Every NBA team has a notable history, regardless of how long they've been a part of the league. But not all of it has been good. From passing up on players, to regrettable contract extensions, to lopsided trades, many GMs and owners have made poor decisions that, in retrospect, they wish they could've reversed. These are the worst decisions that every team has made in their respective histories.
30. Washington Wizards: Re-Signing Gilbert Arenas
This was only an issue because of the amount of money that Gilbert Arenas received, in addition to the amount of games that he played after the contract. In July of 2008, Arenas signed a six-year, $111 million extension with the Washington Wizards. However, due to injuries and an incident regarding a firearm possession, Arenas only played 55 games for the Wizards after that.
29. Utah Jazz: Trading Dominique Wilkins
This mistake could be blamed on Dominique Wilkins' desire to play somewhere other than Salt Lake City, but the trade that the Jazz made that sent their 1982 draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks is considered to be one of the most lopsided deals in NBA history. Atlanta sent John Drew, Freeman Williams, and $1 million in cash in exchange for "The Human Highlight Film." Drew and Williams played a combined four seasons with the Jazz.
28. Toronto Raptors: Drafting Jonas Valanciunas
Drafting the Lithuanian big man was a mistake considering the Raptors' other options: Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard were all available during Toronto's fifth overall spot in the 2011 NBA Draft. Although Leonard will become a Raptor for the 2018-19 season, it will come at the expense of trading away DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs. The two Southern California natives could've made huge noise in the Eastern Conference.
27. San Antonio Spurs: Trading George Gervin
The San Antonio Spurs have been known as an organization that means business, especially during the Tim Duncan era. However, trading away their star of the '80s, George Gervin, to the Chicago Bulls, marked the end of an era for the team. Although Gervin was aging, he still had an All-Star season at the age of 32. The Spurs should consider themselves lucky for having the opportunity to draft David Robinson shortly after trading Gervin.
26. Sacramento Kings: Passing on Larry Bird
In the 1978 draft, five teams made five very big mistakes, but the Sacramento Kings made the worst one out of all of them. Sure, Phil Ford, the second overall pick of the draft, won Rookie of the Year with the Kings, but he couldn't help his team win in the long run. Bird, on the other hand, completely changed the landscape for the Boston Celtics, leading them to championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Passing on Michael Jordan
It will be hard for the Portland Trail Blazers to make a mistake as big as this. Sure, the Trail Blazers didn't see a fit for Michael Jordan on their team since they already drafted Clyde Drexler the year before. Nevertheless, they still passed on arguably the greatest basketball player in history for a bust, which cannot be forgotten. It's unfortunate that Sam Bowie, the player they drafted, suffered injuries and couldn't materialize.
24. Phoenix Suns: Failing to Fill the Void Left by Amar'e Stoudemire
The Phoenix Suns have some pretty impressive alumni, such as Steve Nash and Kevin Johnson, but more specifically, they've had some of the greatest frontcourt players in NBA history, including Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, and Amar'e Stoudemire. However, since Stoudemire left the desert to join the New York Knicks in 2010, the Suns haven't been able to get back on the map, specifically with the addition of a frontcourt player. Hopefully DeAndre Ayton will change that.
23. Philadelphia 76ers: Failing to Surround Charles Barkley With Talent
Charles Barkley was one of the league's most dominant forwards during his playing days, even in his first years with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, after disappointing playoff finishes and going 35-47 in 1992, Barkley demanded to be traded. The Sixers never had a stable supporting star alongside Barkley since he became the star of the franchise in his third professional season, leading to his desire to be shipped away.
22. Orlando Magic: Mistreating Shaquille O'Neal So Badly That He Left
Shaquille O'Neal joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 1996 with a seven-year, $121 million contract. The Orlando Magic offered him $6 million less, but he didn't leave because of the money. Rather, the Magic were just too dysfunctional. Their head coach, Brian Hill, wasn't respected by the players and O'Neal felt like he had no privacy as he described himself as a "big fish in a dried up pond."
