We interrupt our weekly NBA draft Stock Watch in honor of the NBA trade deadline this week.
With a number of teams talking deals, draft picks become an important part of the equation. Some 2010 first-round picks already have switched hands.
There could be even more movement in the next few days. A number of teams have their draft picks in play in trade discussions.
Here's a look at picks that could be traded by Thursday's deadline.
Utah Jazz (via Knicks): Coming into the season, Jazz fans were licking their chops. They owned an unprotected first-round pick from the Knicks, and many thought it could be a top-five pick. But the Knicks have been a little more respectable than to warrant a high lottery pick, and it looks more likely that the Jazz will select somewhere between Nos. 7 and 11 on draft night. Their less-than-stellar draft position has opened up the possibility of the Jazz moving the pick if they could get back a young player who could help them in their playoff run now.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Minnesota will have three first-round draft picks this year. It's doubtful it would give up its own because it currently has the second-best chance of winning the lottery. But the team also likely will own the Jazz's and Bobcats' first-round picks.
The Timberwolves have been on the hunt for a big man to play the 5. Sources say one or both picks could be had if the Wolves could get a young center. Although I think it's doubtful the Wolves would make a trade, they'll have plenty of inquiries.
Milwaukee Bucks: We never thought the Bucks would be entertaining a big acquisition before the deadline. The team appeared to be in fire-sale mode just a few months ago, but because it's now playing for a potential playoff seed, it has been on the prowl for a big man to pair in the frontcourt with Andrew Bogut. Although the Bucks hope their bounty of expiring contracts would suffice in a trade, the team also might be willing to throw in its first-round pick.
Miami Heat: Miami has two first-round picks this year -- its own and a lottery-protected pick from the Raptors. Considering that Toronto looks like a lock for the playoffs at this point, the Heat will explore moving one or both picks. Why? The team is looking for maximum cap space this summer, and both picks together could eat up as much as $3 million of its room. Miami has been trying to lure Amare Stoudemire from Phoenix. The Heat could offer both picks, Michael Beasley and some expiring contracts to make it happen.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are in the same boat as the Heat. They have multiple first-round picks but are trying to preserve cap space for the summer. In addition, the team is already loaded with young players. I could see the Thunder using one of their picks to entice a team to take the last year of Nick Collison's deal in return for an expiring contract.
Portland Trail Blazers: Portland GM Kevin Pritchard doesn't like to trade draft picks. He loves to acquire assets instead. But his team is loaded with young talent, and the Blazers, now in a serious playoff run, are on the hunt for a big man to help them out. With so many international picks stored away (Victor Claver, Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen are first-rounders who have yet to enter the league), he can afford to sit out the draft one year if he can land a big man.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The same things holds true for the Cavs. If adding a pick (likely the 29th or 30th in the draft) to the trade package would help them acquire a starting power forward, it's hard to see them saying no.
The midrange game
UNC sophomore Ed Davis broke his wrist last week, and the prognosis has Davis missing the next six weeks -- essentially ending his season, given North Carolina's dim postseason hopes.
The question is, How will the injury affect his draft status? It's a little too early to tell. Although some have suggested the injury may guarantee that Davis returns for his junior year, I doubt it. I think he'll look at the situation and ask himself whether he wants to pass on being a lottery pick for two straight years. If he has a disappointing junior season, his days as a potential lottery pick will be over.
Second, if he does declare, I don't see the injury severely limiting his stock. Right now Davis looks like he's in the 5-to-10 range in the draft. Unless there are serious long-term implications (there don't appear to be any at the moment, he's not even having surgery), he's one of the 10 best prospects in the country.
How good is this year's freshman class? We currently have 10 freshmen in our top 30. We are close to adding an 11th. A number of NBA scouts have been intrigued with Duke big man Mason Plumlee. He isn't playing a major role for Duke this season, but when Plumlee gets in the game, he's terrific.
Plumlee's recent seven-point, nine-rebound performance against North Carolina may not wow you, but it's rare to see a player with his size, motor and athleticism generating so little buzz. I think that's changing, and Plumlee could end up charging up the board, a la Ed Davis last year, in the final month of the season.
Although virtually everyone believes Plumlee will stay for another season at Duke (and he really could use the extra playing time), he's got a real shot at the lottery -- if not this year, then next year for sure.
It's hard to call seniors sleepers, but here's a name that is being whispered quietly among trusted scouts -- Tulsa's Ben Uzoh. Uzoh, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, has been a solid, consistent performer for Tulsa all four years. However, teams are starting to fall for him a bit this season.
It's not hard to see why. He has great size for the point position, is an explosive athlete, has an NBA body and can score both inside and outside. Although Uzoh isn't a pure point guard, he does remind you of combos like Russell Westbrook.
Against Memphis this past weekend, Uzoh was awesome, scoring 20 points, dishing out 10 assists, grabbing 8 boards and hitting a couple of 3s. He doesn't do that every night, but I expect him to get a lot of second-round buzz. In a year devoid of point guards, he has the physical tools and experience to get a very close look.