Expiring contracts aren't for every NBA team.
They're talked about as massive trade chips, and in the right situation, they are just that. However, it takes a certain type of franchise to want to move those pieces and an entirely different group to pursue them.
The funny thing is, both parties are searching for the same thing—a big fish. It's just the matter of when and how they'll cast their reels that differs.
The ones willing to part with that financial relief are motivated by one of two factors.
Win-now teams might use them as sweetener to land what they feel is the final piece of their championship puzzle. Those further removed from contention might trade financial flexibility for assets, particularly if they feel better about their chances in the draft or trade market than they do in free agency.
But where do these motivated sellers find ready-and-willing buyers? A couple different places.
Major markets are almost always an option, as they typically get their pick of the litter in free agency. The more room they have on their payroll, the bigger the summer splash they can try to make.
Teams loaded with young talent are interested in these cap-friendly deals as well. As that talent develops, it becomes exponentially more expensive. These clubs have to get creative to keep all their pieces in place, so extra cap space is always a welcome addition.
Contrary to popular belief, there are faces to go along with these expiring figures. These are the most likely ones to be moved before the Feb. 20 NBA trade deadline.
The Charlotte Bobcats don't look like buyers. Not with their 16-24 record.
But they were a 21-win team last season and still decided to put a win-now rush on last offseason. They coughed up major coin for big man Al Jefferson and took what appeared to be the low-risk, low-reward route on draft night with Cody Zeller.
Mediocrity—which seems to be Charlotte's new ceiling—might be enough to snag a playoff bid out East. Gordon's $13.2 million deal could still be flipped for something of moderate substance that could end this team's three-year playoff drought.
Gordon was a bad fit under defensive-minded coach Steve Clifford and has unsurprisingly slipped out of the rotation. He's made just one appearance since Dec. 28, hoisting seven shots in less than 10 minutes during Charlotte's blowout loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 10.
Still, his contract could carry major appeal for a star-gazing franchise in need of a big offseason. In a limited role, he might still make an impact for someone as a floor spacer (career 40.2 three-point percentage).
The Philadelphia 76ers weren't built to be very good, and they haven't been.
The only problem is they aren't very good at this tanking business, either. Every time this team seems ready to bottom out, something unexpectedly (unintentionally?) lifts it back up, like its four-game winning streak to close 2013 and open 2014.
This roster isn't devoid of talent, and in this situation, that's a bad thing.
Spencer Hawes has been borderline special, posting career marks in scoring (14.4), rebounding (8.7) and assists (3.5). The 7-footer is also connecting on 43.7 percent of his long-range attempts—and launching 3.9 a night.
He's too good for a team that needs to be bad. It might not be that way for long. According to Jake Pavorsky of LibertyBallers.com, Hawes is on the trade block as part of a package deal with impending restricted free agent Evan Turner.
Philly's in the market for draft picks. As soon as one becomes available for Hawes' expiring $6.6 million deal, the big man's as good as gone.
Kris Humphries has two claims to fame: a highly questionable marriage history and a mammoth contract ($12.0 million).
But that's not the reason he'll be filling out a change-of-address form in the near future. If you can get past that surface grime, there's actually something quite intriguing underneath.
B/R's Maxwell Ogden called him "One of the best energy guys in the NBA."
Make no mistake, his contract is what first puts him on the mind of potential suitors. But his underrated game is what helps keep him there.
He's active, athletic and more productive than you'd think (14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes). He's also one of the few trade chips that the Boston Celtics have, and could be the biggest card they're willing to play if they don't move Rajon Rondo.
Boston's still in the asset collection stage of its rebuilding project. Humphries should help stock the cupboard.
The Utah Jazz are about as far away from the championship podium as you can possibly get. Collecting scraps for their collection of expiring contracts won't get them any closer.
Unlike his fellow free-agents-to-be, though, Richard Jefferson might actually bring back something of value.
Relative value, of course, but he's not a walking dollar sign like Andris Biedrins. Jefferson's back from the dead and quietly putting together a decent season (10.5 points on .441/.436/.765 shooting).
Clearly, there's some inflation in his stat sheet. The 33-year-old wouldn't be seeing 27.6 minutes of floor time on any other team.
But he's a good veteran presence, still knows how to shoot and doesn't require any commitment beyond this season. If someone's short on cash but still holding onto playoff hopes, Jefferson could be a decent option for now and a big help this summer.
There's something inherently exciting about point guards, seemingly regardless of the player.
Already, we've seen fanbases try breaking down the door when names like Kyle Lowry, Andre Miller and Kirk Hinrich have run through the rumor mill. Peter Vecsey, formerly of the New York Post, said five different teams were interested in Jordan Crawford before the Golden State Warriors ultimately pried him out of Boston.
Point guards sell, and the Milwaukee Bucks would have no problem finding a buyer for veteran Luke Ridnour and his $4.3 million contract.
The 32-year-old has drifted in and out of Milwaukee's plans, seeing more than 42 minutes in its last game but fewer than 24 in the previous contest. He's averaging 23.0 minutes of action on the season, slightly more than rookie Nate Wolters (20.2) and combo guard Gary Neal (20.5).
The Bucks have a bright future somewhere down the line, but Ridnour won't be around long enough to see it. Milwaukee could add yet another piece to its collection, as teams are all too willing to pay a premium for a proven floor general.
You didn't really think Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was going to let his books clean themselves, did you?
There are plenty of problems in the Motor City, and moving Rodney Stuckey's $8.5 million contract will solve none of them. The Pistons should be planning for the future and earmarking this financial relief (Charlie Villanueva also has an expiring $8.5 million deal) for one or both of its young twin towers (Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond).
But Dumars doesn't have time to wait. He's sitting on his own expiring deal and needs to turn his offseason home run hacks (Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings) into something that at least gets out of the infield.
The Pistons invested two draft picks (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva) and a major free-agent contract (Jennings) in their backcourt. Stuckey's probably going to be too expensive this summer for the minutes he'd get if he stuck around Detroit.
Teams are always in the market for scorers, and the seventh-year veteran has tallied 13.3 points on a career-best 44.4 percent shooting from the field. There's a market for his skills and potential for a decent payout in return.
There's also the chance for Dumars to find the player he still needs to push this roster over the top. The one he has still hasn't found on the open market.