A popular topic is trades, for obvious reasons. Most speculation is based on who they need and/or who they can get, which is great in this context because it centers around being in playoff contention; however, there's an element that needs to play a significant role in a league where teams are generally hesitant to make in-season deals. More after the jump.
Here's the question that I'd like people to comment on: how much of a role will it play that many of the Wolves' rumored trade partners are teams a) in their conference and b) competing with them for playoff spots? I think it's important to keep in mind that playoff contenders are hesitant to do anything that takes away from their rotation (unless it's a talent upgrade), no matter what their current momentum seems to be.
Here's some history on the trades that have occurred in the month prior to the trade deadline in previous seasons and the number of them that involved teams battling each other for playoff spots:
2011 (15 trades): 7 trades where 2 teams from the same conference were involved. Of those, 5 of them had 1 of the 2 teams out of playoff contention (Wolves, Cavs, Kings, Wizards, Raptors). The other two involved the Rockets, one with a playoff longshot in the Suns and the other with a playoff contender in the Grizz. One allowed them to get something for Aaron Brooks before he became a free agent; the other gave them an extra 1st rounder to take on a bloated contract/project (Thabeet).
2009 (14 trades): 8 trades within a conference. 6 of the trades involved at least 1 lottery team, and another was Keith Bogans from the Bucks to the Magic for Tyronn Lue. The one that may have affected the playoff race was the Shawn Marion-for-Jermaine O'Neal swap, where the Raptors traded cap space in 2010 for the Heat's cap space in 2009. Didn't work out well for them.
2008 (8 trades): 3 trades within a conference. 2 of them involved lottery teams (Griz and Sonics); the third was the Bulls-Cavs-Sonics trade, in which the Bulls were still in playoff contention and seemed like a swap of disgruntled players.