Basketball NBA 3-Team Trade

NBA Basketball 3 Team Trades

In the NBA, players are often traded to free salary cap space, acquire draft picks, and build a desirable roster. One tool that teams use to get what they want out of such transactions is a 3-team trade. Keep reading to learn how 3-team trades work in the NBA and when they are used.

What Is a 3-Team Trade in Basketball?

A 3-team trade in basketball is when three different NBA teams work together towards a deal to trade players, draft picks, or cash. 3-team trades can involve any combination of the three teams trading with each other. This type of trade is fairly common since it gives a team much more interest and leverage when a third party is involved in the deal.

Salary Caps and 3-Team Trades

Another reason 3-team trades are so common is because they are a great way to get around salary caps. It is common in the NBA for 3-team trades to happen as a result of two teams negotiating. A third team usually asks to join the trade. That can be beneficial for all parties as there are more assets to choose from and many more trade combinations.

Example of a 3-Team Trade

3-team trades can get complicated and many combinations and parameters are involved in real-world trades. Below is a simplified example of a 3-team trade.


Team A wants a Center from Team B and nothing from Team C.

Team B wants a Draft Pick from Team C and nothing from Team A.

Team C wants a Point Guard from Team A and nothing from Team B.


Team A gets the Center from Team B.

Team B gets the Draft Pick from Team C.

Team C gets the Point Guard from Team A.

Real NBA 3-Team Trade

A recent example of a 3-team trade in the NBA was a deal involving the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz, and the Minnesota Timberwolves in early 2023. The major pillars of the trade were the Lakers dealing Russell Westbrook to the Jazz to free up salary cap space while also reacquiring D’Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves. To balance the trade, Utah sent Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota. The three teams participated in a 3-team trade to get what they wanted.


How does a three team trade work in the NBA?

In the NBA, a three-team trade works when three teams negotiate to each exchange players or draft picks with the other two, to each team’s benefit. A 3-team trade can often be the result of trade negotiations between two teams reaching an impasse. Typically, each of the three teams involved will give and receive something from each of the other teams.