Whether we're talking about the struggling—but maybe turning it around?—Los Angeles Lakers, the surging San Antonio Spurs or any of the other 28 teams in the Association, each and every NBA team has a best trade chip.
The word "best" guarantees the existence of one, because it means that the values of the different players on each roster can be arranged on some sort of scale. If one can be better than the other, that means there's a "best" waiting out there.
However, it isn't necessarily the team's best player. I mean, duh, LeBron James is the player that would bring back the most to the Miami Heat if he was traded, but he's simply not going to be traded.
As a result, these players are the best combination of: A) able to bring back something in return and B) potentially on the block.
To find out your team's representative, read on.
Note: Contract information comes via Spotrac.com.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 17.33 PER
Contract: One year, $13,200,000
Even though he's one of the Atlanta Hawks' two best players, Josh Smith might be put onto the trading block if Danny Ferry deems him expendable. And given the number of frustrating plays that the combo-forward makes on a regular basis, that's certainly possible.
Then again, Smith is an incredible athlete with plenty of talent. He's the cornerstone of the Hawks' impressive defense and a big contributor to the offense as well.
Smith has been a major factor in trade rumors for quite some time, and that's going to continue up until this trade deadline, as Smoove will become a free agent after the 2012-13 season.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.6 steals, 10.59 PER
Contract: Three years, $19,350,000
Brandon Bass just hasn't become the player that the Boston Celtics had hoped he would morph into. With Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kevin Garnett and Fab Melo all on the roster, Bass isn't the most necessary piece in Beantown.
Despite this lack of utility for the C's, Bass still possesses one of the NBA's smoothest mid-range jumpers, and that could serve him well on a team that could feature his talents more prominently.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.4 steals, 14.05 PER
Contract: Two years, $3,389,434
MarShon Brooks is a great scorer, even if he hasn't been able to work his way off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets. There are plenty of teams that could make better use of the former Providence standout's scoring capabilities.
Whenever Brooks has stepped foot on the court, he's been pretty effective. He might have been in the running for an All-Rookie first-team selection during the 2011-12 season if it wasn't for a couple of ill-timed injuries.
Rather than let his talent go to waste on the pine, the Nets might end up seeing what they could get for last year's top draft pick.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 15.40 PER
Contract: One year, $3,101,327
The Charlotte Bobcats obviously aren't going to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference during the 2012-13 season, so dealing a productive player with an expiring contract would make perfect sense.
Gerald Henderson has struggled with a back injury that has limited his shooting stroke, but he's still putting together a pretty solid campaign. Taking even more of a supporting role for a more competent team could only help him.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 13.12 PER
Contract: Two years, $10,000,000
The Chicago Bulls have been able to hang around the top of the Eastern Conference standings without the services of Derrick Rose, but Rip Hamilton hasn't played the biggest part in that success.
His shooting percentages have dipped as the season has progressed, and Hamilton is currently the not-so-proud owner of a sub-15 PER.
When Rose is back, minutes will be even more limited for the masked shooting guard.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, 9.09 PER
Contract: One year, $4,792,332
Daniel Gibson has ceded major playing time to Dion Waiters as the Cleveland Cavaliers' top draft pick from the 2012 NBA draft looks to gain more and more experience during his rookie season. That, along with the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao, leaves him as the team's top trade chip.
While Boobie Gibson might not be the most valuable shooting guard out there, the 26-year-old does bring one terrific asset to the table. Well, two if you count Gibson's three-point marksmanship.
His contract expires at the end of the 2012-13 season and will give whichever team owns his contract some rather helpful financial flexibility.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 3.5 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.4 steals, 9.28 PER
Contract: One year, $2,227,332
At one point during his young NBA career, Rodrigue Beaubois was supposed to be the next big thing for the Dallas Mavericks. In fact, he was on plenty of sleeper lists for back-to-back seasons, but never reached that potential.
Beaubois has been ravaged by injuries over and over, but he's also been stuck rather far down in Rick Carlisle's rotation.
A fresh start would do him wonders. And even if he didn't break out, it's not like he'd be on the books for too long.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 2.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.2 steals, 12.87 PER
Contract: One year, $3,140,429
Timofey Mozgov's contract is expiring, but he's also a legitimate seven-footer capable of making a positive impact wherever he plays. And unlike the Denver Nuggets, that new team might actually give him a little bit of run.
Stuck behind both Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee, Mozgov hasn't been able to earn more than 9.6 minutes per game during the 2012-13 campaign.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.4 steals, 12.72 PER
Contract: One year, $5,000,000
While Jason Maxiell has been a capable contributor in the scoring column and on the glass during the 2012-13 season, he's still an expendable part for Lawrence Frank and the Detroit Pistons.
Letting go of the power forward would allow the organization to focus more on the youth movement, giving more opportunities to the Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond tandem.
