Top 5 most traded players in NBA History

Sai Krishnan

Moving is one of the great stresses in life. Imagine you have to shift to another city. You have to pack up your things, say goodbye to your friends, sell off whatever you don’t need and move to a strange city filled with strange people and start a new life there. Sounds really stressful doesn’t it?

Now relate this to the life of a NBA Player. He gets traded to a new team and has to move to their city. He has to say goodbye to his teammates and shift his family to a strange city. Old teammates, locker rooms, friends will all get replaced with new ones.

The hardest part is yet to come.

Once he’s settled down, he’ll be given a tour of the arena, the locker rooms and the gym. Then, an assistant coach will stroll in with a book the size of a man’s thigh. This is the dreaded playbook containing hundreds of plays. It will contain every offensive and defensive strategy a player of his position should know as long as he plays for their team. The assistant coach would ask him to memorize all plays before the summer camp. Sure thing coach, piece of cake.

Then comes building rapport. In most cases, the player wouldn’t know a lot of his new teammates personally, save those he meets through multi-team events (like the All-Star Weekend). He might have played against some, might have ego issues or just feel plain dislike towards some of them. But he has to cast aside all these things and get down to preparing himself for the next game.


However, there are some players who do this on a regular basis. They get traded so often that being traded is part of their offseason just like going on vacations or spending time with kids. In this article, we take a look at the 5 most traded players in NBA History.

Please note that if a player sign with a new team when he was a free agent, it won’t be considered as a trade. Therefore, the total number of teams he’s played for will not correspond to the number of trades he’s been involved in.


Otis Thorpe was traded six times

Otis Thorpe

A no-nonsense, hard working player if there ever was one. Thorpe wasn’t just an average player who got traded because no team wanted him. He scored 17,600 points during his 17 year career in the NBA. He was an integral part of the 1994 Championship winning Houston Rockets team. He also holds the Rockets’ All-time record for field goal efficiency (55.9%).

Stats: 17 seasons, 14.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, NBA Champion, 1 time NBA All-Star.

Career Trades: Seven. Sacramento to Houston, Houston to Portland, Portland to Detroit, Detroit to Vancouver(now Memphis), Vancouver to Sacramento, Sacramento to Washington, Miami to Charlotte.

Most Famous deals: He was part of several franchise history altering trades during his career. When Thorpe went to Portland in 1995, the legendary Clyde Drexler was brought to Houston who helped them win their second straight championship. In 1997, the Pistons packed Thorpe off to the Grizzlies in a seemingly minor deal for a first-round pick. That pick would, in time, turn out to be one of the most famous picks in history. Thanks to the Grizzlies’ ineptitude it turned out to be the No. 2 pick in 2003, which Detroit used on Darko Milicic. 

4. Joe Smith

Joe Smith

Joe Smith

The only no. 1 pick on this list. Despite this good start, Smith had an average career at best. It just further reaffirms the fact that no matter how high a player begins his career, all that matters is what he does with it before he sails of into the sunset.

Stats: 15 seasons, 10.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, NBA All-Rookie first team

Career Trades: Seven. Golden State to Philadelphia, Minnesota to Milwaukee, Milwaukee to Denver, Denver to Philadelphia, Chicago to Cleveland, Cleveland to Oklahoma City, New Jersey(now Brooklyn) to L.A. Lakers.

Most Famous deals: For a player who lasted 15 seasons in the NBA and made it to the list of top 5 most traded players in NBA History, Smith was conspicuously not part of any major deals. The most famous ones would probably be the two deals in which he helped build a team around LeBron James at Cleveland. In 2008, he went to Cleveland in a 3 team deal that brought Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Ben Wallace to the Cavs. He left the next summer much the same way he entered: a 3 team deal that brought in Mo Williams to Cleveland.

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Edited by Staff Editor

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