There has not been much on the NBA trade front thus far in the 2010-11 season, but as the year goes on and the February 24 trade deadline approaches, expect the trade rumors to begin to drastically heat up.
Furthermore, on December 15 the league restriction on trading newly acquired players will be lifted, so transactions will certainly see a significant spike soon.
And as NBA teams begin to evaluate where they sit, and the contenders are separated from the pretenders, they will have to decide whether they ought to stock up for a playoff run or cut their losses and retool their rosters for the future.
Consequently, large expiring contracts will become a valuable trade commodity, as they allow teams to get under the salary cap and acquire varying levels of financial flexibility.
As a result, many insignificant players will become invaluable trade pieces going forward.
This slideshow will focus on 15 such players, all of whom will likely be traded primarily for the value of their expiring contracts.
Therefore, important contributors with expiring contracts, whose talents outweigh their contract values, or who will probably not be traded, have been left out.
So you won't find the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, Nene, Mo Williams, Shane Battier and David West on this list.
However, the impeding free agency of these individuals could very likely be the motivation for teams to acquire expiring contracts to get under the cap.
So without further ado, here are the 15 most desirable contracts to acquire at the trade deadline.
At 17-4, the Dallas Mavericks are currently the second-best team in the NBA.
Furthermore, Tyson Chandler has been a breath of fresh at at the center position for them, putting up 8.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting a blistering 65.8 percent from the field.
So why would the team even consider trading him?
Well, the answer has nothing to do with Chandler himself, but rather, the Mavs' investment in backup center Brendan Haywood.
This season Haywood is due $6.90 million, but that number is set to gradually increase over the next four seasons, peaking at almost $10 million.
Chandler, on the other hand, is due $12.75 million this season, which is the last on his contract.
And despite Mark Cuban's notoriously deep pockets, it would be hard for him to justify keeping these two centers on their roster for an extended period of time at a price tag of over $20 million.
Therefore, the Mavericks could trade Chandler in 2010-11, seeking to get value, rather than letting him walk in the offseason.
Furthermore, due to Chandler's rejuvenated play thus far, he and his contract would be a very valuable trade commodity.
Consequently, teams seeking a starter at the five, as well as cap relief, would definitely be intrigued by the possibility of acquiring Chandler.
However, so long as the Mavs continue to play at such a high level, it may be unlikely that Chandler will be traded.
It's no secret that Yao Ming's best days are behind him, as injuries have hampered his game significantly over the past few years.
However, he is still being paid like the All-Star which he once was, with a 2010-11 salary of $17.69 million.
Furthermore, his Houston Rockets, who have also drastically dropped off from their 2009-10 level of production (42-40) to a measly 8-13.
Injuries have definitely been a factor in this decline, as both Aaron Brooks and Yao have only played in five games, but with Luis Scola excelling as the team's primary big man, Yao may have become expendable.
So when Brooks returns from injury, don't be surprised to see trade rumors swirling around Yao.
And depending upon where the team stands at that time, they could either seek young players and draft picks (like they did for Tracy McGrady last season) or they could seek out win-now-type talent for a run at the postseason.
More specifically, they could even make a run at Carmelo Anthony, if he consents, using Yao's contract as trade bait.
However, if Anthony decides that Houston doesn't suit him, his impeding free agency would definitely create a market for the large cap dump which a trade for Yao would bring.
The only downside of a Yao trade would be the high price which he could possibly come at, making him a less desirable target.
But, as strange as it would be to see Yao wearing another uniform, it seems to be a real possibility in 2010-11.
In 2010-11, Caron Butler is playing a career low 29:48 per game.
As a result, his numbers are suffering (career lows in rebounds, assists and his second-lowest point average), although his team, the Dallas Mavericks, are thriving at 17-4.
Like his teammate Tyson Chandler, Butler's contract is up at the end of the season and he may not be re-upped due to an expensive backup.
Behind Butler is Shawn Marion, who is under contract for nearly $26 million over the next three years.
Furthermore, this is a sticky situation since both Butler (30) and Marion (32) are past their primes.
Consequently, it appears that the Mavs easiest way out would be to deal Butler and his $10.56 million contract, seeking draft picks or youth, which would allow the team to continue its run as a contender into the distant future.
But again, as is the case with Chandler, the team may just hang onto Butler and see just how good they can be right now.
The Charlotte Bobcats have experienced a significant drop off in production thus far in 2010-11, at 8-13 after they had their first ever winning record (44-38) and playoff berth (No. 7 seed) last season.
Consequently, in order to regain that form, it wouldn't be surprising to see them make a move some time before the trade deadline.
If such a move were to be made, expect center Nazr Mohammed and his expiring $6.88 million contract to be included.
Currently, in under 18 minutes per game, Mohammed is averaging about eight points, five rebounds and a block—not terrible numbers for a backup center.
However, since the Bobcats don't hold him to be a very valuable commodity, they could certainly put his name out there on the trade block, seeking to gain a piece solidify their position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
And there are a number teams looking to shed a bit of salary for 2011, while also temporarily acquiring a serviceable center.
In his ninth NBA season, Dan Gadzuric continues to be a semi-efficient backup center.
However, his 2010-11 salary certainly outweighs his performance, as he is due $7.24 million.
And on the Golden State Warriors, he sits behind a number of other center-eligible players, like Andris Biendrins, David Lee and Brendan Wright.
Furthermore, the Warriors, who started out the season 7-4, now sit at 8-13, and consequently, it appears they desperately need a change.
And moving Gadzuric and his expiring contract for any type of value could very well provide that.
After missing the first 18 games of the 2010-11 season, center Joel Przybilla is now back for the 10-11 Portland Trail Blazers.
