Eight days until the trading deadline.
Eight days for the Indiana Pacers to find the missing piece for a legitimate run at the conference finals, or for the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the player that makes them a playoff team.
Eight days for the Orlando Magic to go all in on Dwight Howard or blow it up and start over. Eight days for the Atlanta Hawks to avoid the luxury tax or the Los Angeles Lakers to add to it.
Eight days to do something relevant or regrettable, which plenty of teams have done over the last three years – as you will see below.
Keep in mind that trades don’t continue forever. Using that logic, you could argue that the Philadelphia 76ers trading Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t such a bad deal because they acquired Archie Clark, who eventually was traded for Fred Carter, who eventually was traded for a draft pick that became Maurice Cheeks, eight years after the fact.
And hindsight is always 20/20.
So let’s have a look back:
ONE YEAR AGO (2011): There were a handful of deals – some huge, some not so big – that already have changed the NBA landscape.
WINNER: Memphis. The normally frugal Memphis Grizzlies had an epiphany and traded bust Hasheem Thabeet and a future first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier, who filled the gaping hole at small forward created by Rudy Gay’s shoulder injury.
Battier’s stint with Memphis lasted just 36 games. But he helped the Grizzlies get into the playoffs for the first time in five years, where they stunned top-seeded San Antonio and pushed Oklahoma City to seven games. Do you think owner Michael Heisley would have dropped $125 million on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol after another trip to the lottery or a first-round exit? As the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs age, the Grizzlies are positioned as a long-term contender in the West.
WINNER: Oklahoma City. In separate deals, the Thunder added center depth in Kendrick Perkins (from Boston) and Nazr Mohammed (from Charlotte). They also wasted no time signing Perkins to a contract extension and getting about the business of chasing a championship.
The moves allowed both Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison to play exclusively at their natural position of power forward and gave them the bigs to challenge the Lakers, who had eliminated them the previous year. There is no opponent whose frontcourt can present problems for OKC, now the favorite in the West for years to come.
WINNER: Denver. The Nuggets received a king’s ransom from the desperate Knicks for Carmelo Anthony – Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, a first-round pick and two second-round picks. They also landed Kosta Koufos in the same deal from Minnesota, which received Eddy Curry and $3 million of Jim Dolan’s money.
With Anthony, the Nuggets endured six first-round outs in seven years. They absorbed another last season, but their locker room is free of divas and agendas, and they have plenty of young, desirable pieces to pop for the player that can elevate them to true contender status.
WINNER: Clippers. They found a taker for Baron Davis and his two years and $28 million of apathetic lard and actually got back a pretty good player in Mo Williams, whose combo guard skills have been a perfect fit. But they also surrendered a No. 1 draft pick that turned into Kyrie Irving.
WINNER: Utah. The best-known piece acquired for Deron Williams was the worst one – Devin Harris, who has shown to be an ordinary point guard. The other pieces are future frontcourt Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (who both need to play more) and Golden State’s top-seven protected pick this summer. Right now, it is the 10th pick. Austin Rivers, anyone?
WAITING: New York. Acquiring Anthony didn’t wreck the roster as much as all of the maneuvering for Tyson Chandler prior to this season, and those myriad moves certainly have impacted chemistry. But the fact remains that the Knicks are 26-34 with Anthony on the floor, including a four-game playoff sweep.
WAITING: New Jersey. Surprised everyone when they offered a facsimile of their rejected package for Anthony to the Jazz and landed Williams, a top-three point guard who quite frankly is a better player than Melo. But this is a home run or a strikeout because they are left with landfill if the presence of Williams cannot lure Dwight Howard.
WAITING: Portland. Landing Gerald Wallace from Charlotte for what appeared to be spare parts initially seemed like a winner. But the Trail Blazers have a logjam at small forward with Wallace and Nicolas Batum and cannot pay both. They also put 2011 and 2013 first-round picks in the deal, which will be sorely missed if they do not make the playoffs and decide to blow it up this summer.
LOSER: Boston. The Celtics didn’t think they could sign Perkins, so they moved him for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. In addition to upsetting the easily upsettable Rajon Rondo, they got smaller and softer. Green was a nice idea as a backup to both forward spots, but a serious heart problem forced the Celtics to shelve him. Ending up with nothing for Perkins will have a long-term impact.
