The NBA's trade deadline always seems to be an exciting and nerve-racking time.
Playoff contenders are searching for that one final piece to the championship puzzle, while bottom-feeders are unloading contracts to make future moves in free agency.
We've seen a lot of big names throughout the Association get flung around leading up to this season's deadline on Feb. 21. Ranging from Kevin Garnett to Josh Smith to Monta Ellis, all kinds of intriguing potential swaps are out there.
But the climate of the NBA right now, combined with harsher penalties for teams over the luxury tax threshold (thank you, collective bargaining agreement), figures to make the days leading up to the trade deadline rather quiet this year.
For example, in my latest piece on Monday, I detailed why DeAndre Jordan for Garnett probably won't work, as well as a package containing Eric Bledsoe for Paul Millsap. There's still a possibility that Ellis is moved, but you wonder if many playoff contenders will give up a lot for him (his disadvantage defending bigger guards has been a problem throughout his career and limits his value).
Whether anything will happen with Smith is up in the air as well. The 27-year-old do-it-all forward has made it crystal clear that he expects a max contract moving forward. That naturally scares off teams thinking about acquiring him before the deadline, given he could bolt after the season.
Plus, it's debatable whether he's a max-contract player in the first place, and the Atlanta Hawks would actually be able to offer him more money in the offseason than any other team in the NBA.
Then there's the new collective bargaining agreement, which severely punishes teams above the luxury tax threshold.
Bill Ingram of HOOPSWORLD referenced the Houston Rockets in this regard. The Rockets could be one piece away from being a serious contender in the playoffs, but they also have a great deal of cap space, which makes them reluctant to pull the trigger. With less leeway as far as the luxury tax goes, they may just wait until free agency to make a splash instead of sacrificing it all for a boost this season.
This is not to say that deals won't go down, but it's a lot less likely that there will be significant movement before the trade deadline, this season and in the future. It's also a lot less likely that there will be blockbuster trades.
What you're potentially looking at is smaller names being moved by the deadline, while the bigger names change teams in free agency. In that regard, free agency becomes more important than ever now in the NBA.