What, when and how
The flurry of off-court transactions in the NBA reaches a peak each year as the trade deadline approaches. The deadline is usually in February before the annual All-Star Weekend, and represents the last opportunity for a title contender to shake up their roster or for a young team to add talent and draft picks.
Following the trade deadline, NBA teams are no longer allowed to trade players and can only acquire new talent through free agency signings or from the G League. Although these late signings can still be useful in the playoffs, they are not likely to involve marquee names that can change the fate of a franchise. This helps in maintaining league-wide parity by preventing contenders from snapping up key players from rebuilding teams, particularly in the postseason.
As a result, the NBA transaction listings reach their highest point before the deadline closes as teams gun for the top available stars to inject renewed energy into their line-ups. This timing is particularly crucial as teams have experienced half a season of play with their current rosters and can critically evaluate their strengths and missing pieces, while allowing sufficient time for an upgraded team to gel in the second half of the season.
Deals before the trade deadline have sometimes provided the final piece of the championship puzzle, for instance when the Houston Rocket picked up Clyde Drexler to seal the deal in 1995 or when the mercurial Rasheed Wallace joined the Detroit Pistons just in time for their 2004 championship run. It is thus little wonder that NBA fans stay glued to media sources in anticipation of the biggest deals each season.