When will the world learn that when it comes to great centers in the NBA, yes, you can trade them, but then you have to be prepared to live with the short end of the stick.
Let the fans in Denver envision Andre Iguodala in George Karl’s open court game. Let the fans of the Sixers believe Andrew Bynum will usher a new era into Philly. Let the good folks of Orlando pray that Arron Afflalo blossoms into an All-Star and that trade exceptions and salary cap space delivers an answer from the heavens. They better pray hard.
But size matters, as the saying goes. You can’t teach height.
Here are a half dozen examples why, in evaluating any deal of great centers, the smart money always thinks big:
Traded: Jan. 15, 1965 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
San Francisco Warriors received: Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer and cash.
The result: In three full seasons with Philadelphia, Chamberlain averaged 33.5, 24.1 and 24.5 points per game and the Sixers won 55, 67 and 62 games per season and won the NBA title in 1967, defeating the Warriors.
The verdict: Chamberlain finally teamed up with a supporting cast that could stand up to the Boston Celtics and got his first title, beating his old team. Advantage Wilt.
Traded: July 9, 1968 to the L.A. Lakers.
Philadelphia 76ers received: Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff.
The result: Chamberlain moved to Hollywood to form a glamour team with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The Lakers set the NBA record for consecutive wins with 33 in a row during the 1971-72 season. They made it to The Finals four times in his five seasons in L.A. and won their first championship since the franchise moved to the West Coast by beating the New York Knicks in 1972. The Sixers plummeted so far in the standings without Chamberlain that they set the league record for fewest wins in a full regular season (9-73) in 1973.
The verdict: Chamberlain got his second ring and his chance to go Hollywood, while the Sixers earned an ignominious spot in the record book. Advantage Wilt.
Traded: June 16, 1975 with Walt Wesley to the Lakers.
Milwaukee Bucks received: Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman.
The result: After winning three MVP awards and his first NBA title with the Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar continued rolling with three more MVPs and five more championships with the Lakers. Winters, Meyers and Bridgeman joined center Bob Lanier to form an Eastern Conference power in the Milwaukee, but the Bucks could never get past the powerhouse duo of Boston and Philly.
The verdict: While Abdul-Jabbar was earning a handful of rings as the Lakers stamped themselves Team of the ’80s, the Bucks did not once reach the NBA Finals. Advantage Kareem.
Traded: Feb. 4, 1980 to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Detroit Pistons received: Kent Benson and a first-round draft pick.
The result: Lanier became the anchor in the middle of an entertaining and formidable lineup that included Sidney Moncrief, Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters and Marques Johnson on a Bucks team that won 60, 55, 51 and 50 games in consecutive seasons. Benson averaged double figure scoring for just two more seasons and then was a nondescript big man for four more years in Detroit and one each in Utah and Cleveland. The first round pick the Pistons received in the deal became Larry Drew.
The verdict: The high point of Benson’s career was playing for Indiana’s undefeated NCAA champs in 1976 and becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft by Detroit. Lanier closed out a Hall of Fame career in Milwaukee.Advantage Bob-a-Dob.
Traded: June 9, 1980 with a first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics.
Golden State Warriors received: Two first-round draft picks.
The result: After four seasons of foundering on mediocre teams with the Warriors, Parish teamed up with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to win three championships that put him on the path to his Hall of Fame selection in 2003. The draft pick that came in the deal with Parish became McHale. The Warriors used their two draft picks from the trade to select Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown.
The verdict: If the legendary Red Auerbach’s greatest deal was swapping Ed Macauley for Bill Russell, then the deal that landed Parish and McHale was not far behind. Advantage Chief.
Traded: Sept. 2, 1982 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Houston Rockets received: Caldwell Jones and a 1983 first-round draft pick.
The result: After banging on the door of a championship for six frustrating seasons, Malone arrived in Philly and helped Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney kick it in. He averaged 24.5 points and 15.3 rebounds, led the Sixers to a league-best 65 wins, won his third MVP award on the way to the championship. The Rockets finished with the worst record in the league (14-68), won a coin flip for the right to draft Ralph Sampson and selected Rodney McCray with the pick that came in the trade.
The verdict: Another worst in the West record (29-53) and another coin flip win the following season landed the Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, who would give them back-to-back titles a decade later. Malone’s bull-in-a-china-shop rampage and "fo-fo-fo" proclamation made him an instant part of Philly history. Advantage Moses.
Traded: July 14, 2004 to the Miami Heat.
L.A. Lakers received: Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, a first- and a second-round draft choice.
The results: In his first two seasons in Miami, O’Neal was an All-NBA First Team selection, continuing to be his dominant self and partnering with Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA title. In L.A., the squabbling of the Shaq-Kobe Era is over, but is the championship run for more than handful of season.
The verdict: Kobe Bryant will tell you he got the last laugh by winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 to move ahead of O’Neal in the ring collection. But think of how many he might have if the big man had stayed.Advantage Shaq.