5 Biggest Superstar swaps in the NBA since 2000

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers
San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers
Amulya Shekhar

Superstars are an essential ingredient for teams to have any kind of sustained success in the NBA. They are hard to come by, and a large number of superstars end up spending most of their careers with the franchise that drafted them - mostly due to the relative ease with which a franchise can cater to its star player's demands.

In some cases, however, disagreements happen due to ego clashes, personality mismatches and a difference of opinion. They might also be precipitated more likely due to off-court issues than any that stem on it.

Any divorce between a franchise and its centerpiece is bound to be a messy one, as proved by the Kawhi Leonard saga that has loomed large over the league for much of the past season. Here, we take a look at the Kawhi-DeRozan swap, among a couple of other trades which involved exchanges of All-Star caliber players between 2 franchises:

#5 Gary Payton and Ray Allen

Payton, Allen, Abdur-Rahim, Houston
Payton, Allen, Abdur-Rahim, Houston

This one has to hurt a lot for Bucks fans. Coach George Karl and franchise player and 3-time All Star Ray Allen had had some disagreements over the course of the 2001-02 season, one in which the Bucks failed to make the playoffs despite finishing with a 41-41 record. Allen stayed on at the start of the season, but was dealt at the trade deadline in exchange for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason, with Ronald Murray and Kevin Ollie accompanying him to the Sonics.

Payton was 34 at the time and played just 28 games in 2003 before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Allen, meanwhile, took a big step forward in Seattle, having already led the Bucks to a Conference Finals series in 2001.

Allen's best years were spent as a Sonic in the Western Conference. He averaged 24.6 points, 4.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals for Seattle, before engineering a move to the Boston Celtics in pursuit of a championship with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

#4 Stephon Marbury and Jason Kidd

Phoenix Suns' Stephon Marbury drives to the basket around Ne
Phoenix Suns' Stephon Marbury drives to the basket

The Suns' front office has been on the wrong side of a number of deals over the past 2 decades, although in this case, their hand might have been forced. Jason Kidd was going through court proceedings related to domestic abuse, and the organization wanted no part of a player who could hurt their brand with his actions. Thus, they traded the 28-year-old to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Stephon Marbury during the summer of 2001.

The Nets, then coached by Byron Scott, capitalized on this opportunity with one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history to make 2 successive Finals in 2002 and 2003, although they lost on both occasions. Kidd played for 7 of his best years with the Nets until 2008, before getting traded to the Dallas Mavericks aged 35 years old.

Marbury, on the other hand, did not live up to the expectations. He was a volume scorer reluctant to share the ball, and the Suns were unable to reach their ceiling as a team. He was dealt to the New York Knicks in 2004 in a trade that also sent Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski to The Big Apple, in exchange for Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe, Milos Vujanic and two additional first-round picks.

#3 Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

In one of the most cold-blooded GM moves of the decade, Danny Ainge traded away Isaiah Thomas in order to receive a once-in-a-generation talent named Kyrie Irving. Ainge looked really poor during this move because IT4 had always given 110% effort whenever he took the floor for the Celtics and even took the floor in the playoffs despite a hip injury he'd suffered earlier in the season.

IT even played through the news of his sister's demise, dropping 52 points in a Conference Semifinals game against the Washington Wizards and endearing himself to the Celtics faithful with an MVP-caliber 2016-17 season.

While Kyrie balled out on his arrival at Boston before undergoing season-ending knee surgery, Isaiah was never able to integrate himself properly into the Cavs' offense and got traded to the Lakers at the deadline. He essentially tanked his value as a free agent while putting his body on the line for the Cs, and has a spot on the Nuggets' roster for a veteran's minimum contract when he looked like a max contract caliber player less than a year ago.

#2 Chauncey Billups and Allen Iverson

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers
Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers

In one of the most inexplicable moves of the 2000s, the Pistons traded away their star point guard who'd led them to 6 consecutive Conference Finals in exchange for a high-usage, low-efficiency player at that point. By 2008, there was little doubt in anyone's minds that Billups was the better player to build your team around, mainly because of his exceptional playmaking ability.

Joe Dumars, however, had designs on the free agency class of 2009, and Iverson's contract was an expiring deal along with Antonio McDyess', which would open Detroit up enough cap space to make a run. It is safe to say that the scenario he'd envisioned did not play out, as Iverson failed to meet his potential and got traded to the Grizzlies midseason.

The Pistons finished with a below-.500 record for the season, while the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing 4-2 to eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Detroit failed to land any marquee free agent as well, and have made the playoffs just once since then.

#1 Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan and K
DeRozan and Kawhi

Following a saga that lasted through the majority of the 2017-18 season and this offseason so far, Kawhi Leonard finally engineered a move from the San Antonio Spurs. The disgruntled small forward was misdiagnosed with a quadriceps injury that kept flaring up every now and then, but the Spurs' medical staff were unable to find any evidence of him being unfit - handing him over to a personal team of doctors.

Following further disagreement and a players-only meeting held for the sole purpose of urging Kawhi to stage a comeback and his subsequent refusal, the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year went AWOL from all Spurs-related activities. Kawhi actively refused to establish any sort of communication with Popovich or the rest of the San Antonio Spurs' front office, stating through his group a desire to play in Los Angeles for the added exposure it would bring him.

Sure enough, Popovich wasn't about to go and strengthen his single biggest rivals since the start of his NBA career - the Lakers. This meant that Kawhi would have to look elsewhere, and the Raptors came in with the best possible offer for San Antonio.

DeMar DeRozan has made it to 2 All-NBA teams so far and keeps adding to his offensive repertoire. Many of his strengths in offense are similar to those of Kawhi, so with a few adjustments, the Spurs should be able to right their shaky ship and put up another 50-win season this time around.

Edited by Raunak J


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