However, like Dan Gadzuric, he is overpaid ($7.41 million) and buried on the depth chart (behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby).
Therefore, it seems that the Blazers could do very well for themselves by moving Przybilla's expiring contract to improve their already talented, yet underperforming roster.
And being only one game out of the eighth playoff spot at this point, such a trade may be just what Portland needs to get back on track.
At 30 years of age, it appears that Mike Dunleavy will never become the player that he was projected to be as a No. 3 overall draft pick out of Duke.
However, Dunleavy can still contribute on the court, as his 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game illustrates.
Nevertheless, his price tag of $10.56 million for 2010-11 doesn't fit his level of production.
And with wings like Brandon Rush, James Posey, Paul George and Dahntay Jones already on the Indiana Pacers roster, Dunleavy is certainly expendable.
Furthermore, the Pacers will find no shortage of teams seeking a shooter who will provide extensive cap relief.
Therefore, seeing Dunleavy traded for young talent or draft picks would definitely be helpful for Indiana's quest for contention in the near future.
T.J. Ford is no stranger to trade rumors, as he has been dogged by them for much of his career.
His current three-year stint with the Indiana Pacers is his longest so far, but with his $8.50 million coming off the books after this season, coupled with his strong play of late (although in limited playing time), his trade value is the highest it has been in years.
Recently it was rumored that the New York Knicks were interested Ford, and there are likely many others who would love to gain the services of the 27-year-old point.
And as with Mike Dunleavy, the 10-9 Pacers would likely look for young talent and draft picks in order to shore up their solid young core for future contention.
The Denver Nuggets Kenyon Martin has yet to play a game in 2010-11 due to a knee injury, and he has stated that he will take his time in preparing to come back.
Furthermore, before the season tipped off, the power forward stated his displeasure with the Nuggets organization for signing Al Harrington during the offseason, rather than extending his contract.
Together, these two factors hint toward a messy divorce in the near future.
And with his teammate Carmelo Anthony appearing as though he will depart from Denver after the season (or in a midseason trade), the Nuggets ought to try and move Martin and his massive $16.55 million contract as soon as possible, seeking young talent and draft picks for their coming rebuilding effort.
For the second straight year, the Detroit Pistons are off to a horrendous start, at 7-15.
Furthermore, the team looks to have little financial flexibility as they already have a significant amount of money invested in their core of Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton and Charlie Villanueva for the next few seasons.
However, Tayshaun Prince and his $11.15 million salary aren't under contract following 2010-11, and since the Pistons could definitely use some young talent or draft picks to help retool their squad, dealing Prince and his expiring contract seems like a reasonable option.
He is currently averaging 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and combining that with his championship pedigree, solid all-around game and contract, there would be no shortage of suitors were Prince to be placed on the trade block.
Earlier this season, Peja Stojakovic and his $15.34 million expiring contract were traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Toronto Raptors.
However, don't be surprised if Toronto is not the last stop for the 33-year-old, 13-year NBA veteran.
Currently, his Raptors are tied with the Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, so it seems likely that they would try to make a win-now roster move to overtake Michael Jordan's squad.
And, there are many teams that could use a sharp-shooter who would also provide immediate cap relief.
But then again, they may chose to hang on to his contract, allowing them to become a player in the 2011 free agent market.
Samuel Dalembert and the Sacramento Kings have posted a league-worst 4-15 record so far in 2010-11.
They have looked pretty bad throughout, and there is little hope of them turning this season around.
Therefore, the team should certainly start looking to make rebuilding moves, seeking to move their most expensive veterans, like Dalembert.
This season, he is under contract for $12.20 million, and in 22 minutes per game, he's putting up almost five points, eight rebounds and two blocks per contest.
And with the cap flexibility he would provide, coupled with his adequate center play, there would almost certainly be some teams seeking his services.
At this point in his career, the New York Knicks Eddy Curry is only relevant due to his contract status.
Having played only 10 games since the 2008-09 season, his contract, worth $11.28 million for the year, is set to finally expire after the 2010-11 season.
However, with the Knicks desperately pursuing Carmelo Anthony, Curry's contract could become an essential trade piece.
Yet if the Denver Nuggets make it clear that they won't be dealing Melo, then New York may seek to improve their roster elsewhere, using Curry to acquire another player who could aid them in their playoff push.
Nevertheless, Curry and the Knicks will be the focus of constant trade rumors, as his value as a player is low, while his contract value is high.
Like the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets are relentlessly pursuing any opportunities to trade for Carmelo Anthony.
Furthermore, since the Nets acquired Troy Murphy in a multi-team deal prior to the start of the season, his name has been the focus of many of these trade rumors—with reports even surfacing that he was only acquired to be traded.
And with a $11.97 million expiring contract, it shouldn't be hard to move the 30-year-old forward center.
However, his value has been slightly diminished due to an injury-hampered and unsuccessful year thus far, but with young franchise players at his position (Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors), Murphy likely won't remain a Net for too much longer.
After being seriously limited by injuries since 2008-09, Michael Redd has seen himself gradually fade from the NBA spotlight.
Currently, he's rehabbing from knee surgery and he won't rejoin his Milwaukee Bucks until sometime in early 2011.
However, with an $18.30 million expiring contract, who knows if he'll ever make it back to the Bucks.
Instead, Milwaukee, who have under-performed to a 7-13 record after playing impressively and making the playoffs last season, could seek to trade Redd for players who could instantly contribute, in an attempt to rejuvenate their team back to last year's form.
And any team looking to make a splash in the 2011 free agent market would absolutely love to see $18.30 million come off their salary heading into the offseason.