When considering the league's most attractive expiring contracts, there are a few different factors that come into play.
First and foremost, the team in current possession of an expiring contract has to be looking for a long-term player as opposed to the cap space that would come by letting the player's deal come off the books.
So the Utah Jazz, for example, have no real use for the expiring deals of Andris Biedrins, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson in a trade because they're rebuilding and almost certainly would rather have cap space then the flotsam those pieces would bring back.
Other teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers, that want to make a big splash in free agency are unlikely to move a deal like Pau Gasol's. Ditto for teams running up against or already in the luxury tax, like the Indiana Pacers with Danny Granger and the Chicago Bulls with Luol Deng.
We'll also be leaving out players who are restricted free agents (like Greg Monroe), as this is just for the true expiring deals.
Other factors considered are the size of the contract (the bigger the better) and the actual production of the player.
The following ranking of expiring contracts that could be dealt this year is sponsored by Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars and his disastrous free-agency signings. Enjoy.
Although it seems much more likely that the rebuilding Boston Celtics will simply welcome the cap relief and let Kris Humphries' contract expire, there is a chance that his $12 million deal is used to bring back a big piece.
The fate of Humphries seems tied to Boston's decision with Rajon Rondo. If general manager Danny Ainge really wants Rondo on board as the franchise building block, perhaps giving him a sidekick like Rudy Gay would help aid that effort.
Humphries' value is almost solely attached to his expiring deal, but a team looking to shed a big salary and perhaps earn a draft pick in the process would listen to offers.
It seems as though Humphries will either be moved to bring back a star-quality player, or not moved at all. There's no real middle ground here.
Caron Butler is a Racine, Wis., native, and he's a classy veteran player who could certainly help mentor some of Milwaukee's younger guys. There are a lot of reasons for the Milwaukee Bucks to keep Butler around right now, particularly with Carlos Delfino's injury status.
That being said, the Bucks always seem to be active at the trade deadline, and Butler's expiring $8 million deal is the perfect size to move.
Really, Butler's fate may all depend on where the Bucks are around the midway point. If the No. 8 seed is in reach, he'll likely stay put.
But if the Bucks are way out of the playoff picture, perhaps a contender would give up a future asset in exchange for Butler's corner shooting and dependable play, or maybe a rebuilding team would happily shed some salary on a Milwaukee team that always seems to welcome mid-size, long-term contracts.
The Dallas Mavericks have whiffed in free agency the past two offseasons, so perhaps taking a different route to acquire talent would be wise.
Shawn Marion is an important piece for the Mavericks, as he's one of the only good defensive players on the roster. He's a great pair with Dirk Nowitzki on both ends, but his expiring deal worth $9.3 million might be the best trade piece on the roster.
Because the Mavericks have refused to rebuild as long as Nowitzki is in uniform, it's hard to imagine a deal for Marion bringing back a less valuable player.
Again, players like Rudy Gay, Danilo Gallinari or even Nicolas Batum (under very particular circumstances) could be targeted with Marion's expiring deal and draft picks. No matter the name, the strategy of using an expiring deal in a trade might be something for Dallas to start considering during the last years of Nowitzki's career.
We know the Washington Wizards have a playoffs-or-bust mentality, and Trevor Ariza is probably the best trade chip the Wizards have if "bust" looks more likely than the playoffs.
Ariza's $7.7 million deal is the perfect size to be used on its own or combined with another player, and the depth at the small forward spot for the Wizards (Otto Porter, Martell Webster) could make him an expendable piece.
That, of course, is if Porter comes back healthy from a hip injury. Until then, Ariza has a substantial role as the starting small forward, and his corner shooting and defense are valuable assets.
Ariza would most likely be exchanged for another big man if anything, as Nene's health is seemingly always a question mark.
The Wizards need Ariza right now, but there may be more pressing needs to fill at some point this season.
Watch out for the San Antonio Spurs.
As if they weren't dangerous enough already, the Spurs have the expiring deals of Matt Bonner ($3.9 million) and Boris Diaw ($4.7 million) that could be combined for a difference-making piece that puts the Spurs over the top this year.
But will the Spurs pull the trigger on a big deal? Boris Diaw was incredibly useful against LeBron James in the postseason last year, so it's not like his deal is dead weight. Still, if the Spurs could get a dynamic power forward to mesh with Tim Duncan in a deal, they'd be hard-pressed to not do it.
Keep an eye on this toward the deadline. With the Houston Rockets possibly flirting with a big addition, perhaps a move there would be enough to set off an arms race and cause the Spurs to make a move with their expiring deals.
Finally, the mistakes made by Joe Dumars are coming off the books.
The Detroit Pistons have a few options now, but a lot likely depends on what the plans are for Greg Monroe. The Pistons have to be prepared to match a max offer for Monroe in restricted free agency if they plan on retaining him.
But if the Pistons are prepared to possibly deal Monroe, perhaps a big move using the expiring deals of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva (both at $8.5 million) will be considered.
Very few teams can offer the type of cap relief the Pistons can. Combine that with an expected push for the playoffs, and Detroit is a sneaky candidate to pull off the biggest blockbuster of the trade season. Any rebuilding team looking to move a pricey wing should be knocking down Detroit's door.
When the Charlotte Bobcats signed Al Jefferson this season, it changed the franchise's objective.
If the Bobcats really want to make a play for the postseason, now might be the time to use Ben Gordon's massive $13.2 million deal to bring back multiple pieces, or one star on a big deal.
Maybe New Orleans would consider a swap of last names in addition to a swap of nicknames. Eric Gordon may no longer fit in New Orleans, particularly if he struggles to stay healthy again this year.
Eric Gordon might be worth the risk for Charlotte, especially because it's hard to imagine the Bobcats getting a more talented player in free agency.
Whether it's a Gordon-for-Gordon deal or something else, the Bobcats are a real threat to make a big-time move around the deadline, especially if they're still in the playoff race. That might be tough, but Gordon is the most likely expiring contract to be moved at some point this season regardless.