NBA Free Agency: 5 Most Impactful Trades in the summer of 2017

Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets
Irving and Paul both switched teams in the summer of 2017
Amulya Shekhar

The summer of 2017 saw some of the biggest names in basketball swap teams in order to maximize their chances at a title. Indeed, it is difficult to think of another offseason with the same amount of movement. As many as 7 All-Stars sported new uniforms for the 2017-18 season, and most of them forced those moves as trade pieces rather than in free agency.

Not all of these moves were nearly as consequential to the franchises who traded for them. Some trades ended up as win-win situations for both parties, while some left the team trading for the superstar in the best possible spot.

For the purposes of this article, we are also considering draft-night trades, given that one of them was actually more consequential than a trade that involved a perennial All-Star getting a trade to become the third banana on a 'superteam'. Our countdown for the most impactful trades made in 2017 is as follows:

#5 Boston Celtics trade down in the draft to acquire Jayson Tatum

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven

The Boston Celtics traded down in the draft to acquire a player who put LeBron James on a poster in Game 7 of a Conference Finals series. If that doesn't rank among your all-time draft-day trade fleecings, I'm waiting to hear your take.

Jayson Tatum was tipped by a number of writers to go off the draft board to end up among the top-four picks. The Celtics were most impressed by him in the workouts they hosted - more than Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson or Dennis Smith Jr. But then Trader Danny pulled off one of the heists of this decade, trading down in the draft to acquire the player he liked the most while adding another projected lottery pick in 2019 - most likely the Kings' pick in that class.

Tatum showed off his capability in one of the best rookie playoff seasons in NBA history, as he totaled the second-highest points tally for any rookie through a single postseason as the alpha dog on a Celtics team missing Kyrie. Without Tatum's scoring punch, the Celtics could never have gotten past a stacked Sixers team in the Conference Semifinals.

Markelle Fultz, whom the Sixers wanted to select, underwent one of the most curious rookie seasons in league history. He had a number of shoulder injuries through the year, and he changed his shooting form to accommodate for the bulk he put on his arms through the offseason. Brett Brown was unable to bring back the sweet hesi pull-up jimbo that made him the consensus #1 pick in 2017 through the season.

Fultz even without a serviceable jump shot will be an above-average NBA player if he puts in the work, but the Sixers would definitely like his broken jumper back to its original form.

#4 Paul George to Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors
Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors

Also read: 5 Possible destinations for Paul George

Paul George made it to two successive Conference Finals with a Pacers team that had Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson as his go-to guys. But after the Pacers let all of them go, their luck in the playoffs didn't even take them past the second round for three years. George wanted to move to either Los Angeles with the Lakers to play in his hometown, or to contend with a better team.

Thus, he informed the front office of his intention not to re-sign in 2018, allowing them to market him to various suitors. Oklahoma City Thunder put the best package together, although they didn't attach any draft picks with Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.

That haul was enough incentive for the Pacers to trade George away. A year later, while the Thunder still failed to improve much (winning only 1 more game each in the regular season as well as the postseason), the Pacers took LeBron James' Cavs to Game 7 in the first round on the back of huge improvements by both the players they acquired.

If George does not re-sign with the Thunder, the Pacers will have outright won this trade.

#3 Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves
Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves

After 7 years of getting bounced out in the playoffs, the Bulls realized that they needed to restructure their roster in order to make a bid to contend in the future. The first step in their rebuilding process was to obtain a lottery pick, and then they had to stockpile some young talent and allow them to develop through a certain period of time.

They didn't own a lottery pick in 2017, nor did they have any young talent at the time. Thus, they had to trade away their best asset and commit to a full-scale rebuild, which is how Butler moved to Minneapolis and joined the Minnesota Timberwolves, who gave up their 2017 first-round pick, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.

Butler bolstered the Wolves roster instantly, becoming their lifeblood on both sides of the court. They made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, and they look like a good young team capable of doing much more in the future.

On the other hand, the Bulls made a great selection in Lauri Markkanen, who was a member of the All-Rookie Team over this season. Kris Dunn took a huge leap, while Zach LaVine is the best shooting guard available in free agency this summer and the Bulls will look to retain his services for the foreseeable future. It has all the makings of a win-win trade, as both teams realigned their rosters with their short-term as well as long-term futures in mind.

#2 Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Five
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Five

The Houston Rockets had been on the come-up ever since getting themselves rid of the excess fat their roster had accumulated in the form of Ty Lawson, Josh Smith and Dwight Howard in 2016. They, however, needed a player who could take the offensive pressure off Harden's shoulders for extended periods in a game - and they had all the assets required to pull off a record-breaking 8-players-for-1 trade in order to acquire Chris Paul.

Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer, DeAndre Liggins, Darun Hillard and a first-round draft pick in 2019 were traded by Daryl Morey in order to acquire the point guard. The likes of Hillard, Wiltjer and Liggins were acquired in exchange for cash considerations by Morey just to trade away as pieces for this deal - which speaks volumes about his excellence at the job.

Paul gelled into life at the Toyota Center and made a seamless transition to a more off-ball role. The Rockets made it to the Conference Finals and held a 3-2 lead in the series before going down in 7 games in Paul's absence.

#1 Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics

The Celtics rounded off one of the best offseason campaigns by any general manager in the history of the league with the biggest scoop of the summer, acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected 2018 first round pick and Miami Heat's 2020 second round pick.

This came in the wake of Irving requesting a trade from the Cavaliers in July, reportedly after finding out that he'd been a part of a package deal by the front office in their efforts to acquire Paul George and Eric Bledsoe. Reports later emerged that Irving was so pissed off by this that he threatened to undergo potentially season-ending cleanup surgery on his right knee during the season if he wasn't traded.

At the end of the day, the Celtics were able to put together the best package deal of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, who'd had career years with them in 2016-17. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, neither Thomas nor Crowder was able to play anywhere close to their full ability. The Nets pick, however, landed at no. 8 in the lottery, and they were able to draft Collin Sexton with it.

While Kyrie missed the end of their regular season campaign and the playoffs due to the same cleanup surgery that he'd threatened the Cavs front office with, he played some of the most efficient offense of his career with them in the time he was within. By all accounts, he's happy with the Celtics, and with Hayward scheduled to return in 2018-19 as well, they are prohibitive favorites to make a run to the NBA Finals - whether or not LeBron re-signs with the Cavaliers.

Agree with our list? Disagree? Tell us in the comments below!

Edited by Raunak J
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