#3 The Boston Celtics (Larry Bird) - 1978 NBA Draft
Even though Larry Bird's debut happened in the 1979-80 NBA season, the player was eligible for selection in the 1978 NBA Draft. The Boston Celtics picked him up from Indiana State, where Bird would return for another year.
Bird returned to college, but his NBA eligibility was set because his original college class had graduated from Indiana. The teams with the first few picks did not select Bird due to financial reasons and the player's reluctance to leave college.
Though they were initially reluctant to pay what Bird had asked for, the Boston Celtics eventually selected him with the sixth pick for the 1979-80 NBA season.
Bird won the Rookie of the Year award right away and turned around the fortunes of the franchise. He went on to play 13 NBA seasons with the Celtics, winning three NBA championships, three MVP awards and two Finals MVP honors.
Larry Bird has arguably etched his name as a Top-5 player in NBA history, and he definitely proved right Red Auerbach's decision to pick him up.
#2 The LA Lakers (Kobe Bryant) - 1996 NBA Draft
The Hornets then agreed to send Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles in exchange for established center Vlade Divac, who was a 13-point nine-rebound-per-game player for the Lakers in his seven NBA seasons with the franchise.
Though the Lakers lost their starting center, Shaquille O'Neal filled that void brilliantly for the next eight seasons, winning three NBA championships alongside Bryant.
Kobe Bryant became the greatest LA Lakers player in the history of the franchise and also in the NBA. He played 20 years for the LA Lakers, winning five NBA championships, two Finals MVP awards, a regular-season MVP award and many other accolades during an all-time unique career.
#1 The Boston Celtics (Bill Russell) - 1956 NBA Draft
This NBA Draft move surely changed the competition's landscape and the history of the Boston Celtics.
In the 1956 NBA Draft, the Rochester Royals drafted Sihugo Green first overall, while the St. Louis Hawks selected Bill Russell from San Francisco with the second pick.
Boston's best player was Ed Macauley, but the team decided to send him and Cliff Hagan (who had not played in the NBA before) to the Hawks for Russell, who had been a 20-point, 20-rebound-per-game player in three years at San Francisco.
Moreover, Boston drafted Tommy Heinsohn that same night, along with KC Jones. They went on to win the NBA championship in Russell's rookie season, which happened to be the first title in franchise history.
After two years, the NBA Draft deal seemed to work out for both sides, as the Hawks defeated Russell and Red Auerbach in the 1958 NBA Finals with Macauley and Hagan playing alongside Bob Pettit. However, the Hawks could not stop Russell's run to ten more NBA championships as the player became a part of arguably the greatest dynasty in NBA history.
Bill Russell won 11 titles with the Boston Celtics, along with five regular-season MVP awards to become the league's all-time greatest winner. He also won two championships as a player/coach.
During their period, the Boston Celtics faced the Hawks four times in the NBA Finals, beating their NBA Draft night trade partners on three occasions.