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Trading James Harden
This trade was so unfortunate for the Oklahoma City Thunder. After making a trip all the way to the 2012 NBA Finals and really giving the LeBron James-led Miami Heat a run for their money, the Thunder couldn't agree on a contract extension with James Harden, who was a key piece to the strength of that roster. Harden was sent to the Houston Rockets for virtually little to nothing and eventually became the league's MVP.
20. New York Knicks: Hiring and Extending Isiah Thomas
If you thought Phil Jackson was bad, think again. Isiah Thomas, former leader of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys" era, was a really "bad" executive and coach for the Knicks. The team kept losing so much that fans never knew when it would end, and even amidst a sexual harassment scandal, owner James Dolan extended his contract anyway. His moves were terrible, including trading valuable draft picks for the hopeless Eddy Curry.
19. New Orleans Pelicans: Failing to Surround Chris Paul With Talent
New Orleans hit the jackpot of the 2005 NBA draft when they drafted Chris Paul out of Wake Forest, but since then, all the way up until December of 2011, the moves that they made were so underwhelming that Paul wished to be traded to either New York or Los Angeles. In that span of time, Paul and the Hornets only made the playoffs and had winning records three times.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Passing on Stephen Curry
This didn't happen just once, but twice. In 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the fifth and sixth picks in the draft as they selected Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio, instead of taking DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, and Jeff Teague. Those are all really good players, but what bit the Timberwolves the most, in retrospect, was passing up on Stephen Curry one more time than the Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder, and Kings.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Trading Ray Allen
Allen is widely regarded as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but his skills were evident since he started his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. In his seven seasons with the Bucks, Allen shot 40.6% from three point range and made three out of his ten All-Star appearances as a Buck. When Allen was traded to the Seattle Supersonics for Gary Payton, he got a lot better, while Payton aged and got worse.
16. Miami Heat: Drafting Michael Beasley
The Walking Bucket wasn't all that impressive when he first entered the league, but his impressive college career at Kansas State shot him up to be selected as the second overall pick by the Miami Heat in 2008. What Miami didn't know was that they could've had a player such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, or DeAndre Jordan, just to name a few in that loaded draft class.
15. Memphis Grizzlies: Drafting Steve Francis
The Grizzlies have only been around since 1995, but one of their earliest moves proved to be a wrong one. Steve Francis, the Vancouver Grizzlies' first round pick in 1999, stated that he would refuse to play for the team if he was drafted, but he was selected at pick number two anyway. Had they listened to him, they could've taken Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Richard Hamilton, or Shawn Marion instead.
14. Los Angeles Lakers: Awful Rebuild Attempt After Phil Jackson Retired
From the end of the 2011 season, when Jackson retired, to February 2017, when Magic Johnson was named as the Lakers' team president, the Lakers seemed to give up hope. Kobe Bryant was aging and the team couldn't acquire young talent or hire a strong coach. They traded away Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher to get younger, but they still got a particularly old Steve Nash for some reason. The Lakers were just lost.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Selling the Team to Donald Sterling
If you strictly look at the Los Angeles Clippers' history from a basketball perspective during Donald Sterling's ownership, you can see that the franchise was a real laughing stock for so many years, especially when they shared an arena with the Lakers. In Sterling's 33 years as owner, the Clippers only made the playoffs seven times and only posted season-long winning percentages at or above .500 six times.
12. Indiana Pacers: Trading Their 1984 Draft Pick
The Indiana Pacers can look back on this move and take a breather knowing that the Portland Trail Blazers made an even bigger mistake than they did in 1984, but regardless, they probably wish that they didn't do this deal in the first place. The Blazers sent center Tom Owens to Indiana in exchange for the second pick in the 1984 draft, which became Sam Bowie; however, it easily could've been Michael Jordan.
