Updated: March 16, 2012, 3:08 PM ET

1. Deadline Unwinds An Organization's DNA

By Kevin Arnovitz

The trade deadline reveals a lot about a team and how it perceives its standing in the league. It's a self-reflective moment for an organization's leaders and forces them to take a cold, hard look at where they're situated on the greater NBA landscape. Teams appraise their chances to contend, their balance sheets, their talent and their futures.

More telling than the teams that were active at the deadline might be those who stayed pat. The Chicago Bulls dipped a toe in the trading pool but, like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, ultimately kept things intact. Much of this troika's success can be attributed to the teams' respective core groups, which have developed cohesive brands of basketball, and although each has some deficiencies, the cost of upsetting that familiarity wasn't worth the risk. Such is the luxury of the elite.

NBA trade deadline
ESPN.com Illustration

For the two occupants of Staples Center battling for the Pacific Division crown and home court in the first round of the postseason, opportunities to upgrade presented themselves, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers obliged. Both see themselves as near-contenders in a wide-open West. The Lakers brought in Ramon Sessions as a salve for their point guard woes -- shipping out Derek Fisher in a separate deal. These are the spiritual costs of improvement. The Clippers haven't been the same since Chauncey Billups went down, and, for flotsam, they acquired Nick Young, who will give them spot-up shooting and some badly needed size on the wing.

The Portland Trail Blazers read the writing on the wall, and unceremoniously gutted their roster, fired their coach and released their former No. 1 draft choice. It's never easy for a franchise -- particularly one that had as much promise as Portland did just a couple of years ago -- but pragmatism superseded sentiment, as the Trail Blazers prepare to rebuild with a boatload of money to do so.

The Denver Nuggets were the most introspective team at the deadline. They took a sober look at their aging, oft-injured cornerstone player and their station in the Western Conference scrum. Difficult as it was, the Nuggets determined it was time to make their roster younger and their budget leaner by trading Nene for an enigmatic but cheaper option in JaVale McGee. And, like Portland, they've improved their prospects for the future.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, two teams teetering on the edge of respectability, shuffled the deck. The more prudent Bucks better managed their spreadsheet and acquired an interesting young prospect in the process. Adding insult to injury for the Warriors, the crafty San Antonio Spurs dealt them Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson, setting themselves up for some serious savings a summer from now. And the Cleveland Cavaliers somehow downgraded their roster while taking on additional financial commitments.

The New Jersey Nets are the league's riverboat gamblers and shipped a potentially lucrative pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace, still clinging to the possibility that they can retain Deron Williams and lure Dwight Howard. It's a roll of the dice but a true reflection of the organization's character.

Meanwhile, a few other teams nibbled around the edges. The Rockets continue to stockpile picks and capitalize on opportunities to improve at low costs. Indiana and Philadelphia got something for nothing.

Organizational identity is a funny thing in the NBA, and, for most teams, there are only a few moments over the course of the year when that nature comes to the surface. We won't know whether many of these deals reap their intended benefits, but we learned a whole lot about the ambitions and temperaments of the front offices of many of the league's 30 teams.

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