The most successful organizations around the NBA are the ones who can successfully use the Feb. 21 trade deadline to their advantage. Bargains are available, although they can be difficult to ascertain.
The biggest trade of the season to date came when the Memphis Grizzlies shipped Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in a three-team trade. While not shocking, it changed the landscape of the Western Conference heading into the All-Star break.
The trading deadline is the final opportunity for each team to make a substantial change to the roster before making a final playoff push. While it's hard to predict exactly which moves will be made, the rumor mill tends to circulate common names on a daily basis.
And those names aren't without red flags.
Paul Pierce wants to retire a Celtic, but it may not happen.
Red Flag: 35 years of age; owed $16 million over next two seasons
While Paul Pierce would like to end his career in Boston Celtics green, that dream may not be realized.
With Rajon Rondo out after suffering a season-ending ACL tear, the Celtics' opportunity to reach one last NBA Finals with Pierce and Kevin Garnett appears to be bleak. While it would be painful for all Celtics fans to see Pierce in a different jersey, it would be in the best interest of the franchise moving forward if it could trade him for valuable assets.
If a team offers a significant package for Pierce, it may be too much for GM Danny Ainge to pass up, as the Celtics GM is always looking toward the future.
Pierce's mileage has turned him into a No. 2 scoring option, but that shouldn't even be an issue. He has played on the biggest stages in the NBA and should be trusted in the grandest of moments.
A contender needing another scorer should look into acquiring Pierce, as it wouldn't make sense for a rebuilding team to pay an aging star like Pierce his lofty salary without a chance at winning a title.
Brandon Jennings will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Red Flag: Low shooting percentages for a guard; could be offered a max deal after the season.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Jennings failed to come to a contract extension last summer, which means the young point guard will be a restricted free agent after this season.
Through the first three-and-a-half years of his career, Jennings is averaging 17.2 points, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. That's the type of production a team wants from its starting point guard, although Jennings has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone rather than just an average starting point guard.
At just 23 years of age, Jennings may still develop into one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. In order to do so (and maximize his pay raise), he must improve from the field, as he is shooting just 40.6 percent from the field this season.
The Bucks have been aggressive before the trading deadline in the past. Look no further than last year, when they sent Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors for guard Monta Ellis.
Jennings and Ellis share a similar style, which has led to speculation that the two would be better off on different teams. While Jennings is more valuable due to his age, the Bucks might decide to trade him rather than risk having to break the bank to keep him. And whomever that trade partner is had better be prepared for some hefty offseason negotiations, unless they plan on only picking up Jennings as a rental.
No matter what team he is on next season, Jennings will be getting paid far more than he is earning this season. In order to provide fair value for a max contract, though, he has to improve from the field, which is far from a sure thing.
Al Jefferson's contract is up at the end of the season.
Red Flag: Unrestricted free agent after the season; struggles with consistency.
The Utah Jazz have employed one of the league's best frontcourts for years now, as Jefferson and Paul Millsap have built a solid rapport inside.
However, with youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in need of more minutes to continue their development, the Jazz will have to part ways with either Jefferson or Millsap. And since the former sucks up more cap space and is a rare (these days, at least) post-up big man, he may yield a greater return.
The play of Jefferson has been indicative of the success of the Jazz as a whole. In wins, he is averaging 19.4 points and 10 rebounds. However, when the Jazz lose, he is averaging just 14.5 points and 8.9 boards.
Since Utah's offense is so dependent on Jefferson's low-post scoring, it struggles when he is unable to score consistently. That likely lessens his trade value, as it shows he can't anchor a team.
Despite that, with Jefferson's refined post-up offense, he will certainly have quite a few suitors calling the Jazz before the trade deadline rolls around.
An important caveat here: If Jefferson is traded to a team that wants to keep him for a longer term, they must be prepared to offer him to a lucrative deal. Great big men are a rarity in today's NBA, which ensures that quite a few teams will be willing to overpay in order to gain the services of a rock-solid center like Jefferson.
