The Houston Rockets made a splash when they acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer.
One trade or big-name signing can have a profound impact on the NBA landscape, whether it's a team improving drastically or faltering due to lousy decision-making.
The deals that make teams into contenders are often those involving superstars, and we've seen a number of such moves transpire over the past three years.
For the purposes of this slideshow, max contracts, blockbuster trades and max contract extensions involving the NBA's biggest stars since 2011 were considered.
To say that the Brooklyn Nets' salary cap management has been shaky would be an understatement.
By acquiring Joe Johnson in July of 2012, the Nets added nearly $20 million to their cap in 2012-13 and padded it with close to $70 million over the next three seasons.
So far, Johnson's play has not justified those gaudy numbers the Nets are forking over.
In his first season with the Nets, Johnson averaged 16.3 points per game, the fewest he's averaged since the 2003-04 season (16.7 points per game with the Phoenix Suns). What's more discouraging is that Johnson shot 42.3 percent from the field in 2012-13, the second-worst mark of his career.
While the move to acquire Johnson as a backcourt sidekick to Deron Williams seemed like a calculated risk at the time, it's becoming clear that Johnson's play may never reach the level it did when the Atlanta Hawks bestowed a max contract on him in the summer of 2010.
When the New Orleans Pelicans (formerly the Hornets) signed Eric Gordon to a four-year, $58 million max offer sheet last summer, it was clear that a risk was being taken.
Gordon has always been on the cusp of stardom and appeared to be well on his way to breaking through after averaging 22.3 points per game on 45 percent shooting during the 2010-11 campaign.
However, Gordon has never played a full 82-game slate (or 66 games during the lockout shortened season of 2011-12) to date, and he managed to appear in just 42 games last season.
At this point, the Pelicans seem ready to admit that they made a mistake in signing Gordon to such a generous deal.
According to WWLTV, general manager Dell Demps hasn't made any promises regarding Gordon's return, as there remains a chance he could be shipped out of town this summer.
A controversial move at the time, the Memphis Grizzlies decided it would be financially prudent to deal Rudy Gay at the 2013 trade deadline.
Not only was the move a monetary success for Memphis, but it freed up more opportunities for Mike Conley to grow as a playmaker.
For Toronto, it remains unclear if the gamble for Gay was worthwhile.
The Raptors took on more than $37 million over the next two years in salary (assuming Gay exercises his player option worth $19 million for 2014-15), but Gay's performance over his first 33 games North of the border was rather encouraging.
Gay averaged 19.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game after being traded, but he will need to cut down on the mid-range jumpers and refine his offensive game in order for the trade to be a win for the Raptors in the long term.
The Brooklyn Nets' acquisition and signing of Deron Williams strengthened an improving Eastern Conference, one that is now laden with superstars in large markets.
Although the Nets dealt promising young pieces Derrick Favors and Derrick Harris and a draft pick that wound up being the rights to Enes Kanter to Utah in the deal, it was one made out of necessity.
With a move to Brooklyn looming, the Nets needed to pull the trigger on a deal that would net them a superstar.
Williams fit the bill, and as far as point guards go, he can stake his claim as one of the better scorers at the position.
While the Nets did tie up $100 million in Williams over five years, he's a reliable scorer (17.8 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting from the field for his career) and distributor (nine assists per game for his career) who has Brooklyn trending in the right direction under his offensive guidance.
It's common practice these days to label Blake Griffin as nothing more than a high-flyer whose breathtaking athleticism has netted him attention and a big payday.
However, the five-year, $95 million extension Griffin was signed to by the Los Angeles Clippers was well worth the money.
Griffin has improved every year since his debut in 2010-11, and over the first three years of his career, he is averaging 20.4 points (52.9 percent shooting) and 10.4 rebounds per game.
The 24-year-old has also recorded a PER of 22.5 to this point in his career, while his offensive and defensive ratings have improved incrementally each of the past three seasons (2012-13 offensive rating of 114 and defensive rating of 102).
