10 NBA players’ careers who were saved by a trade

NBA trades are usually done to improve teams’ rosters. However, sometimes a change of scenery really benefit players that change teams.

Trades between teams in the league are some of the most exciting parts of the NBA. This paves the way for teams to improve their roster with the hopes of winning the elusive NBA championship. Throughout NBA history, we’ve witnessed some of the most game-changing trades that ultimately led to championships.
On the other hand, there are also trades that have allowed several NBA players to get better thanks to the change in scenery. In fact, it’s safe to say some NBA players’ careers were saved by a trade. For this piece, let’s take a look at 10 NBA players’ careers who were saved by a trade.

Chauncey Billups

While Billups went on to become an NBA champion, a Finals MVP, and a five-time All-Star, it is difficult to see him achieve all those had he stayed with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics drafted Billups in the 1997 NBA Draft in the first round with the third overall pick.

Although he played decently by averaging 11.2 points per game for the lowly Celtics, Billups confessed that he didn’t fit in Rick Pitino’s fast-paced style of play. With tremendous pressure to develop fast, Billups just didn’t see himself thriving in that system. On the other hand, Pitino just didn’t have the patience for Billups’ development.

Steve Nash

While Steve Nash had his best years with the Phoenix Suns, a lot of people should know that this only happened during his second stint with the team. In his first stint, after getting drafted in the first round with the 15th overall pick in 1996, Nash often came off the bench for his first two seasons.

Playing behind Kevin Johnson, Sam Cassell, and Jason Kidd, Nash could hardly get the opportunities. Fortunately, a trade to the Dallas Mavericks gave him the opportunity to facilitate and to improve as a starting guard. Nash went on to become a two-time MVP.

Brandon Ingram


Drafted as the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, expectations were high that Brandon Ingram would become the team’s next star after Kobe Bryant’s retirement. But with high expectations, Ingram ultimately struggled in his rookie year, putting up only 9.4 points per game.

Later on, it didn’t help his development when the Lakers brought in LeBron James. When Ingram didn’t develop fast enough to become the star that James needed to run with, the Purple and Gold blew up their young core in a blockbuster trade to acquire Anthony Davis. After that, Ingram reached All-Star status with the New Orleans Pelicans.

D’Angelo Russell

Like Ingram, D’Angelo Russell also carried high expectations for the Lakers after he was made the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Although Russell showed signs of promise in his rookie season by averaging 13.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, things went south especially when Russell and teammate Nick Young were in the center of controversy. Russell leaked a secretly recorded audio of Young confessing to cheating on worldwide musician Iggy Azalea.

As a result, Russell was eventually traded to the Brooklyn Nets. which the guard considers as the “best thing that happened in my career.” Russell would go on to make his first All-Star appearance and registered the best scoring numbers of his career. Of course, Russell eventually returned to the Lakers in a three-team trade.

Jermaine O’Neal

Drafted in the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers, there’s no doubt that the potential was high for Jermaine O’Neal. However, it didn’t help when the Blazers already had a loaded frontcourt that included Arvydas Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace, Cliff Robinson, and Brian Grant.

Underutilized in Portland, O’Neal found himself shipped to Indiana, which was a blessing in disguise. O’Neal broke out with the Pacers by winning the Most Improved Player of the Year and making six-straight All-Star Game appearances.

Ben Wallace

Although it was the Washington Wizards who gave Ben Wallace a chance to play in the NBA, after going undrafted, he wasn’t able to showcase his wares until he was traded to the Orlando Magic.

With the Magic’s Heart & Hustle era, Wallace displayed his defensive tenacity and rebounding prowess. This paved the way for him to carve a solid career in Detroit that cemented him as one of the best defensive centers and rebounders in NBA history.

Austin Rivers

Coming out of Duke as the 10th overall pick and being the son of NBA champion coach Doc Rivers carries heavy expectations. With plenty of pressure, there was no question that Austin Rivers was flirting with the bust status, especially after a disappointing debut with New Orleans that saw him finish with seven points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field overall.

After three seasons in New Orleans, the Pelicans traded Rivers to the Boston Celtics before the Celtics then traded him once again to the Los Angeles Clippers. Under his father’s watch, Rivers was more settled in the NBA by putting up a string of 20-point outings.

Kyle Lowry

Drafted by the Grizzlies as a young project, Kyle Lowry was heavily limited in the team’s rotation especially with Chucky Atkins, Mike Miller, and Damon Stoudemire covering the guard position. As a result, Lowry hardly saw any playing time.

But with the Grizzlies getting a chance to get Mike Conley, the team sent Lowry to Houston. Lowry’s stint in Houston allowed him to blossom into a reliable starting guard that can consistently produce on a nightly basis. Eventually, Lowry found himself in Toronto, where he became an All-Star guard and a NBA champion.

Aaron Gordon

In his first two seasons with the Orlando Magic, Aaron Gordon averaged only 7.7 points per game, which didn’t scream fourth overall pick.

Although Gordon managed to average 17.6 points per game in his fourth year in the NBA, he continued to regress afterwards. With Orlando putting up a string of playoff exits, it made sense for the team to let go of one of their supposed core pieces in Gordon.

But when Gordon found himself in Denver, his all-around skills were a huge boost for a team that’s a legitimate contender in the West. In fact, Gordon emerged as a crucial frontcourt partner to back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic. Eventually, Gordon helped the Nuggets win an NBA championship.

Domantas Sabonis

In his rookie season, the Oklahoma City Thunder only played Domantas Sabonis 20 minutes per game. This certainly gave limited room for development.

Furthermore, the Thunder just couldn’t help pass up the chance to acquire Paul George. As a result, the Thunder decided to use Sabonis as a trading chip to land George in Oklahoma, sending the Lithuanian center to Indiana in the process.

With Indiana, Sabonis developed into a reliable starting power forward. With an elite post game, Sabonis eventually rose to All-Star status. Afterwards, another trade to Sacramento allowed him to compete for a legitimate playoff contender.