At long last, every NBA player who signed a new contract over the summer is eligible for inclusion in a trade. That much came to pass on January 15, when those who were retained by their teams via their Bird Rights were no longer restricted from the back-room wheeling and dealing in which general managers around the Association have likely been engaged since the opening tip of 2012-13.
And not a moment too soon, either. The league's contenders and pretenders are finally starting to separate themselves from one another as they approach the midpoint of the campaign. Those with title hopes and fungible assets are perusing the market for difference-makers, while those fading into the lottery are looking at their stars—particularly those on expiring contracts—as valuable chips to jump-start rebuilds rather than individuals who can contribute in one way or another on the court.
Indeed, it's right around this time of year, in the lead-up to the February 21 trade deadline, that impending free agents, like these five guys, emerge as the biggest bits of bait in conversation between front offices.