Examining failed physicals in NBA trade history (and how they relate to Isaiah Thomas)

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The waiting game is now approaching the one-week mark in the Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas trade saga. While there are varying reports out there regarding where in the decision-making process the Cavaliers are (i.e. if they are asking for more compensation), the NBA timeline remains clear. A decision will have to be made one way or another on the original deal by Thursday, barring an extension.  

So just how common is this situation in the NBA, in which a physical can prove to be the undoing of a deal? And when exactly can/does the NBA get involved? Let’s take a look back at some of the more relevant situations from past years to help shed some light on the subject.  

Physicals in NBA trades.

A big misconception about NBA trades is that a player always has to undergo a physical for a deal to become official. That’s far from the case. In fact, a team can waive their right to perform a physical on the league trade call for one or several players involved in the deal (when a player is already hurt). For instance, the Celtics traded Marquis Daniels (after he suffered a season-ending neck injury) to the Sacramento Kings to cash in February 2011 for a protected second round pick and cash. The move helped Sacramento get to the salary floor for the season (which is why they included cash). The Celtics also waived a physical on Zoran Dragic upon acquiring in from the Miami Heat in 2015 since they also received a second-round pick in the deal (it was a salary dump). They released Dragic afterwards before the season began.