NBA Trade Deadline: The 5 Most-Traded Players in NBA History (and 1 of Them Could Move Again This Year)

The 2021 NBA trade deadline set a record for activity. This season’s Feb. 10 trade deadline is a little more than three weeks away, and given the state of the standings, it shapes up to be another busy time. The advent of the play-in tournament puts more teams in a position to buy at the deadline while trying to make the postseason. That makes it likely that many NBA players will change addresses.

While it’s been more than a decade since a trade deadline deal led directly to an NBA championship, that won’t prevent teams from shopping. At the beginning of play on Jan. 17, all but four teams in the league were no worse than five games out of the final play-in spots. It’s crowded at the top, too; six teams in the Eastern Conference opened MLK Day within 2.5 games of first place. The West had four teams 4.5 games apart.

As trade rumors fly, which players have been traded the most? Here are the five most frequently moved players in NBA history.

5. Marcus Camby (traded 7 times)

Marcus Camby was NBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Denver Nuggets in 2006-07 but was traded seven times, including twice at the NBA trade deadline.
Marcus Camby was NBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Denver Nuggets in 2006-07 but was traded seven times, including twice at the NBA trade deadline. | Lisa Blumenfeld via Getty Images

There are seven players with seven trades on their career logs, but we include the two most prominent on the list for this article. So with apologies to Jim Jackson, Don MacLean, Luke Ridnour, Joe Smith, and Otis Thorpe, we’ll start with 17-year veteran big man Marcus Camby.

Camby led the NBA in blocks four times, was a four-time All-Defensive performer and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2006–07 while with the Denver Nuggets. Traded seven times, two of those swaps came at or near the trade deadline.

The Massachusetts All-American went second overall in the 1996 NBA Draft to the Toronto Raptors. Traded to the New York Knicks in June 1998, Camby moved on to the Denver Nuggets in June 2002. Denver dumped his salary to the Los Angeles Clippers in July 2008.

That led to the first of Camby’s deadline deals. In February 2010, Camby went to the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland sent the veteran to the Houston Rockets in March 2012. His trade history ended opposite of how it began, with trades to the Knicks (July 2012) and Raptors (July 2013).

4. Sam Cassell (traded 7 times)

Sam Cassell was part of two the biggest trades in NBA history.
Sam Cassell was part of two the biggest trades in NBA history. | Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

In 15 NBA seasons, Sam Cassell played a part in seven trades. Nicknamed “Sam I Am,” he might have just as well have gone by “Sam I Am Traded Again.” The three-time champion bookended his career with rings, winning two in his first two seasons after the Rockets selected him 24th overall in 1993. He bowed out with a title-winning run for the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Cassell was part of two of the biggest trades in NBA history. He went from the Dallas Mavericks to the New Jersey Nets in a nine-player swap at the 1997 NBA trade deadline. The Nets sent the one-time All-Star to the Milwaukee Bucks in a nine-player, three-team extravaganza two years later.

Houston got Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns in August 1996 with Cassell as part of the price. The Suns dealt the point guard with Michael Finley and a draft pick to Dallas for Jason Kidd and bubble wrap four months later. From Milwaukee, Cassell moved on to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June 2003. The Clippers came next in an August 2005 trade. The final move came eight months after he played his last NBA game. In February 2009, the Celtics swapped the veteran to the Sacramento Kings to open a roster spot to sign Stephon Marbury.

3. Chris Gatling (traded 8 times)

Chris Gatling was traded to the Miami Heat three times in his 11 seasons and was part of four NBA trade deadline deals.
Chris Gatling was traded to the Miami Heat three times in his 11 seasons and was part of four NBA trade deadline deals. } Getty Images

In 11 seasons, versatile big man Chris Gatling was in eight trades. More remarkably, they all happened in less than six years. The Golden State Warriors took Gatling 16th overall in the 1991 NBA Draft before packaging him with Tim Hardaway to the Miami Heat at the 1996 NBA trade deadline. Signed by the Mavericks that summer, the newly minted All-Star moved on to New Jersey along with Cassell. The two remained linked in the March 1999 deadline trade from the Nets to the Bucks.

In August 1999, Milwaukee swapped Gatling to the Orlando Magic, who moved him in February 2000 to the Nuggets. In June 2000, Gatling returned to Miami but didn’t make it to opening day. A three-deal deal ended with Gatling as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hopefully, Gatling got the round-trip ticket because, in October 2001, Gatling went back to Miami in another three-team trade. Gatling played 700 NBA games. Only 78 of those were with the Heat, who acquired him three times.

2. Dale Ellis (traded 8 times)

Late in his career, Dale Ellis was traded five times in less than three years.
Late in his career, Dale Ellis was traded five times in less than three years. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In 17 seasons, Dale Ellis fell into the role as the guy everyone wanted, and no one wanted to keep. Dallas made the future All-Star the ninth overall pick in 1983 before infamously trading him to the Seattle SuperSonics in July 1986 for the soon-forgotten Al Wood.

Ellis became an All-Star and All-NBA player in the Emerald City before the Sonics shipped him to the Bucks at the NBA trade deadline in 1991. A July 1992 trade to the San Antonio Spurs followed. Ellis signed with Denver in 1994 and became a frequent flyer late in his career.

Between October 1997 and August 2000, Ellis switched teams five times. He went from the Nuggets back to Seattle, then to the Magic, back to the Bucks, the Charlotte Hornets, and finally the Heat. The deal from Milwaukee to Orlando saw Ellis cross paths with Gatling as they switched teams.

1. Trevor Ariza (traded 9 times)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza has been traded a record nine times. He could move again before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza has been traded a record nine times. He could move again before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The only active player on the list, Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza could become the first player traded 10 times should LA move him before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. The 2009 NBA champion began his career with the Knicks as a second-round pick in 2004.

In his 18th season, the 36-year-old’s career is a series of moves. He evolved into the 3-and-D wing defender prototype and arrived just in time for the explosion of shots from beyond the arc. His first trade was a deadline swap in February 2006 to the Magic for Steve Francis. In November 2007, Ariza joined the Lakers. After winning a ring in 2009, he signed with Houston.

The following summer, Ariza went to the old New Orleans Hornets as part of a four-team trade. In June 2012, his next stop was with the Washington Wizards, who sent him back to the Rockets in July 2014.

A signing in Phoenix in July 2018 turned into a trade back to Washington that December. The Kings signed Ariza in July 2019. In January 2020, he was off to Portland.

Then came five days in November 2020. Between Nov. 22–27, the veteran moved from the Blazers to Houston to the Detroit Pistons and finally to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At last year’s deadline, Ariza moved again, this time to Miami without ever suiting up for OKC. With the Lakers struggling to get out of the play-in, it’s conceivable Ariza could change jerseys again in the next few weeks. To be sure, nine trades and 10 teams have made it an eventful 18 years.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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