Few things in the NBA get analyzed more than the trade deadline, and for good reason. It's exciting for fans and analysts alike when teams shuffle the deck. As is the nature with trades, there are two sides to every deal and the immediate reaction to a team making a move usually stems directly to how likely that team is to make a late-season run.
For instance, think back to the 2008 trade in which the Los Angeles Lakers sent Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol and a couple of first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol. At the time, the Memphis part of that trade was lambasted, then dismissed, until three years later when we suddenly realized the move worked out awfully well for the Grizzlies. When it happened, we knew that the Lakers' acquisition of Pau Gasol was clearly a move meant to push L.A. over the top and, indeed, the Lakers went on to face the Boston Celtics in that season's Finals.
To varying degrees, many trades completed in the run-up to the deadline are similar to that Grizzlies-Lakers swap. One team is looking to maximize its chances to win in the short term; the other is taking a big-picture approach. Sometimes both teams in a trade are trying to get better for the finishing kick, such as back in 2003 when the SuperSonics and Bucks tried to shake things up by swapping Ray Allen for Gary Payton. Most of the time, however, there is a clear win-now team in these late-season deals.