Is Josh Smith worthy of a max contract?
Red Flag: Unrestricted free agent after the season; is he worthy of a max contract?
This isn't the first time Smith has appeared on the trade block, as rumors have swirled around him multiple times over the past few years.
In Smith, an NBA team would be inheriting an athletic freak who is competent on both ends of the court. With career averages of 15.2 points, eight rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 blocks, Smith can fill up the stat sheet like few others.
His athleticism and versatility give him the ability to play either small forward or power forward, which is extremely valuable in today's NBA and also expands his market, as almost every team in the league could stand to improve at either the 3 or the 4.
At 27 years of age, Smith is entering his prime, although he must improve his efficiency on the offensive end of the court in order to take the next and likely final stage in his development. Until then, there will continue to be those who question whether or not he is deserving of a max contract.
According to John Hollinger's rankings on ESPN.com (subscription required), Smith is ranked 73rd in league with a PER of 17.49.
Is a player ranked 73rd in player efficiency worthy of a maximum contract? I certainly don't think so, which leaves Smith's future in question.
Presumably, any team that trades for Smith will be seeking a long-term, reliable building block on a title contender. However, with his contract coming off the books after this season, factors like efficiency have to be taken into account, as very few teams will want to acquire a big name like Smith only to see him in another jersey by next season.
A franchise looking to make a splash will strongly pursue Smith, with the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets looking like potential landing spots for the high-flying forward.
Redick provides an excellent scoring punch off the bench.
Red Flag: May be a rental as a complementary scorer; likely to receive substantial pay raise following career year.
The Orlando Magic will not be making a playoff appearance this season, as the franchise is currently undergoing a massive rebuild after trading Dwight Howard.
In the first season of Orlando's post-Howard era, the team has been defined by its strong effort, lack of a go-to scorer and a few unfortunate injuries to key players.
Despite the team's struggles, Redick is having a career year. Through the season's first half, the Duke alum is averaging 15.3 points and 4.5 assists on 45.2 percent shooting while playing 32 minutes per game. He has developed from nothing more than a three-point shooter into a complete player.
Redick is in the last year of his contract, which makes him a valuable asset for a team looking to cut salary when the offseason begins.
Outside of his favorable contract, Redick would provide an instant boost to any bench in the league. Playoff teams looking for another scorer should pursue Redick, as opposing defenses must guard him on every possession.
According to Ric Bucher of CSNBayArea.com reports (via Sulia), the Magic are looking for future assets in return for Redick. That's a tall order, considering he's ideal off the bench but will likely get better offers than most bench players due to his career year—which decreases the likelihood that he stays with whatever team trades for his current contract.
Teams are always looking for pure shooters, but those hoping to trade for Redick should anticipate having to re-fill that role after the season.
Trading for Andrea Bargnani would be a big risk.
Red Flags: Struggles with injuries; has not lived up to draft status.
When the Toronto Raptors drafted Bargnani with the first pick in the 2006 NBA draft, they hoped to have drafted a Dirk Nowitzki-type player.
Through the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career, Bargnani is averaging 15.5 points and 4.9 rebounds on 43.8 percent shooting. Due to his draft position and salary, those numbers have been nothing short of disappointing.
An elbow injury has forced Bargnani to miss 27 games so far this season, which played into the Raptors' poor start. The ailment hurt Bargnani's trade market, as he was unable to show off for potential suitors.
Bargnani is scheduled to make his return against the Boston Celtics on February 5. It will be his first game alongside newcomer Rudy Gay, which should be a good thing for both players.
Even with the addition of Gay, the Raptors would be far better off if they were able to unload Bargnani before the trading deadline. Due to the $10 million Bargnani is owed for each of the next two seasons, he will be a challenge to move for GM Bryan Colangelo.
For Bargnani to hold true value, he will have to progress into a player worthy of earning $10 million per year. The odds are heavily stacked against that happening, which is why Bargnani will likely be a member of the Raptors through the rest of the season.