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The 2012 loophole?

Donnie Walsh during a press conference to announce

Donnie Walsh during a press conference to announce he was hired as president of the New York Knicks. (Apr. 3, 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

 Donnie Walsh is too old school to brag, but he does speak with confidence (there is a difference) when he knows he knows more than you do.

So when he boldly proclaimed on Monday that he could acquire more than one first round pick if necessary -- a message that clearly needed to be sent to the Denver Nuggets -- we assume he was talking about trading players such as Anthony Randolph.

But what if he really means that by trading Randolph, who is almost certain to be moved in the coming weeks, for a 2012 first round pick, Walsh then unlocks the ability to trade his 2011 and 2013 picks?

NBA rules prohibit teams from going consecutive years without a first round pick, which is why right now the Knicks are not able to trade a first round pick until 2014. They sent their 2012 pick to the Houston Rockets last year as part of the Tracy McGrady salary cap-saving move at the trade deadline.

But, as initially noted last night on TheKnicksFanBlog, if Walsh were to acquire another 2012 pick to replace that one, it would mean the 2013 pick was free to go and the 2011 pick, which the Rockets have the right to swap, can also be moved. Initially, I thought the '11 pick was off limits even if the Knicks acquired a '12 because they did not have a 2010 pick (referencing the aforementioned consecutive years clause), but according to several Fixers, such as my man Ari Schwartzbard (@original_ari on Twitter), this is indeed permissible. While I was off for the weekend, Schwartzbard did the leg work (this is why I toss the keys on the table when I'm away) by checking with CBA guru Larry Coon, who confirmed that once a draft is over, the consecutive years clause resets to the future. So with a '12 pick in place, the '11 pick is trade-able.

Of course in the case of the 2011 pick, the Rockets have the right to swap, but with a 19-23 record that puts them in the lottery, they're trailing the Knicks (which is what makes Wednesday's game in Houston so important to get a season-series split, for the sake of a tiebreaker) in the overall standings. The Rockets are three games back of a playoff spot in the West, so there's some ground to make up in the second half of the season to avoid the lottery, while the Knicks seemingly just have to play .500 ball, at worst, to make the playoffs and, therefore, avoid the lottery. If that's the case, the Rockets would have no motivation to swap picks.

But that would be for the team receiving the pick -- the Nuggets -- to consider. But one would have to believe that the arrival of Carmelo would boost the Knicks playoff standing so there wasn't any concern about a Houston swap.

However, the better the Knicks are, the less value their pick has for Denver. While with the Nets, the longer they remain without Carmelo, the more they are guaranteed to be a lottery team and their 2011 first rounder has greater value.

But of course that only matters if Carmelo wants to be a Net. The longer this endures, the more time Walsh has to put together a competitive package and get this done.

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