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Phil Jackson looks to NBA Draft to begin rebuilding Knicks

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at a press conference at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Phil Jackson has been on the job for 15 months, but it's what he does in the next 15 days that will help shape his legacy as Knicks president.

The Knicks have the fourth pick in Thursday's NBA Draft and should have more than $25 million for free agency. Jackson will have enough resources to turn around the Knicks after he assembled a team that went a franchise-worst 17-65.

"I did a great job last year," Jackson said. "Shedding [contracts] to put us in a position where we have this flexibility.

"It's a long time since the New York Knicks have had this opportunity."

Jackson has to decide what to do with the No. 4 pick. He should have many options, including trading down for a veteran and a pick later in the lottery.

"That possibility might happen," Jackson said.

Jackson said he wanted a "mature" player and ideally an immediate contributor, if not starter. He cited Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky and Kentucky junior center Willie Cauley-Stein among the older prospects.

Since they're not projected to go in the top four, the Knicks likely would have to deal down for them or another Jackson target, 6-10 Kentucky forward Trey Lyles. Many teams in the lower half of the lottery could try to trade up.

Kaminsky and Lyles are considered multidimensional triangle-friendly big men, while Cauley-Stein is an athletic rebounder and rim protector in the mold of Tyson Chandler.

Before his workout with the Knicks, Kaminsky watched tape on playing the triangle with Jackson. Lyles said they went over the triangle in his Knicks' workout.

"I think it would be a good fit because they run an offense through some bigs," Kaminsky said. "I feel like I could fit in a lot of offenses but the triangle gives you a bunch of reads that you are able to make."

If the Knicks got a ready-made big man and another serviceable roster player or draft pick with the No. 4 selection, Jackson would have had a good night. The Knicks have five players under contract and need bodies.

"It's a historic program, so to be a part of it would be special," Cauley-Stein said. "Even though they're having a down time, if you come in and they put in a couple more pieces with you and you bring them up, you're going to be a legend. You'll go down in history as the team that brought the Knicks back on top."

It also would be a good night for the Knicks if Duke center Jahlil Okafor or Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell surprisingly fell to four. The Knicks wouldn't hesitate to nab either.

But they're expected to go second and third to the Lakers and 76ers, unless Philadelphia continues its unconventional draft ways and takes 7-foot Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.

Otherwise, Porzingis, 6-5 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and Duke swingman Justise Winslow could be in play at four -- for the Knicks or if they're selecting for another team.

Jackson has said the Knicks are "kind of covered" at lead guard and small forward. So unless he's sending up a smoke screen, Mudiay and Winslow may not be as high on the Knicks' list as other players. But Mudiay's skills as a playmaker might be too good to pass up.

Porzingis, who played in Spain last year, is said to be drawing interest from many teams, and some believe he won't get past Orlando at No. 5. He is a skilled big man, but may not be ready to help for another year or two. Porzingis called it "my dream" to play for the Knicks.

"[I'd] love to," Porzingis said.

Jackson wants to be a playoff team next year. So before turning to free agency next week, where Greg Monroe remains a top target, getting some immediate help may be the ultimate goal Thursday night.

"We'd like to have that," Jackson said. "But we have to assess how good a player the potential is going to be at some level."

Phil Jackson is on the clock.

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