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Ranking the NBA's biggest off-season moves of past 15 years

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal are among NBA stars to change teams in the past 15 years.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Warriors fans got a sneak peek at this summer’s biggest blockbuster Tuesday, when Kevin Durant and USA Basketball rolled through Oracle Arena for a blowout exhibition win over China. Durant, the face of the National Team, seized the “Biggest Move of the Summer” title when he announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State earlier this month.

To some, including some rival owners it seems, the momentous move was unfair: How can a 73-win team that reached the last two Finals add a 27-year-old MVP? How can the NBA’s most efficient offense add a three-time scoring champion? How can a starting lineup that sports three All-Stars and All-NBA selections in their primes plug its biggest hole by adding a fourth? 

There’s no doubt that Durant choosing the Warriors was the defining move of the 2016 off-season. But how does it stack up to other off-season blockbusters in recent memory?

Here’s’s rundown of the 15 biggest off-season moves of the past 15 years.

A few quick notes:

1. These moves were judged first by how big they were at the time they happened.

2. A player’s age, per-game stats, advanced stats (Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares) and awards (MVP, All-NBA, etc.) the season before the move were weighed heavily in the ranking.

3. The result and aftermath of the moves was then a secondary consideration.

4. A player’s stats and his team’s ability to advance to the playoffs (immediately and for multiple years afterward) after the move were also considered.

5. Only off-season trades and signings were considered; midseason trades (like Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks) were not eligible.


15. Andrew Bynum: From the Lakers to the Sixers, 2012

This is the blockbuster that history forgot. Although Bynum wasn’t even the headliner of the four-team deal that sent him from L.A. to Philadelphia (thanks to Dwight Howard), he was a 24-year-old center with two rings coming off of a career year in which he averaged 19/11 and earned All-NBA Second Team honors. Unfortunately for the Sixers, who traded a horde of assets to land their new franchise big man, Bynum’s career rolled into the gutter and he never even suited up in Philadelphia.

After attempting brief comebacks with the Cavaliers and Pacers, Bynum is a 28-year-old retiree. The repercussions of Bynum’s catastrophic fall-off were immense: Philadelphia entered a prolonged, tank-fueled funk, winning just 81 games combined over the next four seasons. Thankfully, No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons is (finally) here to save the day.

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14. LaMarcus Aldridge: From the Blazers to the Spurs, 2015

The biggest move of last summer paid off splendidly, until it didn’t. Following nine seasons in Portland where he evolved from supporting piece to go-to guy, Aldridge split with Damian Lillard to join the NBA’s most consistent contender. While Aldridge’s individual statistics predictably took a hit thanks to a lighter workload, he played for the best team of his career (67 wins), found a fit in between Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard on the NBA’s best defense, earned All-NBA Second Team honors, and advanced in the postseason for just the second time during his 10-year career.

One year later, this one has lost a little bit of its luster as it has been overshadowed by Golden State’s massive summer and undercut by Duncan’s retirement. A disappointing second-round loss to the Thunder didn’t help, either. Still, the Aldridge addition gives Popovich and company a strong talent base as it plunges forward into the post-Duncan era. The Spurs might not be the Spurs without the Big Fundamental, but they won’t fall off the map thanks to the Leonard/Aldridge pairing. 

13. Kevin Love: From the Timberwolves to the Cavaliers, 2014

Solely from an advanced stats standpoint, Love’s move from Minnesota to Cleveland actually checks in as the fourth-biggest move of the last 15 years. When the Timberwolves dealt their All-Star power forward to the Cavaliers for No. 1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the 25-year-old Love was coming off a 26/13 season that placed him among the league leaders in PER (26.9) and Win Shares (14.3).