Five Christmas Day games, five all-time gifts that keep on giving. This Christmas’ NBA action on ESPN and ABC features five players, each the current face of their franchise, who all arrived on their team through the generosity of others.
The Pistons take Darko Milicic with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. The Heat settle for Dwyane Wade
The 2003 draft was one of the best for top talent in NBA history, so when Joe Dumars of the Detroit Pistons took Serbian center Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade at No. 2, that delivered Wade into Pat Riley’s lap. Over the next 13 seasons Wade has become Miami’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time NBA champion.
History repeated itself in Portland when the Trail Blazers chose Greg Oden over Kevin Durant with the first pick in the 2007 Draft, much like in 1984 when the Blazers bypassed Michael Jordan in favor of often-injured Sam Bowie. Oden played in only three NBA seasons, while Durant -- first in Seattle and now in OKC-- became a league MVP, who currently has the fifth-highest scoring average in NBA history.
Timberwolves draft two point guards in 2006, but neither of them is Stephen Curry
The Minnesota Timberwolves had the 5th and 6th picks in the 2009 Draft and needed point guard help. They took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn instead of Davidson star Stephen Curry, who landed instead with the Warriors, along with the 2014-15 MVP and NBA Championship trophies.
Pacers hand Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs in 2011
In 2011 the Indiana Pacers surely didn’t think they’d be giving up the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and only player in the top five in both offensive and defensive win shares this season, but by sending Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs for George Hill, that’s exactly what they did.
Hornets gift Kobe Bryant to Lakers for Vlade Divac in 1996
Two weeks after drafting Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in the 1996 Draft, the Hornets gave the Lakers the gift of a lifetime, sending the 18-year old guard to L.A. for 27-year old center Vlade Divac. Divac lasted two seasons in Charlotte. Bryant is in his 20th season in Los Angeles where he became a five-time champion, a league MVP and third in scoring in league history.