LOSER: Charlotte. In the Wallace deal, the Bobcats got Dante Cunningham (now in Memphis), Joel Przybilla (back in Portland), Sean Marks (surfing somewhere), a 2011 first-round pick (Tobias Harris, packaged to Milwaukee) and a 2013 first-round pick. They used the cap room on nobody. Shrewd.
TWO YEARS AGO (2010): Most of the deals at this deadline were related to the LeBronathon and resembled those that brought this country to the brink of financial ruin – the buying and selling of toxic assets to create liquidity and engage in more highly leveraged deals. A scant few teams actually made real trades.
WINNER: New York. Donnie Walsh created the room for two max contracts by moving Nate Robinson to Boston, Darko Milicic to Minnesota, Larry Hughes to Sacramento and Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries to Houston, taking back a boatload of expiring deals, including Tracy McGrady’s $23 million whopper. In free agency, the Knicks landed Amar’e Stoudemire but could not sway James. And somehow, none of the falling trees hit Bill Walker, who was acquired from Boston, has stuck around and become an asset.
WINNER: Chicago. The playoff-bound Bulls also cleared the decks by moving Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte and John Salmons to Milwaukee while taking back four expiring contracts. You can disagree with their decision to max out Carlos Boozer, but they also collected a first-round pick from Charlotte that becomes unprotected in 2016 – just as my son completes his freshman season of college and turns pro.
WINNER: Dallas. Not a player in 2010 free agency, the Mavericks may have become the biggest winners of all. They sent Josh Howard and Drew Gooden, a pair of overrated forwards, to the Wizards for Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood, three rotation players who instilled toughness in what became a championship team. Who’da thunk?
WINNER: Portland. The Blazers were up the creek with LaMarcus Aldridge and Juwan Howard playing center and only needed Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake and some cash to pry Marcus Camby away from the Clippers. Still a strong defender, Camby filled a huge hole and was signed to a two-year extension, which may have been a bit ambitious.
WINNER: Milwaukee. Salmons provided the spark for a furious 22-8 finish that vaulted the Bucks into the playoffs for the first time in four years – and almost into the second round. The deal cost them nothing – OK, Hak Warrick and the immortal Joe Alexander – and also netted Larry Sanders.
LOSER: Cleveland. The Cavaliers were en route to their second straight 60-win season and in championship-or-bust mode to keep LeBron. Already having added Shaquille O’Neal and overpaid Anderson Varejao, they made a failed run at Stoudemire before dealing for 20-point scorer Antawn Jamison, whose poor defense was exposed by Kevin Garnett in the playoffs. When James took his talents to South Beach, Jamison became their first option on offense. As Ralph Lawler would say, Yikes.
LOSER: Charlotte. The Bobcats desperately wanted their first playoff berth, so they reached for Thomas – then gave him a ridiculous five-year, $40 million contract. We will bet anyone anything that the player Chicago selects with the pick Charlotte gave up (unprotected in 2016) becomes a better player than Thomas.
THREE YEARS AGO (2009): This was a relatively quiet deadline. But one trade dramatically altered the playoff fortunes of one team, which is still chasing that deal.
WINNER: Orlando. The Magic lost All-Star Jameer Nelson to a shoulder injury and needed a point guard. They worked a three-team deal and gave up next to nothing to acquire Rafer Alston, who filled in very capably and helped Orlando reach the NBA Finals for the first time. But that started the carousel.
In the offseason, Alston was packaged to New Jersey for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. Just over a year later, Carter was sent to Phoenix for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. The Magic’s postseason runs have gotten progressively shorter and the chance of retaining Dwight Howard has gotten increasingly remote.
WINNER: Houston. In the same three-team deal, the Rockets landed Kyle Lowry, who took a little while but has become a top-notch point guard.
WINNER: Chicago. In addition to being able to move Hughes’ huge contract and maintain their salary cap flexibility for 2010, the Bulls also dealt Thabo Sefolosha to Oklahoma City for a 2009 first-round pick that became Taj Gibson.
LOSER: Memphis. Merely a facilitator in the three-team deal, the Grizzlies got back spare parts, including a first-round pick that became DeMarre Carroll. At least they held onto Mike Conley.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.