Plus—and you may have noticed that this is a fairly common trend—his contract expires at the need of this season.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 3.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.3 steals, 10.44 PER
Contract: Two years, $21,210,000
It would be tough for the Golden State Warriors to find a taker for Richard Jefferson, but mostly because of his exorbitant contract that doesn't come off the books until after the 2013-14 season.
Even though the Dubs don't use him often, Jefferson does still possess the ability to knock down three-pointers in bunches when he comes off the bench.
The Warriors don't have any exceptional trading chips that they'd be willing to part with, so Jefferson will have to suffice.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 steals, 14.80 PER
Contract: Two years, $5,202,061
Patrick Patterson has been a valuable player for the Houston Rockets, but it's not like this organization is in dire need for help at either of the forward positions. They have way too many guys at the position just waiting for their opportunities.
And with a reasonable contract that doesn't last too long, Patterson could be a tempting piece to a number of teams looking for help at the 4.
I know this is hard to believe, but moving Patterson could also allow the Rockets to see exactly what Royce White can do on the court.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.39 PER
Contract: One year, $10,000,000
David West is enjoying a terrific season for the Indiana Pacers, emerging as a top offensive option for the first time since he became a free agent while playing solid defense.
Trading him wouldn't make that much sense for this season, unless Danny Granger returned and absolutely lit it up, but it would do wonders for the future. The Pacers could likely get a lot in return for the 32-year-old power forward, especially since his $10,000,000 salary will essentially disappear after the last game of the season.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.4 steals, 11.31 PER
Contract: Three years, $4,222,997
The Los Angeles Clippers most likely will not be making a move before the trading deadline. They're in great shape, and that shape will become even greater when Chauncey Billups returns to the rotation.
Unfortunately for Willie Green, that will mean even less time on the court. He's already playing only 18.1 minutes per game, and the number is likely to dip rather drastically when it's time for Billups to take up the mantle in the backcourt.
Green can still play at a high level, but he's surrounded by players who play at an even higher one.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.5 steals, 15.82 PER
Contract: Two years, $38,285,850
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to have to make some sort of change, based on the way this disappointing season has been progressing.
Even though he looks like a shell of his former self, Pau Gasol still possesses a tremendous amount of talent that would look quite good if used in the right system. That system most assuredly does not involve coming off the bench behind Earl Clark.
Gasol might have a rather large contract, but he's still capable of living up to it.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.4 steals, 14.39 PER
Contract: Three years, $53,666,796
You'd be kidding yourself if you didn't think that there were teams out there salivating over the prospect of having Rudy Gay suit up for them. However, there's a big if.
That if involves the Memphis Grizzlies.
They have to actually put the talented, young and athletic small forward on the block, which won't happen if the Grizzlies stay in contention in the tough Western Conference.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 1.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.0 steals, 17.18 PER
Contract: One year, $854,389
Now that Chris Andersen is on the Miami Heat's roster, there's even less of a role available for Dexter Pittman. You know, because those 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game were gaudy figures already.
It's highly doubtful that Miami makes any move whatsoever as the Heat gear up for a run at a repeat, but Pittman is the man who would be moved if any had to be.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.3 steals, 13.81 PER
Contract: Two years, $3,027,820
Now that Ersan Ilyasova is playing well, he and John Henson sit firmly ahead of Tobias Harris in the power forward rotation. At small forward, Harris has to sit behind both Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Mike Dunleavy.
Harris is too talented to just remain on the bench throughout contest after contest. Remember, it was only a year ago that he was a top-20 draft pick, and he's still just 20 years old.
With a rookie contract and potential waiting to be realized, Harris could be an intriguing trade target for a number of teams.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.5 steals, 14.50 PER
Contract: Two years, $9,826,800
It might seem like it's too soon to give up on Derrick Williams, but the Minnesota Timberwolves won't have much use for him once Kevin Love re-returns to the lineup after recovering from his re-broken hand.
Williams could use a fresh start and a team that is willing to feature him significantly more in the lineup. After all, he is a former No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
If his name is thrown out there, teams will come calling.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.3 steals, 14.19 PER
Contract: One year, $2,947,800
Al-Farouq Aminu has been a serviceable small forward for the surging New Orleans Hornets, but it's doubtful that the shooting-deficient 22-year-old has a long-term future in the bayou. Essentially, it's unlikely that he'll metamorphosize from a bee to a pelican.
The Hornets could get a part of their bright future in return for his expiring contract, and it's not like the recipient would be receiving a worthless player.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.3 steals, 18.81 PER
Contract: Two years, $41,628,692
Moving Amar'e Stoudemire's albatross of a contract might be next to impossible, but the New York Knicks could at least try. The potential return would be worth it, as the 30-year-old still has a lot of potential for dominating games.
