Sometimes it’s trading for a rotational piece. Other times it’s acquiring a legit starter. And other times still it was trading for heavily protected second-round picks that will never covey just to open up roster spots with which to attack the buyout market.
A lot of the time, however, it was doing nothing.
But every NBA trade deadline, all eyes point straight at the league’s top contenders to see what teams with championship aspirations are going to do to bolster their roster, if anything.
Just in the last five years, for example, three teams that went on to win championships those respective campaigns stood pat and didn’t do anything at the trade deadline.
The other two champions, though, picked up a top-notch starter – the Toronto Raptors trading for Marc Gasol at the 2018-19 trade deadline ring any bells? – and a key reserve – the Cleveland Cavaliers acquiring Channing Frye in 2015-16 – at the trade deadline, proving that champions can make franchise-altering moves midseason.
Below, check out what every eventual NBA champion from this century did at their respective trade deadlines.
Los Angeles Lakers (2020)
Toronto Raptors (2019)
Traded CJ Miles, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and a 2024 second-round draft pick to Memphis for Marc Gaso; traded Greg Monroe and a 2021 second-round draft pick to Brooklyn for cash.
Golden State Warriors (2018)
Golden State Warriors (2017)
Cleveland Cavaliers (2016)
Traded Anderson Varejao and a 2018 first-round draft pick to Portland and Jared Cunningham to Orlando for Channing Frye; Portland traded a 2020 second-round draft pick to Orlando.
Golden State Warriors (2015)
San Antonio Spurs (2014)
Traded guard Nando De Colo to Toronto for forward Austin Daye.
Miami Heat (2013)
Traded Dexter Pittman, cash and a future second-round draft pick to Memphis for the draft rights to forward Ricky Sanchez.
Miami Heat (2012)
Dallas Mavericks (2011)
Los Angeles Lakers (2010)
Los Angeles Lakers (2009)
Traded center Chris Mihm to Memphis for a 2013 second-round pick.
Boston Celtics (2008)
San Antonio Spurs (2007)
Miami Heat (2006)
Traded guard Gerald Fitch to Houston for guard Derek Anderson.
San Antonio Spurs (2005)
Traded forward Malik Rose, a 2005 first-round pick and a 2006 first-round pick to New York for guard Jamison Brewer and center Nazr Mohammed.
Detroit Pistons (2004)
Traded guard Bob Sura, center Zeljko Rebraca and a 2004 first-round pick to Atlanta and guards Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter and a 2004 first-round pick to Boston for guard Mike James and forward Rasheed Wallace.