The New York Knicks are open to trading their first-round pick in the upcoming draft, a surprise to some NBA observers.
The Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league and will likely get a pick in the top five of the draft. Five players—Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, and Emmanuel Mudiay, who just came off a season in China—are considered the likely top five picks, meaning New York would draft one.
Knicks president Phil Jackson has already attended a Duke game to see Okafor play in person, while New York is reportedly keeping close tabs on the Kentucky superteam.
However, the new information indicates that Jackson and other executives may be more focused on the near future than the long term, and be willing to give up one of the top players in order to get back an established star to pair with Carmelo Anthony.
Jackson’s plan, if that is the case, would be to add a third star through free agency, thus establishing a “Big 3” in New York to propel the Knicks back into playoff contention next season.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN revealed that the Knicks are considering their options with the lottery pick, in an interview on ESPN New York over the weekend.
Windhorst said the team is looking to see “what they could possibly get if they trade their draft pick.”
New York cannot straight up trade the pick, because NBA rules prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years. The Knicks gave the Denver Nuggets the right to swap 2016 first-rounders in the Carmelo deal back in 2011, then traded the actual pick to the Toronto Raptors in the Andrea Bargnani deal.
So if the team does trade the pick, it would actually draft a player and then trade the player to whatever team in exchange for an established star.
The main problem with this scenario—although it could change by the time summer rolls around—is that no established stars appear to be available at the moment for just one first-round pick. Then again, some teams may covet one of the young players in the draft enough to give up an older player, especially if said team is rebuilding.
The biggest upside to such a deal? It would help attract another star to the team via free agency, even if it’s a second-tier star such as Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic.