By Jeff Merron
Page 2

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It appears that Shaq, even in his hobbled state, might prove the prognosticators right, and lift Miami from mediocrity to title contention. The Heat did give up Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler to get Mr. Slim Fast, but if he has a great season -- and he will, barring more serious injury -- he'll move right into the top five of this list.

Shaquille O'Neal
Most people expect Shaq to have a huge year in Miami.

We'd put him there now, but, you know, we've got to see what happens first.

Note that we're only considering here the first season after the trade (with one exception, noted below), not the long-term picture or the (im)balance of the transaction or the improvement (or diminishment) of a player's skills.

10. Adrian Dantley (1979-80)
The Trade: The Lakers sent Dantley, 23, a small forward, to the Jazz for Spencer Haywood.

The Season: Dantley immediately became the high note on an otherwise flat Jazz team, averaging 28 points per game (third in the NBA) and 7.6 rebounds, making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. He also boasted an extraordinary .576 field goal percentage (fourth in the league). The Jazz, however, finished with a 24-58 record, the second-worst in the NBA.

9. Oscar Robertson (1970-71)
The Trade: The Royals sent the Big O, age 31, to the Bucks in exchang for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk.

The Season: The Bucks, with rookie sensation Lew Alcindor dominating right out of the gate, went 56-26 in 1969-70, but bowed out to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals. The Big O was the missing puzzle piece. In his first season in Milwaukee, the Bucks won 66 regular season games and won the NBA championship, sweeping the Bullets in the finals. Robertson averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game, while repeating as an All-NBA second team selection.

8. Wilt Chamberlain II (1968-69)
The Trade: The Lakers sent Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark, and Darrall Imhoff to the Sixers for Wilt.

The Season: A comedown for the Stilt after three straight MVPs, but still one of the great year-after-trades ever. Chamberlain, 32, averaged 20.5 points and 21.1 rebounds per game, and he also dished out 4.5 assists. Wilt helped the Lakers improve their regular-season record by several games, and instead of bowing out to the Celtics in six games, as they had the previous season, Wilt's presence enabled them to take Boston to Game 7 of the Finals. Chamberlain injured his knee midway through the fourth quarter of that game, giving the Celts an advantage they rode to a two-point win.

7. Elvin Hayes (1972-73)
The Trade: The Bullets sent Jack Marin to the Rockets for Elvin Hayes.

The Season: First, a tangent: If you think the West has dominated the NBA for the past few years, check out what things were like in 1971-72, when a grand total of two Eastern Division teams managed to top .500. Yikes! The only reason that's important in this context is that in 1971-72, the Bullets were able to win the Central with an awesome 38-44 record.

Then they picked up Hayes, who missed only one regular season game, and led the Bullets in scoring (21.2 ppg, 16th in the NBA). He was second to Wes Unseld in rebounds (14.5 per game, seventh in the NBA) and led them to a 52-30 record. Unfortunately, the playoff story was the same as the year before: the Bullets got wiped out by the Knicks in the first round.

Robert Parish
The Chief was a very important part of the Celtics' success.

6. Robert Parish (1980-81)
The Trade: On June 9, the Celtics dealt the No. 1 draft pick overall to the Warriors in exchange for Robert Parish and the No. 3 draft pick, who would be Kevin McHale. The Warriors chose Joe Barry Carroll first in the draft.

The Season: With Dave Cowens' sudden retirement, The Chief took over as the Celtics' big man and made an immediate difference. Boston had won the East in 1979-80, but bowed out to the Sixers in the Division finals. With Parish, they again won the East. He was second on the Celtics in scoring (18.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg), behind Larry Bird, and made his first All-Star team. And in the Finals, Parish helped hold Moses Malone in check as the Celts beat the Rockets, 4-2, for the title.

5. Julius Erving (1976-77)
The Trade: The Sixers gave up a mere $3 million for Dr. J, who they acquired the day before the start of the 1976-77 season.

The Season: The year before, the Sixers had tied for second in the Atlantic division, eight games behind the Celtics, with a 46-36 record. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Buffalo Braves. With Doc (and George McGinnis, and Lloyd B. Free, and Doug Collins), they went 50-32, won the Atlantic Division title, and made it all the way to the Finals, where they lost to Portland in six games. Erving played all 82 regular season games and led the team in scoring, even though he had toned down his game to fit into the Sixers' established lineup.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1975-76)
The Trade: The Bucks sent Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley to the Lakers for four players, including Elmore Smith and Junior Bridgeman.

The Season: Abdul-Jabbar had led the Bucks to a championship in 1971 and had earned three MVP awards in his first six NBA seasons. He didn't miss a beat in his move to L.A., winning his fourth MVP award and lifting the Lakers from an abysmal 30-win season before his arrival to a respectable 40-42 record in 1975-76. Jabbar was second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 27.7 ppg, and first in rebounding, with 16.9 per game. He also led the league in blocked shots (4.12 per game).

3. Wilt Chamberlain I (1965-66)
The Trade: On Jan. 15, 1965, the Warriors sent Chamberlain, 28, to the 76ers for Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, and $$$.

The Season: We're going to cheat a little and talk about the rest of 1964-65 in addition to the following season, Wilt's first full one with the Sixers. In 1964-65, Philly was a .500 ballclub when Chamberlain joined them midseason, and a .500 club at the end of the regular season. But thanks to Chamberlain's 29.3 points/27 rebounds average in the postseason, they beat the Oscar Robertson/Jerry Lucas Royals in the first round of the playoffs and battled the vastly superior Celtics to seven games in the Eastern finals, losing the last game by a single point, victimized by John Havlicek's famous steal. Chamberlain finished the season as the league's leading scorer.

The following year, Wilt's first full one with the Sixers, is a slam dunk. He led the NBA in scoring, with 33.5 ppg. He led the NBA in rebounds, with 24.6 rpg. He'd made it his goal to improve his all-around game, and succeeded by finishing seventh in assists, with an average of 5.2. He was named MVP (the first of three straight MVP awards in Philly). The Sixers finished with a 55-25 record, the best in the NBA, but bowed out to the Celtics in a five-game Eastern finals.

2. Charles Barkley (1992-93)

Charles Barkley
Barkley was brilliant in Phoenix -- though he didn't win a championship.

The Trade: The Sixers sent Barkley, 29, to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang.

The Season: Barkley was a huge star in Philly for eight years; he dominated the abysmal Sixers in 1991-92, leading the team in scoring and rebounds and finishing second in assists. But Philly finished 35-47 and failed to make the playoffs. Barkley was great for Phoenix, and vice versa, in 1992-93. The Suns finished the season with a 62-20 record, the best record in the NBA and a nine-game improvement over the previous season. Barkley led the team in scoring by a large margin (25.6 ppg), pulled down more than twice the rebounds of any of his teammates, and was second on the team in assists, dishing off 5.1 per game.

Although the Suns eventually lost a six game Finals to Michael Jordan's Bulls, it was clearly Barkley who got them that far, as he continued his excellent with extraordinary postseason play. Which is why, for the 1992-93 season, he was named the league's MVP. It was also the last season that he was named first-team All-NBA.

1. Moses Malone (1982-83)
The Trade: The Rockets sent Malone, 27, the reigning MVP, to the Sixers for Caldwell Jones and a 1983 first-round draft choice.

The Season: Malone averaged 24.5 points and 15.3 rebounds, and won his third MVP award. The 76ers, who had made it to the NBA Finals and lost to the Lakers the previous season, dominated the East and won the NBA title with an astonishing 12-1 playoff run that culminated with a sweep of the Lakers in a Finals rematch.