. Earlier this summer, we saw the Washington Wizards deal Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns— a move that may have the biggest impact on the 2023-24 season. 

In this article, we’re going to look at the best five summer trades in NBA history. From championship rings to MVP awards, these moves have had a lasting impact on the league.

Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors

Few people anticipated what would happen when Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2018.

Due to injury, Leonard had only participated in a few games for the Spurs the previous season, and there were speculations that he would like to play in Los Angeles. The Raptors gambled on him, however, and it paid off handsomely. In 2019, Kawhi was the team’s first-ever NBA Champion and was also voted the Finals MVP.

Steve Nash to the Phoenix Suns

When Steve Nash was traded back to the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2004, he was already a two-time MVP, but his influence on the squad was seen right away.

The Arizona outfit developed into one of the NBA’s most dominant offenses with Nash in charge. In each of Nash’s first two seasons with the franchise, they were the league leaders in scoring and advanced to their first Western Conference Finals since 1993. The game was played differently once Nash moved to Phoenix, opening the door for the quick, high-scoring offenses we see today.

Nash brought the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in three seasons during his eight-year tenure in Phoenix (2005, 2006, 2010) while being named an All-Star in six of them.

Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers

Wilt Chamberlain had already established himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history when he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968.

But the Lakers were eventually able to climb over the hump after his arrival in tinsel town. The Lakers won the NBA Championship in Chamberlain’s debut season with the franchise, and he led the league in rebounds. Throughout his tenure with the team, he kept up his dominance, adding another championship in 1972 and solidifying his legacy among the Lakers.

Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat

Shaquille O’Neal was  to the Miami Heat in 2004 after enjoying the early 2000s success with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning three championships throughout his eight-year stint with the franchise.

When he arrived, the squad was already a contender, and in 2006, he and a youthful Dwyane Wade led the group to their first NBA Championship. Wade’s speed and talent were the perfect complement to Shaq’s size and domination in the paint, and the two combined to make one of the NBA’s most formidable teams.

Moses Malone to the Philadelphia 76ers

When Moses Malone joined the Philadelphia 76ers in the summer of 1982 via a sign-and-trade, he famously predicted “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’” – as in, the Sixers would sweep all three of their playoff series en route to an NBA Championship.

It wasn’t quite a clean sweep, but Malone’s arrival did help the team win their first title since 1967. Malone’s rebounding and scoring prowess made him the perfect complement to Julius Erving, and he was named the NBA Finals MVP after the Sixers swept the Lakers in the Finals.

Summer Trades Remain Underrated

Summer trades might not have the same pizzazz as trade-deadline deals, but they can be just as if not more impactful. The five trades we’ve highlighted here helped change the course of NBA history, bringing championships, glory and lasting memories to the teams and fans involved. Whether it was Kawhi in Toronto, Nash in Phoenix or Shaq in Miami, these players all had a hand in creating some of the most memorable moments in NBA history.

Which next summer trade will crack this list?

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