The trade deadline has a special aura around it in the NBA. A logical mind might conclude: why wait until the very last opportunity to make a move when the teams have all season to do so?
That’s a good question, in isolation. In reality, general managers never hold a stronger hand than in the dying embers of the trade deadline. Desperation tends to set in with many organisations as the business end of the campaign looms large.
It can be the difference between a deep run in the post-season or packing your bags for your holidays. We’ve taken a look at some of the busiest trade deadlines in history as well as some of the most stunning swaps to ever transpire, to investigate exactly why the trade deadline has become a must-see event.
Article continues below
Most fans associate 1996 with the record-setting Chicago Bulls side that went 72-10 en route to Michael Jordan’s fourth of six NBA Championships. However, whilst a Bulls win became almost a foregone conclusion, the trade deadline was far more unpredictable.
The Miami Heat made the biggest move on deadline day as they sought to find a dish-happy point guard to compliment seven-time All-Star and big man forward, Alonzo Mourning.
Article continues below
They found their man in Tim Hardaway of the Golden State Warriors. The Heat gave up Bimbo Coles and seven-footer Kevin Willis – who was the oldest player in the league from 2004-2007 – to acquire Hardaway and future journeyman power forward Chris Gatling.
Hardaway would average 17 points and seven assists per game over six seasons in Miami. After securing the final playoff berth in the 1995-96 campaign, Mourning and Hardaway would combine to drive the Heat to a conference finals appearance the following year. The pair also ensured the Heat would finish in one of the top two playoff spots for the following four years.
A total of 19 players traded organisations on February 22, 1996 and that remains one of the busiest final days on record.
This trade deadline had the best of both worlds as not only were plenty of franchises busy, but there was a blockbuster trade to headline the day, too.
The New York Knicks moved heaven and high water to bring Carmelo Anthony to Madison Square Garden as they shifted several assets in a three-team deal, even though Anthony was approaching free agency that coming summer.
Many believe Anthony would have found his way to New York anyway, but the Knicks and then-GM Donnie Walsh were not prepared to take the risk.
The complex three-team deal between the Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets included the Atlantic Division franchise moving Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 1st round pick, and 2012, 2013 second round picks for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams.
That's a lot of personnel to digest, but 2011 was far from done. Boston traded Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a future 1st round pick.
Of course, this isn't Green's only experience with the trade deadline; the 29-year-old forward moved to the Los Angeles Clippers in the final hours of trading in 2016, commanding a future first-round pick and Lance Stephenson.
The Brooklyn Nets (then New Jersey Nets) were the other franchise to make waves on February 22, 2011 when they moved Derrick Favors and Devin Harris, plus two first round draft picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for point guard Deron Williams.
Despite making the playoffs three times during his five-season stay in New York, the Nets only advanced past the first round on one occasion and suffered a loss in five games to Miami in their one semi-finals appearance.
After agreeing on a contract buy-out to end a hostile relationship, Williams is now contending in the west with the Dallas Mavericks and the Nets are struggling in 14th place in the east, sporting a record of 15-41.
The Philadelphia 76ers made the biggest move on the trade deadline day 15 years ago; a stark contrast from the Sixers who prop up the Eastern Conference today.
Philly sent Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, and Pepe Sanchez to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Roshown McLeod - who's career would unfortunately end prematurely only months later because of injury - and eight-time All-Star center Dikembe Mutombo.
Although Mutombo only spent a year-and-a-half with the Sixers, alongside superstar Allen Iverson, he did help Philly reach the NBA finals in his first season. 7'2" Mutombo contributed an average of 11 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks a night in 26 outings as the Sixers eventually lost to the Lakers in five games.
There were 23 deals done in 2001's incarnation of the deadline, and one could argue Mutombo's addition and subsequent run to the finals make this the most profound last-gasp move of them all.
What do you think the greatest ever deadline day trade is?