With the 2013 NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, several teams that not so long ago figured to be simply observers have emerged as likely participants.
The conference playoff standings continue to take shape, and a potential deal could be the difference between a fleeting playoff stay and a lengthy one. With a number of attractive, available names starting to surface, organizations are gaining a stronger sense of what kind of help they need and where they can turn to address those areas.
As history has shown, the speculation leading up to the deadline is often far more entertaining than the day itself. But that doesn't preclude a flurry of activity from taking place between now and Feb. 21.
Some teams on this list never figured to be in this position. Others are simply counting their blessings that they're standing where they are.
But all of them are trending in the wrong direction. And all of them are a phone call away from reversing their fortunes.
Current Record: 30-22
Record in Last 10 Games: 4-6
The fire sparked by interim coach P.J. Carlesimo has dwindled. Of the Nets' last six losses, only one has been decided by single digits. Brooklyn has surrendered three defeats of 20-plus points over that stretch.
Thanks to the deep pockets of owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the front office has been afforded the financial flexibility to chase even more top-dollar contracts. Brooklyn has been linked in recent weeks to forwards Paul Millsap (via Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News) and Josh Smith (via ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard) along with guard Ben Gordon (according to Broussard).
The Nets are in dire need of an upgrade at the power forward position, where journeyman Reggie Evans (3.6 points, 9.3 rebounds per game) currently holds the starting spot. While Smith is likely viewed as the ultimate prize, Millsap may prove to be more within their budget.
The Nets have clearly lost ground in their intracity rival with the New York Knicks, and could need a shakeup just to maintain relevance in the Eastern Conference.
Current Record: 30-21
Record in Last 10 Games: 4-6
It was all fun and games for the Warriors until someone got hurt. And that someone was reserve guard Jarrett Jack.
Bothered by a right shoulder contusion, Jack has missed each of the Warriors' past three games. Golden State dropped each of those three contests, including an unsettling 25-point shellacking at the hands of the 22-29 Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 9.
The Warriors have largely avoided the swirling rumors, and Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group has reported that the team has rebuked several offers for rookie forward Harrison Barnes. But players like Barnes and sophomore guard Klay Thompson may wind up as necessary casualties if the Warriors hope to jettison their two albatross contracts (reserves Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson are owed a collective $20 million next season in player options).
Golden State would love to upgrade its reserve center position, where Biedrins and rookie Festus Ezeli have failed to instill any confidence through their play. Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets and DeJuan Blair of the San Antonio Spurs have both drawn the interest of the Warriors (via Thompson). Neither player holds the requisite contract to relieve either of the Warriors' biggest financial burdens, but neither should hold a significant price tag on the trade market.
Current Record: 31-21
Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5
The Pacers fell just two games shy of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2012, so the team wouldn't figure to be in line for drastic changes.
But the team's successful start and the emergence of first-time All-Star Paul George has left the franchise considering trade offers for former All-Star Danny Granger (via Sam Amico of FoxSportsOhio.com).
Granger has yet to play a game for the Pacers this season (sore left knee), but last season marked his fifth consecutive year with at least 18.7 points per game. If Indiana GM Kevin Pritchard can convince fellow executives that Granger is healthy, the Pacers could hold one of the most attractive trade chips on the market.
Indiana could stand for an upgrade in the backcourt, where starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson has managed just 8.4 points per game. J.J. Redick of the Orlando Magic, Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte's Ben Gordon could all provide the perimeter threat that would open up spacing for David West and Roy Hibbert to attack near the basket.
Current Record: 25-25
Record in Last 10 Games: 3-7
The Bucks hoped to delay their decisions on the future of their starting backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Jennings will become a restricted free agent after the season, and Ellis can opt out of his current contract.
But six losses in their past seven games has accelerated the debate. The surging Boston Celtics have overtaken the Bucks for the seventh seed in the East, and a potential return of Andrew Bynum could spur a late-season surge for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The front office hopes to keep Jennings and Ellis in place beyond the deadline, but has been gauging interest in Drew Gooden, Samuel Dalembert and Ersan Ilyasova (according to Steve Kyler of USA Today).
Jennings (18.5 points per game) and Ellis (18.2) have paced the Bucks' offense, but Milwaukee has failed to find consistent scoring behind their guards. Redick could provide that additional scoring threat, while also bolstering the team's pedestrian perimeter threat (Milwaukee's 34.9 three-point percentage ranks 17th in the NBA).
Current Record: 28-24
Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5
The Jazz will have to fight to retain their slipping grasp on the Western Conference's seventh seed. Three losses in their past five games (including a 105-99 loss to the ninth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 2) have only increased the difficulty of that fight.
Like Milwaukee, Utah has its own personnel decision to face. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are both headed for free agency after the season.
According to what several opposing team sources have told Ric Bucher of Comcast SportsNet, Jefferson remains the likely player to remain with the franchise beyond the trade deadline. Assuming Derrick Favors continues his development, a future Jefferson-Favors frontcourt could give the Jazz a formidable interior duo.
The Jazz need to address their perimeter woes. If Utah isn't greeted with favorable offers for Millsap, perhaps they'd be willing to gamble on Granger. If Granger is indeed healthy, the Jazz could have their best perimeter scorer since Deron Williams left Salt Lake City at the 2011 trade deadline.