11. Houston Rockets: Trading Moses Malone
The late Hall of Fame center Moses Malone, who spent six seasons in Houston, was traded in 1982 to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Caldwell Jones and a first round pick that became Rodney McCray. Houston didn't think they could afford Malone at the time, which is what led them to make the trade, but just imagine what a duo consisting of Hakeem Olajuwon and Malone could've been like.
10. Golden State Warriors: Garry St. Jean's Tenure as General Manager
Garry St. Jean's tenure as general manager and coach of the Golden State Warriors was very difficult for the Bay Area to endure. St. Jean traded away Latrell Sprewell, passed on Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Tracy McGrady, and committed money to players that did not have large roles on the team to begin with. Things would go awry until the Warriors drafted Stephen Curry in 2009.
9. Detroit Pistons: Drafting Darko Milicic
How could we forget this one? The Detroit Pistons could've had Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade in 2003, but they instead took Darko Milicic, a center from Serbia. Sure, they might have won the championship that year, but that wasn't truly thanks to Milicic's talent. In addition, imagine how much brighter the Pistons' future could've been had they drafted one of the previously mentioned three players.
8. Denver Nuggets: Letting Dikembe Mutombo Walk
The Hall of Fame center showed so much promise in the Mile High City, and the Denver Nuggets saw that. However, they still let him sign a five-year, $55 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks in 1996. The Nuggets didn't see any more real success until they drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003, while Mutombo became an eight-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
7. Dallas Mavericks: Drafting Samaki Walker
Samaki Walker will forever be known as yet another 1996 draft class bust, as the Dallas Mavericks selected the forward from Louisville over Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Walker averaged a mere 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game over the course of his 10-year career, as the Mavs failed to pair Jason Kidd up with a star early on.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Drafting Anthony Bennett
Not only is Anthony Bennett a bust, but he's arguably, already, the biggest bust in NBA history. The 2013 draft class was far from perfect, as Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Rudy Gobert were the only two players to materialize from it, but Bennett was straight up awful, and worse than arguably every single player taken in the first round. In addition, this pick was a surprise to everyone, including Bennett himself.
5. Chicago Bulls: Trading for Tyson Chandler
When the Chicago Bulls drafted Elton Brand with the first overall pick in 1999, they believed to have a franchise player in their hands. Brand's first two years in Chicago were excellent, as he was named the Rookie of the Year in 2000. When he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Tyson Chandler, they lost all of that promise. In addition, Chandler never matched Brand's production in Chicago.
4. Charlotte Hornets: Trading Kobe Bryant
This is probably the worst draft day move in history. When Kobe Bryant worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers before the 1996 draft, then-Lakers general manager Jerry West was very impressed. The Lakers were trying to trade starting center Vlade Divac for a draft pick anyway in order to clear up cap space and sign Shaquille O'Neal, but struck gold when they agreed to a deal with Charlotte and told them to take Bryant.
3. Brooklyn Nets: Trading Their Future
After their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets acquired future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, amongst other players, in order to form a "superteam" with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. Not only did this move cripple their payroll, but the Nets sent Boston a whopping four future draft picks. Jaylen Brown, Markelle Fultz, and Collin Sexton were all drafted to teams other than the Nets thanks to this trade.
2. Boston Celtics: Letting M.L. Carr Take Over
M.L. Carr was a big part of the Boston Celtics' 1981 championship run as a player, but his role as general manager, and even coach, of the Celtics in the '90s was disastrous. His draft selections became busts, as he also passed up on Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in 1996, and his coaching record of 48-116 is the worst in the team's history.
1. Atlanta Hawks: Trading Steve Smith
When Steve Smith was acquired by the Atlanta Hawks, they weren't doing too badly. He became an All-Star, they made the playoffs in each of his five seasons with the team, and with a few more pieces, their runs could've been deeper. Once the fan-favorite was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for Isaiah Rider in 1999, who had many off-court issues, fans were inherently upset, and the Hawks started an eight year playoff drought.