Stoudemire has been quite effective when on the court ever since returning from injury, but it's not like the Knicks were struggling to win games while he was in street clothes. In fact, the team is only 6-6 since the power forward was reinserted in the lineup.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 2.8 points, 0.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.3 steals, 6.98 PER
Contract: One year, $2,338,720
Eric Maynor went from having a lot of potential at point guard to racking up DNP-CDs in almost no time at all. He has Reggie Jackson to thank for that.
Now, Maynor is a rather expendable piece for the Oklahoma City Thunder, although they still aren't likely to shake things up while they're at the top of the Western Conference.
At only 25 years old, the point guard would make a nice addition to a number of teams in need of help at in the backcourt.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 3.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.3 steals, 11.68 PER
Contract: Two years, $3,000,000
Gustavo Ayon was one of the more underrated players in the NBA last season while enjoying a nice rookie campaign with the New Orleans Hornets. Now he's buried on the Orlando Magic depth chart and rarely gets a chance to show off his skills.
Behind Glen Davis and the rebounding machine known as Nikola Vucevic, there just aren't many minutes out there for Ayon.
Given his defensive presence and cheap services, he could be tempting to a number of teams searching for a rotation big.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.8 steals, 14.13 PER
Contract: One year, $4,106,000
Dorell Wright would be a valuable trade chip for two main reasons:
First, there's his three-point shooting ability. Wright is taking four triples per game for the Philadelphia 76ers, and he's knocking them down 35.5 percent of the time.
Second, there's his contract. After the 2012-13 season ends, Wright becomes a free agent and gives his team a little more fiscal flexibility.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 steals, 11.12 PER
Contract: Three years, $18,000,000
Just as has been the case so many times during his relatively short NBA career, Michael Beasley is in need of another fresh start. Being featured as the go-to option for the Phoenix Suns was an unmitigated disaster.
If there was a Least Valuable Player award given out of the season's first half, Beasley would certainly be a strong candidate.
That said, he's still a talented scorer who could make a positive impact if his role isn't too large.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 1.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.2 steals, 3.23 PER
Contract: Three years, $4,624,458
I'm a little confused as to why Jared Jeffries gets so little action as the Portland Trail Blazers roll with Meyers Leonard, Joel Freeland and Luke Babbitt in his stead. Surely his defensive abilities should be able to help out this putrid bench.
Another team might be able to make better use of Jeffries' skills, limited as they may be. It's not like they'd be taking on too much salary by acquiring him.
The $4,624,458 he's owed over the next three years is by no means a deterrent.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.2 steals, 18.45 PER
Contract: One year, $5,251,824
The Sacramento Kings need to make some changes. Despite having quite a bit of talent on the roster, things just aren't working out for this team, one that's utterly devoid of this crucial little thing called chemistry.
Of all the pieces that the Kings both could and would move—the latter knocks DeMarcus Cousins out of the equation—Tyreke Evans would bring back the most in return.
When he's used correctly, Evans' slashing abilities make him an incredibly dangerous backcourt member. It's a shame that's happened so infrequently.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 14.72 PER
Contract: One year, $1,054,000
The San Antonio Spurs have clearly moved past using DeJuan Blair in the rotation. His minutes per game have decreased during each and every month of the season, despite the fact that he's playing better basketball in recent days.
During January, the big man without much jumping ability has only found himself on the court for 10.8 minutes per game as Tiago Splitter carves out a bigger and bigger role.
Blair and his expendable contract could both serve the Spurs well, better even than he's served them.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.6 steals, 12.50 PER
Contract: Two years, $20,750,000
As long as Andrea Bargnani isn't asked to do too much, he can be a valuable offensive big man for a team. Unfortunately, the Toronto Raptors gave him too large a role, and the results weren't exactly pretty during the 2012-13 campaign.
Remember, though, that Bargnani isn't washed up, as much as he's tried to convince us of that. Only last year the Italian seven-footer averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game on 43.2 percent shooting with a PER of 18.00.
Other teams are well aware of this and might be willing to give the Raptors even more promising pieces in return for his rather large salary.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.62 PER
Contract: One year, $15,000,000
Paul Millsap could easily be featured here, but Al Jefferson take the cake simply because he's better. Just look at the numbers listed up above, and you'll quickly realize that Jefferson is putting together one of the more underappreciated seasons during the 2012-13 campaign.
And his contract expires at the end of the season, making him a prime candidate to be brought back for a longer period of time or let go of in an attempt to clear more salary space.
The Jazz have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting to see their minutes jump exponentially, so it's not like losing Jefferson would hurt them too much down the road.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, 16.18 PER
Contract: Two years, $3,361,098
Seeing Jordan Crawford leave might hurt for Washington Wizards fans, as he's been one of the few bright spots in the nation's capital. However, dealing him away would open things up for a player who might become an even brighter spot: Bradley Beal.
Additionally, Crawford's offensive game—which he's displayed on multiple occasions during the 2012-13 season—could be tempting enough that a team gives the Wizards some help at another position.
It's become more and more apparent that the 24-year-old is a future impact scorer off the pine.