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Lessons from a trade deadline past

02.17.10 at 8:59 pm ET
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Caron Butler packed his bags for Dallas in the first big deal of deadline week. (AP)

The Dallas Mavericks started the party early, ringing in the All-Star festivities with a trade for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood.

The Portland Trail Blazers continued the trend Tuesday, officially acquiring former UMass star Marcus Camby to help solve their woes in the middle.

Even the Celtics look like they are getting in on the act, albeit not in the way many had envisioned. But it appears that NBA dunk contest champ — and that term is applied as loosely as possible — Nate Robinson might be coming to Boston to help bolster the C’s bench.

Yes, the NBA trade deadline is almost here, with the last chance for any major transactions to occur coming at 3 p.m. Thursday. And with that in mind, here is a history of the major deadline deals that have occurred in each of the last 10 years, which unfortunately leaves us just shy of the Celtics’ acquiring Vitaly Potapenko in 1999. Still, maybe a general manager can a grab few ideas of how to think outside the box and bolster their lineup — or cut costs, whatever the choice may be — with this perspective.

2009

The Bulls wanted to make a run at the playoffs. The Kings wanted to run out any high-priced players. So it made sense that Sacramento would send Brad Miller and John Salmons, two of its best players, to Chicago for package included Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden’s expiring deal (Portland also helped bring this one about).

Celtics fans, of course, know that the trade helped the Bulls do more than just make the playoffs. Chicago pushed the Celtics to seven games in one of the best playoff series in recent memory.

2008

The Cavaliers went all-in in their quest for the NBA title, acquiring former Celtics Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West from the Sonics and Ben Wallace and Joe Smith from the Bulls. But all their huge deadline deal did was help them push the eventual NBA champion Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Delonte West went from Boston to Seattle before landing in Cleveland. (AP)

Now Cleveland is talking about a number of big names — Amar’e Stoudemire and Antawn Jamison being the most prominent — in another attempt to make it back to the finals.

2007

The Raptors traded Fred Jones to Portland for Juan Dixon. Seriously, these were the biggest names moved at the deadline. At least Dixon is making the headlines now, though not exactly how he probably would have hoped to.

2006

This trade featured possibly the largest collection of subpar players of all-time. It was really like a bunch of teams — in this case, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and Denver — got together and decided to exchange spare parts. Who wants Ruben Patterson? What about Earl Watson, who was allegedly the big name in this deal? Even Potapenko was a part of this trade.

2005

Sure, this was the year Baron Davis was dealt to the Warriors and the Nuggets finally decided to give up on all-time bust Nikoloz Tskitishvili, but this deadline had more important ramifications for fans in Boston. This was a memorable deadline for the Celtics, as it reunited Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker briefly before ‘Toine took his wiggle to Miami in a trade.

But another deal, seemingly minor at the time, did far more for the Celtics. The Celtics traded Jiri Welsch to Cleveland for a future first-round pick. That was the 2007 first-rounder that Danny Ainge used to get the draft rights to Rajon Rondo from the Suns.

2004

The Celtics helped Rasheed Wallace land in Detroit. (AP)

Again, the Celtics were a part of a blockbuster deal at the deadline, but this time as more of a facilitator. With the Pistons needing a third team to help work out salaries in their attempt to grab Rasheed Wallace from the Hawks, Ainge stepped in and filled the role. The trade helped Detroit upset the Lakers in the finals that season and become the powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.

2003

Gary Payton was a part of the trade when Boston re-acquired Walker. Here, he was the centerpiece in a deal that involved current Celtic Ray Allen, who has been the subject of rampant rumors this season. Allen went to Seattle, where he was a mainstay before coming over to help the Celtics win a championship. Payton would move from Milwaukee to the Lakers after the season, joining Karl Malone and Shaq and Kobe for what seemed to be a guaranteed championship before Detroit had other ideas.

2002

You’ll notice a trend. The early part of the last decade actually had big names moving. One year before the Allen-Payton blockbuster came a trade that involved big names including Juwan Howard (who is inexplicably still playing a prominent role in Portland this season), Tim Hardaway, Nick Van Exel and even onetime Celtic Raef Lafrentz.

Dallas got Lafrentz, who would be reunited with his former Kansas teammate Pierce when Walker was traded to Dallas before the 2003-04 season, as well as Van Exel, while the Nuggets received Howard and Hardaway, in what turned out to be his last full season.

2001

Two of the best defensive centers of the decade changed places in this deal — Dikembe Mutombo and Theo Ratliff. While Ratliff was the centerpierce in the deal for the Hawks, the prize of Mutombo was much more important for the 76ers, as his presence helped fuel the Sixers’ run to the finals in 2001, when they were defeated in five games by the Lakers in the first year of LA’s three-peat campaign.