Can Houston break from the pack?

Acquiring Marcus Camby has given Houston a physical inside presence it had been lacking. Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

After a preseason shootaround in Chicago last year, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was asked what was different about his team entering the 2010-11 season. The impression at the time was Dallas fielded yet another version of the good, but not great, Mavericks and that they weren't going to get over the title hump unless they did something to shake up their core. After a summer in which stars like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer switched teams, the only new rotation player for Dallas was center Tyson Chandler, who hadn't even been a full-time starter the season before for the Charlotte Bobcats.

"We want a 7-foot ass-kicker on the floor all the time," Carlisle said. He added that not only did he expect Chandler to combine with Brendan Haywood to lock down the lane, but he thought his new big man would be a key to a revved-up running game.

Dallas had finished just 12th in defensive efficiency the season before and though the oft-injured Chandler had been a top basket protector at times in his career, he didn't seem like a game-changer for the Mavericks. He certainly didn't strike anyone as a possible catalyst for Dallas' first championship. Ultimately, that's exactly what he turned out to be, and now the Mavericks have that coveted banner hanging from the rafters at American Airlines Center. In an era in which there is a certain amount of parity among the NBA's elite, small moves can have big consequences.

The Rockets aren't championship contenders, but in a similar vein, their trade deadline acquisition of center Marcus Camby has a chance to pay huge dividends as Houston vies to escape the quagmire of teams angling for Western Conference playoff berths. Camby has been a notable player for a long time, but he just turned 38 years old, which qualifies his acquisition as a small move.