Worst Trade No. 5: Trading Ron Harper for flotsam
The name Ron Harper will sound familiar to basketball fans of the 1990s. Harper won five NBA titles during his career, starting for both the Chicago Bulls during their second threepeat and the Los Angeles Lakers during the first two seasons of their threepeat in 2000 and 2001. Long before that, however, he was a budding star for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Harper made the All-Rookie Team in 1986-87 after the Cavaliers took him eighth overall in the 1986 NBA Draft. He averaged 22.9 points per game as a rookie, and overall in four seasons with the Cavs he averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Then suddenly and inexplicably, the Cavaliers traded Harper in 1989. More than that, they attached four draft picks to him, getting back recent No. 2 pick Danny Ferry (who was in Italy because he refused to play for the LA Clippers as a rookie) and a bit player in Reggie Williams.
The reasoning is convoluted as different parties have tried to explain the situation, but the core of the matter seems to be that Harper’s personal friends got involved in a series of drug arrests. While there was no evidence of Harper doing drugs, the Cavs’ brass got scared, and they moved him to the Clippers.
Harper went on to have a long career without any legal or drug issues, and the Cavaliers wobbled through the season to finish with just 42 games after winning 57 the year before. Ferry was a bust, playing a decade in Cleveland and only becoming a full-time starter in one season. The trade was a disaster.