Whether they are buying or selling, there are certain teams that are certain to be looking to make a move at the trade deadline.
Some will be dumping salary.
Some will be looking to add players.
Some will build for the future.
The reasons differ, but each of these teams will be looking to make a move.
Here they are, in order of how likely they are to make a move.
All stats used in this article are as of games played through January 1, 2013.
You might wonder why on earth the Portland Trail Blazers would even consider trading J.J. Hickson (via Oregon Live) when he's only making $4 million a year while averaging 12.7 points and 11 rebounds per game.
The answer is that he's making only $4 million a year while averaging 12.7 points and 11 rebounds per game. Never has Hickson's trade value been so high. And with his play being as impressive as it is, there's little chance the Trail Blazers are keeping him next year for anything close to that sum.
Hickson could easily draw a lottery pick this year in the draft or a player on a rookie contract with potential for growth. Hickson's at peak value now, and a team that is in contention could easily overpay to have him around for a postseason push with the hopes of keeping him on.
Not bad for a guy they picked up off the waiver wire last year.
Bulls fans might be excited to know that there are potential takers on Richard Hamilton's contract, but probably not as happy about the potential return. The Bulls aren't shopping him to find a better player, they're shopping him to jettison enough salary to stay below the luxury tax.
They may even have a taker in the Phoenix Suns (via CSN Chicago). The catch is that the Bulls aren't getting anyone, and don't want anyone, in return.
Now, Bulls fans aren't going to be happy about that. They want a superstar guard to play alongside Derrick Rose. They at the very least don't want the Bulls to be dumping more players before the postseason starts.
There is a certain kind of logic, though: The Bulls don't want to pay the tax unless they feel they can win a title. That make sense in light of the repeater tax. Paying the luxury tax isn't bad for the first couple of years, but once you start getting into repeater territory, it gets expensive.
They might finally pay the luxury tax when they feel they have a roster that compete for the title, but they apparently don't feel they have that one right now. Not paying now saves money then.
To be fair to the Bulls, Rose's knee injury really threw a wrench in the works.
Antawn Jamison is racking up DNPs faster than points these days, and he's none-to-happy about it. While he might be apologizing for not getting playing time (via ESPN Los Angeles), it doesn't mean he didn't complain about riding pine.
It's strange that Jamison isn't getting playing time because he would seem to fit right in with D'Antoni's philosophy of "score now, score often and don't worry about defense." Yet, for whatever reason, he's not playing.
The Los Angeles Lakers have had the most bizarre year in the history of the NBA. If I'd have told you a year ago that the Lakers would acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason, then play so badly they'd fire Mike Brown, then have the chance to bring back Phil Jackson—but pull out and hire D'Antoni—and then still have a losing record, you'd laugh so hard that you'd sprain your back while you were trying to put out my flaming pants.
So, with the crazy comedy that has been the Lakers situation being what it is, does anyone really believe they aren't going to try and make another move? The closest thing they have to a trade asset is Jamison, and he's not doing any good anyway.
There's also always plenty of Pau Gasol talk to go around, but at this point in his career, it's hard to imagine anyone parting with $20 million worth of player and then paying him $20 worth of cap to play for them. Then again, the Lakers always seem to find someone to give them something for nothing.
The Sacramento Kings are absolutely, positively not trading DeMarcus Cousins, which is why they have apparently only talked to seemingly everyone about him (via USA Today).
It's hard to know what's true, but generally speaking, where there's this much smoke—there's fire.
Whether it's Boston, Detroit, Washington, Orlando or some other team, there's enough rumors going around to suggest that someone, somewhere, might be willing to offer enough for the Kings to trade him.
The problem is that with the suspensions and issues and apparent frustration they're having with him, his trade value is at an all-time low.
But even if Cousins doesn't go anywhere, there's still Tyreke Evans, who is going to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Plenty of teams are interested in him as well.
For a team with so much young talent that's not working well together, it seems reasonable to think they're going to be exploring options at the very least.
Anderson Varejao was playing absolutely out of his mind before he got injured.
Then he got injured. That's the problem with Varejao. He can't seem to stay in the lineup anymore. He's only played 81 games since 2010.
When he does play, he plays fantastic, and he's never been better than this year. The good news is that, at least this time, the injury didn't end his season.
The bad news is that it reminded everyone about why they hesitate to jump at taking him. Can he be counted on to be there in the playoffs? Probably enough teams are willing to hope so that they'd send the Cavs a nice return for him.
Perhaps the most interesting of those teams is the Oklahoma City Thunder (via Hoopsworld), who are flush with young talent like Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, as well as the draft choices they acquired via the James Harden trade.
The Utah Jazz are stacked in the frontcourt. Any one of their four bigs, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, could probably start for at least half the teams in the league (well, maybe Kanter would only start for a few).
They all score at least 15 points and grab around 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. The "weakest" of the four, Kanter, might have the most potential of all.
It looks like the Jazz's preference is to keep their younger duo of Kanter and Favors and see what they can get for Jefferson and Millsap in the trade market. Both have expiring contracts and would be helpful to any team in the playoff hunt.
But that's where the sticking point is for the Jazz because it's hardly like they're out of it. But, then again, they're not quite in it either, sitting on a 15-17 record.
That might cut it in the East, but it's not going to cut it in the West. There are too many teams to climb over to even get to the postseason, and even if they do, what do they have to face? At best a first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder?
As they get closer to the trade deadline and they get a better sense of what their playoff possibilities are realistically like, expect them to start dialing the phone.
With massive spending money for next season, their own draft pick and Golden State's pick coming in the next draft, they are primed to rebuild. Look for them to try and move Millsap and/or Jefferson to get better for next season. Favors is the more likely to move (via Hoopsworld).
Right now, there's more trade rumors circling the Toronto Raptors than there are on Wall Street. Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani could all be moved, or just one of them, or none of them.
What's interesting here is that Calderon, who hasn't been able to keep his name out of trade rumors for about two years now, seems to be the one player they are leaning toward keeping.
Helping the Raptors to win seven of eight helps with that.
So does being a vastly superior defender to the former starter, Lowry, who had been brought in to replace Calderon.
So now the talk is that Lowry and Bargnani could be packaged together in some kind of deal (via ESPN).
If anyone is going to bite on a Pau Gasol trade, it seems like the Raptors would be gullible enough (er...willing) to do it.