With the NBA Trade Deadline approaching in just over a month, many potential buyers and sellers are itching at the opportunity to swing some cash, players, picks, and wins. For every deadline brilliant move (Wallace, R. in 2004), there is a astoundingly moronic move (Wallace, G. in 2012), and for every one of the others, there is a move that doesn't move the needle in the slightest (Wallace, J. in 1996). Not all big moves are trades at the deadlines, but because of these trades, there are often contract buyouts that lead to talented players being cut from bad teams, only interested in the player's expiring contract (like Troy Murphy last year). It seems that every year, one team makes a brilliant move that leads to a championship within a year or two. We're going to evaluate the move that every eventual champion over the last ten Finals made near or around the deadline that pushed them over the championship edge, and occasionally, a move that set the runner up back a bit, costing them a potential Larry O'Brien Trophy Parade. 2012: Miami Heat over Oklahoma City Thunder Key Piece: Shane Battier The Heat were pretty much set on a Championship run after two summers prior, when all hell broke loose and somehow three of the game's biggest stars aligned in one of the most apathetic sports cities on earth. Had it not been for Shane Battier shooting an insane 73.3% from three point land during the Heat's 4-1 series win over Kevin Durant's Thunder, Bron Bron and the boys may not have secured the series. Though not at the deadline, but just previous in December, as the lockout had just ended, Shane Battier signed on to be the last piece of the Heat's championship puzzle. Does it count as a deadline move? No, probably not, seeing as Battier played all 65 games of the shortened season. The reason I count it is because of the deadline deal that sent Battier and Ish Smith to the Grizzlies for Hasheem Thabeet (stop number two on the former #2 pick's parade through the NBA) and DeMarre Carroll; when he arrived back in Memphis, things didn't go well for either party, leading to the Grizz letting Battier walk the long, lockout laden path to Miami. And a title. Who cares...(editor's note: uncontrollable sobbing ensues). Also, can we please note that his charity is called the "Take Charge Foundation"? I can only imagine that they take a $20 donation and try to send kids to Oxford for a Doctorate. 2011: Dallas Mavericks over Miami Heat Key Piece: Peja Stojakovic On November 20, 2010, the Toronto Raptors traded David Andersen, Marcus Banks and Jarrett Jack to the New Orleans Hornets for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic. On January 13th, 2011 the Raptors decide to sign Sundiata Gaines to a 10-day contract, and within the week, he works his way into the rotation, leaving Peja on the outside looking in for minutes. Exactly two months after getting traded, and a week after Gaines joining the team, Stojakovic is waived by the Raptors. In just four days, he signs with the Dallas Mavericks, starts 13 of his 25 regular season games with the team, and provides another great shooter to a playoff team who needed it. I use the word "need" loosely, as other Mavericks Jason Terry, Brian Cardinal, Steve Novak, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Jason Kidd, and oh yeah, Dirk Nowitzki were pretty adept from downtown as well. All kidding aside, Stojakovic provided a serious threat from three, shooting 38% from deep in 20 minutes a game in the playoffs. With their thin center position (Joel Anthony, 35-year old Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire anyone?) and lack of solid point guard play (Mike Bibby? No?), a solid shooting three point team balanced out the Heat's perimeter defense they relied on from Wade and LeBron. Didn't move the needle much, but 20 minutes out of a dude who made a difference is what makes championships in a league with a lot of parity at the top. 2010/2009: Los Angeles Lakers over Boston Celtics (2010)/Orlando Magic (2009) Key Piece: Shannon Brown Listen, no one said that the player traded for had to be a superstar. The trade deadline move that traded Gasol for Gasol (in essence) from La la land to Graceland was obviously the one that won the Lakers two (almost three) championships, as well as ridding the Lakeshow of gun-toting point guard Javaris Crittenton. As far as moving the needle goes, the Gasol trade may go down as one of the biggest deadline deals of all time, along with that of Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons. That being said, on February 7th, 2009 (two weeks to the deadline), the Lakers made a little deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, sending Vladamir Radmonovic away in exchange for two former first round failures, Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison. The move was made to subtract a big, which the Lakers had plenty of between Vlad-Rad, Gasol, Bynum, Walton (kinda), Josh Paul and DJ Mbenga; in order to add another guard option. Brown emerged in the playoffs, coming off the bench as the first/second guard with Jordan Farmar for both the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 Finals, while averaging five points in over thirteen minutes a game. When you consider that Kobe was eating up 40 mpg at the shooting guard position, leaving all but eight minutes on the board for Brown, an extra five points is a pretty big deal in such a limited role. Again, not an earth shaking move by any regard, but with the Lakers' roster situation, those points would not have been had. 2008: Boston Celtics over LA Lakers Key Piece: Sam Cassell and PJ Brown Like the Heat in 2012, but quite a bit more likeable, the Celtics had already made their big transactions at once, bringing the big three together to Beantown to make a run. Who knew that two 38 year old veterans could make a difference? Savvy point guard and world class looker, Sam