Every year, it's the same story in the NBA: there are a handful of hopeful teams that are looking good, but still one piece away from truly being in the championship hunt. Sometimes, however, that elusive superstar arrives via an aggressive trade and changes everything. Here are seven NBA swaps that helped teams go from promising to the promised land.
1. Pau Gasol to the Lakers (2008)
Pau Gasol was traded from Memphis the Lakers for almost nothing; the only player that endeed produced for the Grizzlies was his brother, Marc. Pau ended up being the second-best player on those Laker teams, averaging over 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists per outing. Teaming up with Kobe Bryant, the future Hall of Famer made three straight Finals and won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
2. Oscar Robertson to the Bucks (1970)
Oscar Robertson was nearing the end of his career, but he was still an incredible player when he left the Cincinnati Royals (in exchange for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk!) to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks. They rode a record-breaking season to sweep the Washington Bullets in the 1971 Finals, and pushed the Celtics in 1974 before losing in Game 7. The Big O then retired, and the Kareem-led Bucks put up a losing record the very next season.
3. Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors (2018)
The Spurs traded a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in summer 2018 for a package highlighted by DeMar DeRozan, a deal many at the time thought had a chance to be a rough deal for the Toronto. However, not only did Kawhi lead the team to the title in his first and only season, but his gravity helped with the development of Pascal Siakam, who is now the best player on the still-contending Raptors. One unforgettable year, one championship ring. The rest is history.
4. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to the Celtics (2007)
Danny Ainge swooping in for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen beore the 2007-08 season for a package of Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, picks, and cash had an incredible effect on the team. Their record jumped from 24-58 to 66-16 in one year, culminating with an NBA Finals triumph over the Lakers. The Celtics were contenders for the next five years, and made it back to the Finals in 2010 before falling just short.
5. Moses Malone to the 76ers (1982)
Moses Malone was traded from the Houstion Rockets to the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1982 season for Caldwell Jones and a future first-round pick that became Ralph Sampson, changing the paths of both teams. Malone joined a Julius Erving-led Sixers squad that had just lost in the Finals and helped lead them to the 1983 title, as well as securing NBA MVP honors. He was an All-Star in all four of his seasons there before later returning for a Philly curtain call in 1993-94.
6. Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat (2004)
The Miami Heat gave up a king's ransom for Shaq Daddy, letting go of Lamar Odom and Caron Butler (among others) for a chance at glory. It worked out in the end, as O'Neal and young superstar Dwyane Wade made for an amazing duo, beating out the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals to win the franchise's first title.
7. Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to the Celtics (1980)
After falling short in the 1980 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics traded the Warriors the No. 1 pick in the subsequent NBA Draft in exchange for center Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick -- a selection that became Kevin McHale. Getting two Basketball Hall of Famers in one trade doesn't exactly happen every day. The potent duo joined with Larry Bird to lead the Boston franchise to five NBA Finals as a group, winning three rings.