The Knicks don't own a first-round pick in tonight's NBA draft and the franchise has bigger plans for July 1, but there is still a sense of urgency within the organization to come up with at least one quality player in this draft and that might be enough to motivate a move into the first round.
Though Donnie Walsh is believed to be resisting the urge to buy a late first-round pick - the going rate will be about $3 million in cash - multiple sources told Newsday that the Knicks have talked with several teams about their first-round picks. The reason for this is the potential of one of the main draft targets: New Mexico swingman Darington Hobson.
The Knicks, according to an NBA executive, have talked to the Memphis Grizzlies about buying one of their late first-round picks at No. 25 or No. 28. Another scenario, according to two other sources in the NBA, is an offer that could involve sending Wilson Chandler and cash to the Portland Trail Blazers for Rudy Fernandez and the No. 22 pick.
There, of course, is also a chance that the Knicks will stay put with their two second-round picks.
Walsh's hesitancy with buying into the first round isn't about the cost - the Knicks paid $3 million for the Lakers' pick at No. 29, which turned into Toney Douglas - but it is about the hit against the salary cap before July 1. A late first-round pick ranges anywhere from $1 million to $850,000 in guaranteed salary. If you replace that number with one of the $490,000 "cap holds" (used to represent an empty roster spot, for which the Knicks currently have eight), that results in an extra $400,000 or more in used cap space.
It may not seem like a lot, but the Knicks' plan is to attempt to offer two max contracts ($16.5 million each) to star free agents on July 1 and still have the ability to build a roster around them, so every penny counts.
A Chandler-Fernandez swap, however, could circumvent that. Though it would be difficult to give up a young talent such as Chandler, the Knicks could save almost $1 million in salary in that type of a swap, which would afford the first-round pick with no cap ramifications. But the Blazers are believed to be mulling other and potentially better offers for Fernandez.
There are other players on the Knicks draft board, such as Iowa State's Craig Brackins, Nevada point guard Armon Johnson and Rutgers big man Hamady N'Diaye, but Hobson, a versatile 6-7 point forward who some draft experts believe could be the sleeper of the draft, has the Knicks excited about his upside in Mike D'Antoni's system.
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