Traditionally, when you trade a star player in any sport, it’s hard to recoup star value in return.
Looking back on a few of the worst swaps for the Sixers, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment.
While a few modern deals have been bad — trading up to select Markelle Fultz, trading Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor for pennies on the dollar — those deals didn’t hurt the team’s current era as much as these impacted the franchise’s trajectory in the past.
Here are the five worst trades in Sixers history.
5. Chet Walker to the Bulls
Walker played one year as a Syracuse National before that franchise became the Sixers. He was a three-time All-Star and NBA champion in 1966-67 in Philadelphia. He was part of arguably one of the best starting fives ever that featured Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham and Hal Greer.
Walker wound up having a Hall of Fame career himself but had his best statistical seasons in Chicago. After the Sixers traded him along with Shaler Halimon for Bob Kauffman and Jim Washington in 1969, Walker made four more All-Star teams. He averaged 20.6 points in 474 games with the Bulls.
Kauffman never played a game for the Sixers and was traded again for Bailey Howell. Howell played just one season for the Sixers, the final of his Hall of Fame career. Washington played 174 games for the Sixers, averaging 12.9 points and 9.4 rebounds a game.
4. Andrew Bynum to the Sixers
You likely don’t need too much of a refresher on this one. The Sixers acquired a 25-year-old All-Star center in Bynum, who, despite a knee injury, was just entering his prime. The price for that center in 2012? Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and two first-round picks. The Sixers also acquired Jason Richardson for salary purposes.
The fact that Bynum didn’t play a game for the Sixers after such a bizarre saga that included a bowling injury puts the trade up here. Richardson was at the tail end of his career but was a solid mentor during the early stages of the Process.
Iguodala went on to become a three-time NBA champ and win a Finals MVP with the Warriors. Vucevic became an All-Star big for the Magic. Harkless has become a solid NBA role player. Luckily for the Sixers, Sam Hinkie was able to swindle those first-rounders back from the Magic in 2014.
3. Charles Barkley to the Suns
We also likely don’t have to jog your memory too much on this one. Barkley, who was drafted fifth overall in 1984, joined a Sixers team loaded with Hall of Famers Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks. As those players all moved on, it became Barkley’s team. He was a six-time All-Star who’d become disgruntled by the organization’s lack of success.
In 1992, Barkley was traded to Phoenix for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. In his first season with the Suns, Barkley was the NBA’s MVP and took his team to the Finals, where they lost to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. Barkley went on to make five more All-Star teams before retiring in 2000.
Hornacek was solid but lasted just 132 games with the Sixers before being traded to the Jazz. Lang lasted just 72 games. Perry was here the longest of the three (211 games) but never made much of a mark. This trade ushered in a bad era of Sixers basketball. After making the playoffs with Barkley in 1990-91, they wouldn’t get back until 1998-99.
2. Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers
The Sixers were only a season removed from winning a championship in 1967 and were coming off a 62-win season in 1967-68. As previously mentioned, they boasted one of the better starting units in NBA history.
Trading a star player is one thing. Trading one of the greatest players ever is another. There are several different indications for why, but Chamberlain was dealt to the Lakers in 1968 for Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers and Archie Clark.
Chamberlain went on to help L.A win a title in 1972, its first since 1950. He also made four more All-Star teams and retired as a Laker in 1973. Imhoff (161 games) and Chambers (zero games) didn’t make an impact here. Clark had a strong run, averaging 18.2 points a game in parts of four seasons here, but never made the impact of Chamberlain.
1. Moses Malone to the Bullets
Of all the trades on this list, this one may be the hardest to explain. Malone had been the missing piece in helping Dr. J get over the hump in 1982-83. His numbers as a Sixer were outstanding (23.9 points, 13.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game) and it was the best era of Sixers basketball during his four seasons here.
But in 1986, the Sixers traded the 30-year-old Malone along with Terry Catledge and two first-round picks to the Bullets for Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland. The move was not received well by the players — especially by a young Barkley — and Malone made three more All-Star appearances.
Robinson was a pretty good player here, but not an All-Star. Ruland, who already had foot issues during the previous two seasons in Washington, played just five games with the Sixers before retiring. He made a brief comeback during the 1991-92 season but played just 13 games. This began what Sixers fans call "The Curse of Moses Malone."
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