The Portland Trailblazers have been inseparable from speculation and rumor over possible moves at this year's NBA trade deadline.
In the midst of a 12-4 run and six straight wins, they have remarkably vaulted themselves all the way to fifth in the Western Conference despite missing their best player, Brandon Roy, for most of the season with knee issues.
The run to their current 32-24 record and playoff position has positioned them as a buyer at this year's deadline, looking to upgrade instead of shedding salary.
Accompanying their rise in the standings were rumors that linked them to New Jersey's Devin Harris and Charlotte's Gerald Wallace while trying to shed Marcus Camby, Andre Miller and possibly Greg Oden.
With less than 24 hours until the deadline, Portland has been dead silent in the trade market, having passed on Harris, who was suddenly traded to Utah, and resisted to move on Wallace.
Some assert that with Roy returning to see how well he can play, coupled with the rise of Wes Matthews in his stead, Portland has all the pieces it needs to make a successful playoff run. Thus, making a trade would be superfluous and counterproductive.
With other contenders angling to improve, however, Portland would be wise to do the same, whether by addition or subtraction.
Here are five reasons for the Portland Trail Blazers to pull the trigger before the deadline hits.
Things are very, very tight at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture. Two games separate Portland in fifth from Memphis in ninth. Two games.
With so little room for error, it is imperative for these teams (Portland, Denver, Utah and New Orleans) to capitalize on every advantage that is presented to them. New Orleans just did by trading for Carl Landry. Denver and Utah both did it by...just trading their best players?
Whether it's getting nearer to even against the salary cap by trading Camby, Joel Przybilla or Andre Miller or acquiring a hybrid forward like Gerald Wallace, Portland needs to follow the lead of its competitors in the trade market to improve their situation, or else they could get left behind.
Here's what Portland knows about Greg Oden:
He'll never live up to his hype and No. 1 draft pick.
Whatever contributions he has left will never be realized in Portland.
His body is not made for the rigors of an NBA season.
The Blazers know these things, and they can only pray that another team, just one, doesn't realize them yet. All it takes is one sucker to bite on the intoxicating potential that Oden has (or had).
His career is dead in Portland, and with an expiring $6.76 million deal, the team needs to find a way to get something, anything, in return for him.
They may have to sell him for pennies on the dollar. They may have to throw in a player or a draft pick that they don't want to part with to trade him. It almost doesn't matter what the cost: Blazers management has sunk so many resources, money and precious time into his failed career that they should be psychologically committed to getting anything they can for him.
At age 34, Miller is having a fine season, averaging 13.2 points, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals. However, he has never led a team past the first round of the playoffs in 10 full seasons.
Portland's ideal situation would be to trade Miller and his hefty $7.3 million through next year while grabbing Wallace in the same deal. ESPN's Trade Machine makes this trade possible before it even happens.
The Blazers dump a couple bad contracts, including Oden's, to get their guy Wallace and a young PG in Augustin, while Charlotte sheds a big contract and acquires Oden's expiring one and a building block in Batum. Everybody's happy!
After recent arthroscopic surgery on both knees, it was discovered that Roy has no cartilage below either knee, meaning that his knee movement is constant bone on bone.
A doctor who examined Roy's knees said that Roy won't be able to play at a high level for more than two or three years.
The team has played greatly in his 30-game absence, but no one in their right mind believes that the rally is sustainable or permanent. While true that Roy dominates the ball and may disrupt what best works for the Blazers, there's no doubt that they are better with him in the long run.
Who cares if the Blazers aren't a "championship contender" right now? They need to go for it before Roy retires.
One thing is for sure: Roy has four years after this remaining on his deal and is scheduled to earn at least $14 million in each of those four years. He may still be playing in the league and battling those knee problems, but Portland will not let that happen while he is sitting on their bench in street clothes.
His contract is such that Portland will have to trade, cut or ask him to retire and void his contract.
They should go for broke now while he's testing out his knee, possibly as soon as Wednesday night at home against the Lakers.
The Blazers' two centers are sucking up $19 million between them, and neither of them has been healthy to play much this season. As of now, they are typically valuable contributors who aren't contributing anything.
Even when healthy, they basically just rotate and do the same things, which is fine for two players to do. Except when they're making a combined $19 million.
Yes, Portland is thin up front, but they should trade one of these two before its too late. Dante Cunningham has been serviceable in lieu of Camby, which has shifted the scorching LaMarcus Aldridge to center. Przybilla costs less, but is expiring anyway after this season at $7.4 million.
Somebody could certainly use his size and ability to protect the rim for the playoffs. Chances are, the Blazers wouldn't deal with anyone in the West, so a contender in the East might be a logical trade partner.
Here is a potential deal with Philadelphia in which Portland would pay most of Przybilla's remaining salary and/or send the rights to Denver's first-round pick in this year's draft.
A deal with Atlanta could bolster the Hawks at center while alleviating cap headaches for both teams, while scoring Portland a young and promising guard.
There are options for the Blazers and a lot of movable parts. It's a nice problem to have when there are too many shot blockers with great size on your roster. Those are always in need in the NBA around spring time.
Time is running out for the Blazers, both for this season and for the future.
Former General Manager Kevin Pritchard made some brilliant moves in the past to assemble what his successor Rich Cho now has. The roster has a nice blend of versatility, staggered contracts, valuable expirings, and promising young players that might attract trade attention.
Cho would be wise to make a move now. As is the case in an NBA game, the calls always go to the aggressor.