Cassell, started the season with the lowly Los Angeles Clippers who waived him a day after deciding the Nick Fazekas(???) was the guy they wanted in his spot for the rest of the year. Five days later, Cassell becomes a Celtic. A day prior to Cassell being waived from Clipperland, the Celtics had signed the Big Cat, P.J. Brown out of what seemed like retirement. I mean, what else do you call a 38 year old, mostly broken down Center, out of the league for almost a whole season? The Celtics call it 2008 Executive of the Year, Danny Ainge's under the radar super-move. Okay, just I call it that. Prior to entering the 2007/2008 playoff run, the big three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett only had 131 games of playoff experience between the three. All three had made runs of 16 games or better, but only one each. Despite being extremely talented, none knew what it really took to make a long playoff run, and the three were 32, 30, and 31 years old, respectively. Cassell had made two NBA Finals runs in his first two seasons in the league, with a win in his sophomore campaign, as well as being on the same 2000/2001 Bucks team with Allen that took the 76ers to a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Brown had been to the playoffs 10 times in his career to that point, though all stints were considerably short. Both Cassell and Brown filled in well as the first point guard and center off the bench, respectively, as well as providing the kind of veteran leadership that championship teams thrive off. After closing out the Lakers, both of the wily vets rode off into the sunset. 2007, 2005, 2003: San Antonio Spurs over Cleveland Cavaliers (2007)/Detroit Pistons (2005)/New Jersey Nets (2003) Key Piece: No one The Spurs won their championships by landing Tim Duncan in the Lottery, smartly drafting/stashing Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and making off-season tweaks through free agency in trades. The closest thing to a big deadline deal that the Spurs made in this stretch that also included another Finals appearance, was dealing for Nazr Muhammed, the token fifth body (AKA Center) in the Spurs revolving door up front. The problem was, the Spurs surrendered two first round picks, but hell, they didn't need them. This is how a Franchise is built. Kudos to Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, who will both be remembered as modern day basketball geniuses. 2006: Miami Heat over Dallas Mavericks Key Piece: Alonzo Mourning After being swapped from the Nets to the Raptors in the epic Vince Carter quit-gate episode of 2005, the Raps gave Alonzo Mourning the ol' college try, gave up on the experiment, took their first round picks from NJ, waived 'Zo, paid him a boatload of money not to play for them, and went home. Got all that? Oh yeah, those picks turned into Joey Graham and Antonio Davis. Way to go, Raps. Regardless, Mourning soon signed with the team he had made his name with in South Beach, to be the back up to Shaquille O'Neal, or as I assume the Diesel called it, "the Shaq-up." Though playing only 10 minutes a game in their championship run (16 in the playoff run in 2005), 'Zo shot 70% from the field in those minutes, as well as providing the tremendous post-defense that he was known for. Not a bad pickup for next to nothing, in a league where big men rule(d). 2004: Detroit Pistons over Los Angeles Lakers Key Piece: Rasheed Wallace On February 19th, 2004, as part of a 3-team trade, the Detroit Pistons traded Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter and a 2004 1st round draft pick that turned into Tony Allen to the Boston Celtics while trading Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a 2004 1st round draft pick that turned into Josh Smith to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks in turn traded Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons, while the Celtics traded Chris Mills to the Atlanta Hawks and the Celtics traded Mike James to the Detroit Pistons. 95% of that trade is irrelevant to this article, though the Josh Smith pickup added quite a few wins to the Hawks' plus column over the years, while the biggest pickup was 'Sheed to the Pistons. The final ingredient to the Detroit championship, Rasheed had pissed the Portland Jail-Blazers era brass off so much that they shipped he and Wes Person to Atlanta for Dan Dickau, Shareef Abdul-Rahim and Theo Ratliff (a great trade for Portland on paper). 'Sheed lasted one (20 pt., 6 reb., 5 blk.) game in Atlanta before being shipped to the Motor City. All Wallace did from there is become the team's third leading scorer, second best rebounder behind big-afro'ed banger, Ben Wallace, and get the team a ring after destroying the Lakers - all before making another finals appearance and three more consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. The Mid-2000's Pistons made six consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the last 5 would not have happened in all likelihood, without Rasheed Wallace. It's not a law of nature, by any means, but in most cases, championship teams often make championship moves at the deadline, or soon thereafter. They don't often shake the world up, but they're usually always necessary. Some are quick working fixes for already good teams like the Pistons and Wallace, and some are long burns for teams like the Lakers and Gasol. Some teams have made big time trade deadline moves that have not led to a championship yet, but have led to building block point guards. The Cavs acquired the pick that would be Kyrie Irving from the Clippers for Baron Davis (and Jamario Moon, duh), and the Blazers acquired the pick that turned into Damian Lillard from the Nets for Gerald Wallace - both trade deadline moves in 2011 and 2012. Don't expect any blockbusters ever in a trade deadline, especially this one, but do plan on a few players changing teams that will shape the 2013 playoffs.