Worst Trade No. 11: Overpaying for Larry Nance Sr.
This is probably the most controversial entry on this list, as many Cavaliers fans look at this trade as a resounding success. After spending the first 6.5 seasons of his career on the Phoenix Suns, Larry Nance Sr. became a Cleveland Cavalier in February of 1988. He would go on to have a long career in Cleveland as a fan favorite, making two All-Star Games and three All-Defensive teams.
Why would this trade show up on a list of the worst trades? Well, it all has to do with who the Cavaliers gave up. In exchange for Nance and what amounted to flotsam, the Cavaliers sent rookie guard Kevin Johnson, two role players in Tyrone Corbin and Mark West, and three future draft picks — including the 14th pick in the upcoming 1988 NBA Draft.
Johnson went on to make five All-NBA teams running the point for the Phoenix Suns, averaging 22.5 points and 11.4 points per game in his third season in the league. He led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals that season, and a few years later the Suns made it to the NBA Finals. For all that Nance was beloved on those Cleveland teams, Johnson had a much better career.
Then add in the other pieces in the trade. Mark West was the starting center for the Suns for much of Johnson’s tenure, including starting all 23 games in their NBA Finals run. Ty Corbin didn’t stay long in Phoenix but had a long 16-year career. And that first-round pick in 1988 was used on Dan Majerle, who became a three-time All-Star starting alongside Johnson in the Suns’ backcourt.
Nance’s defenders will point to his fit on the team and his necessary defensive impact, and claim that Mark Price and Kevin Johnson couldn’t have co-existed in the Cavs’ backcourt. That might be true, but it also might not have been true, and by selling quickly and too-low on Johnson the Cavs got the short-end of the stick in this deal.