A dynamic scoring threat who has developed a strong post game and mid-range jumper, Griffin has already established himself as one of the most versatile power forwards in the game.
Did the Philadelphia 76ers' acquisition of Andrew Bynum wind up being a bust? Yes. But that doesn't mean that the move wasn't a smart one at the time.
The Sixers were coming off of a 2011-12 season in which they severely overachieved, and they needed to find a way to shake things up while still remaining competitive in an improving Eastern Conference.
Bynum was supposed to make the Sixers instant contenders for an Atlantic Division title, but the big man's troublesome knees derailed those plans.
There remains a very real possibility that Bynum, now an unrestricted free agent, may never step on the court donning a Sixers uniform.
In the deal, the Sixers lost defensive stopper and athletic specimen Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA's best young centers in Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless as well as a protected first-round pick.
The logic behind the trade was right, but the result just happened to be disastrous.
The New York Knicks' success of late has hinged on the play of Carmelo Anthony, the 2012-13 scoring champion who averaged 28.7 points per game for the Atlantic Division champions.
Since arriving in New York, Anthony has been as good as advertised. He shot a career-high 37.9 percent from three this past season, but the Knicks' roster took a serious hit as a result of the 2011 deadline deal.
The Knicks lost Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton (who's since returned) and a 2014 first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets in the blockbuster.
Anthony has been as good as advertised, and it's a given that a player of his caliber was going to cost a fortune, but the Knicks essentially mortgaged their future on him and now find themselves in an awkward spot.
Iman Shumpert is the Knicks' only other young asset of any value, as general manager Glen Grunwald pieced together a contending roster with low-priced, aging vets.
Anthony made the Knicks relevant again in a national context, and for that alone the trade should be labeled a success. However, it's important to keep long-term perspective in mind when evaluating the deal.
Paul's arrival signaled a changing of the guard for the Clippers, who were instantly propelled into an elite group of playoff contenders in the Western Conference.
In a deal that sent Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and the eventual rights to Austin Rivers to New Orleans, the Clippers made out like bandits.
In Paul's two seasons in L.A. to date, the Clippers have finished fourth and fifth in the West, appearing in 17 total playoff games.
The active leader in win shares per 48 minutes (.2439), Paul didn't just turn the Clippers into a contender, but he made them a destination that free agents with championship aspirations have flocked to.
Regardless of how you think Dwight Howard performed in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, the trade to acquire the enigmatic big was an undisputed victory when you consider what they gave up in the deal.
Even if Howard winds up being just a one-year rental, the Lakers were able to rid themselves of the problematic Andrew Bynum and two career journeymen in Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga.
It's easy to poke fun at Howard and the Lakers for their growing pains in 2012-13, but it's important to remember that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year averaged 17.1 points, 2.4 blocks and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game en route to an All-NBA Third Team selection.
Year one in L.A. may have been tumultuous, but there's time for Howard to grow into a role as the franchise centerpiece out West if he chooses to stay in Hollywood.
The most controversial transaction to rock the Association in recent years was the Oklahoma City Thunder's decision to ship James Harden to the Houston Rockets after refusing to meet his salary demands.
Already one of the league's best shooting guards at 23 years old, Harden has made Daryl Morey and the Rockets' front office look brilliant after his inaugural season in H-Town.
With a bump in minutes, Harden posted career highs in points (25.9 per game), assists (5.8 per game), rebounds (4.9 per game) and steals (1.8 per game), while his PER reached a new peak of 23.
The Harden trade is looking particularly good for Houston after the 2013 first-round pick they traded to Oklahoma City (via Toronto) netted the Thunder just the 12th overall pick in next month's draft.
Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb were thought to be at least adequate compensation at the time, but Martin's soon to be an unrestricted free agent, while Lamb's value remains unknown after his rookie campaign.
Now that they've got Harden in tow, the Rockets are on the upswing. Not only do they have one of the league's best offensive creators off the dribble, but Houston has quickly become an appealing destination for impending free agents, per CBSSports.