As the league heads toward its annual All-Star break, teams are beginning to round into mid-season form.
For better or worse.
Some teams have exceeded expectations (Bulls, Knicks, Clippers) while some have fallen into a complacent rut they may be unable to shake (Lakers).
Still others are playing well beyond their years (Celtics, Spurs).
So which team is just a piece away from postseason success?
Which team is just one big name from getting over the hump, from threepeating or from simply crashing the playoffs?
With the February 24th trade deadline looming, I take a look at some familiar names and faces that could be on the move as teams re-evaluate what they need to compete for a championship.
Without regard for the salary cap or the impending expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), let's call this a make believe trade article, where the rich get richer and the entertaining become even more so.
So let's pick 10 teams and try to plug their holes.
The New Orleans Hornets recently won 10 games in a row – and no one noticed. That's because they aren't viewed as contenders in the Western Conference. So who would make them legit?
How about Andre Iguodala? The Hornets could give up Trevor Ariza and Marcus Thorton in exchange for the versatile forward.
Iguodala makes nearly twice what Ariza and Thorton bring in together, but I'm sure Philly would take draft picks.
Chris Paul needs a new target. Iguodala needs a career boost. If Chris Paul can help save Tyson Chandler's career, I like his chances with Iguodala's.
Then again, if Team USA didn't work, maybe this won't either.
But just imagine those highlights.
He's too nice of a guy to say so but he wants to play for a contender. And as great as he is at his advanced age (he'll be 38 on Feb. 7), it'd be a shame for him not to.
It is a waste of his talents for him to remain in Phoenix as long as they're content to be a .500 team.
The biggest shame is he could really make a difference; he's playing like a much younger version of himself, averaging 17 points and 11 assists per game through Monday, in the midst of a gaudy 50-40-90 shooting season.
Unfortunately for the Nash led Suns, the Vince Carter experiment isn't working.
The Suns are 22-24 and looking up at the playoffs, three games out.
They made the Western Conference Finals last season before Amar'e bolted for the Big Apple. What if Nash joined Stoudemire in New York and reunited with coach Mike D'Antoni?
Now we're talking contender.
The Knicks give up Felton, who has nearly played himself into All-Star status this season, and maybe impressive rookie Landry Fields for Nash and Marcin Gortat.
How about the division rival Los Angeles Lakers?
Magic Johnson says they need a roster shake up. I say they need a new point guard. But would the Lakers give up Derek Fisher again?
His three years away from LA were a struggle for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and his return in the 2007-08 season coincided with LA's return to the Finals and two more titles since.
Bottom line: Kobe would never let it happen.
Would Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak give up walking highlight and improved three-point shooter Shannon Brown to get an upgrade at PG?
Would the Suns take Artest's baggage, fading contributions and the $12 million still owed on his current deal?
Who knows but just imagine Nash on the Lakers or Knicks in the NBA Finals.
Rip is a former All-Star and NBA Champion who may have finally worn out his welcome in Detroit. He hasn't played since Jan. 10 and looks to be on the trading block. So who's best positioned to land the disgruntled shooting guard?
How about Chicago?
Hamilton would give them a sure upgrade at the 2 over Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer while still allowing Kyle Korver to come off the bench.
Second year forward Taj Gibson was impressive during Carlos Boozer's absence in November and could be appealing to a Pistons team looking to get younger.
The Bulls would get a player who can space the floor while not being a defensive liability.
Oh yeah, and he's got big game experience.
With Caron Butler out for the year, the Mavericks need a gritty small forward to crash the boards, mix it up down low, block shots and finish on the break.
Insert Gerald Wallace.
An All-Star in 2010, Wallace could bring the Mavericks some toughness that could come in handy in April and May.
And I'd like to see just how good Gerald Wallace really is.
We'll never know as long as he's in Charlotte.
Yeah, he's hurt but every team needs a guy like this. A Dennis Rodman-type who busts his ass and plays within himself (most of the time).
Let's pretend that he opted for surgery instead of rest for his torn tendon and will be back for the playoffs.
I'd like to see him go to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who was rumored to be looking at Varejao pre-injury.
The young guns in OKC could use a scrappy playoff vet like Varejao, whose energy on the glass creates more shots for his team and gets under the skin of opponents, like Blake Griffin with 10 percent of Griffin's offensive game.
The Thunder could send Nick Collison and Ohio State alum Daequan Cook to Cleveland.
But who would take Collison's $13 million a year contract?
If Ron Artest wants out of LA, Tracy McGrady would be happy to take his place. T-Mac wants to win a playoff series more than anything at this point in his career.
A trade to the Lakers would all but assure him that success.
The former scoring champion has settled into a point forward role for the Pistons this season, breathing a little fresh air back into his career. His play of late has helped make Detroit competitive again.
Detroit's recent trip to Florida included a win at Orlando and a one-point loss to the Heat.
Although he's not the physical defender that Ron Artest is, he would fit in beautifully in the triangle offense.
Moreover, his goals are singular right now: NBA Championship.
Now, I'm not saying Ron Artest is going to the Pistons, but maybe a third team could be talked into taking the controversial forward.
James Posey is going to Utah.
His game is built for good teams as proved by title runs with Miami in 2006 and Boston two years later.
Plus, Posey just seems like a Jerry Sloan kind of guy: a mentally tough, timely shooter who's not afraid to mix it up in the paint.
Indiana would no doubt accept small forward C.J. Miles in return, an athletic shooter much younger than Posey.
O.J. Mayo could be on his way out in Memphis.
The third year guard is currently serving a 10 game suspension handed down by the league for breaking its anti-drug policy.
Mayo tested positive for a banned substance he says he thinks came from an energy drink.
This could be a red flag to some, but for the right price Mayo could get the fresh start his young career needs.
Mayo averaged 18 points per game during his first two seasons in the league.
Who couldn't use that extra punch in their lineup going forward?
How about New Jersey?
The Nets could certainly use scoring off the bench and could offer Sasha Vujacic or Anthony Morrow packaged with Stephen Graham to steal Mayo while his value is low.
An All-Star last season, the Caveman isn't really needed in Los Angeles anymore with the emergence of Blake Griffin and third year center DeAndre Jordan.
He'll be back from injury soon and the Clippers may consider trading him.
The Thunder could look to strengthen their front court by adding Kaman for Nenad Krstic, a player whose shooting touch could help space the floor for Griffin.
Could the 'Melo drama be coming to an end?
We may have only seen the beginning.
With the trading deadline just over three weeks away, the race is on to procure one of the best natural scorers in the league.
While much of the talk in December and early January was Anthony to the Nets, he's been pining to play in New York.
He played his college ball at Syracuse and wants to play with an equal like Amar'e Stoudemire.
And let's face it, the Nets will always be the Knicks little brother. Heck, even when Julius Erving was a Net, they were based in New York.
The Knicks have some enticing trade chips like Danilo Gallinari and rookie Landry Fields, who leads all guards in rebounding this season.
And don't forget Blake Griffin poster boy Timofey Mozgov who posted 23 points and 14 rebounds Sunday night against Detroit.
Well, even if we don't see a repeat of 2008 when Pau Gasol, Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Kidd all switched teams, we're bound to see some movement before Feb. 24 that will greatly influence which team is hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy come June.