You know it's the dawn of a new era in the Big Apple when the New York Knicks are looking to acquire, not trade away, draft picks.
The Knicks own the No. 4 spot in the 2015 NBA draft, giving them a real chance at landing another franchise cornerstone to place beside Carmelo Anthony. But the Houston Rockets have the rights to their second-rounder (No. 32 overall), so they're looking to snag another selection ahead of the June 25 extravaganza, according to RealGM's Shams Charania.
This doesn't appear to be your average predraft smokescreen/pipe dream/fatuous fodder. The Knicks, per Charania, are already working out low-end first-round and high-end second-round prospects in anticipation of landing another pick.
Purchasing another first-rounder is almost assuredly out of the question. With the salary cap set to explode in 2016 and player salaries guaranteed to erupt along with it, the cheap talent first-round selections guarantee are too valuable for teams to flip for cash.
Not enough organizations have multiple first-rounders to sling for the Knicks to hope that changes either.
Only the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have more than one to dangle, and neither of them will be seduced by the prospect of grabbing Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway or Tim Hardaway Jr.—the Knicks' most valuable real estate—in exchange for a first-rounder.
High- to mid-end second-round selections will be the primary focus then. The Knicks need to zero in on squads that either have a surfeit of picks, are trying to cut salary or are good enough to view an incoming rookie as expendable.
France’s Mouhammadou Jaiteh and Bowling Green's Richaun Holmes are two names Charania mentions as potential targets. Bleacher Report draft guru Jonathan Wasserman has Holmes going 38th overall and Jaiteh being scooped up at No. 41. Keeping with that theme, the Knicks need to fall somewhere inside that range.
Remember, though, this is more about the other teams and why they would consider talking turkey with New York at all.
Golden State Warriors, No. 30 Pick
If there's a team out there willing to maybe, quite possibly, if the Knicks are lucky, sell off their first-rounder at a discount, it's the NBA Finals-fighting Golden State Warriors.
Housekeeping note: The Warriors cannot actually trade their selection because the NBA precludes teams from shipping out consecutive first-rounders, and they dealt last year's to the Utah Jazz as part of the Andris Biedrins salary dump. They can, however, move the player himself.
First-rounders are typically valuable roster-fillers for capped out contenders like Golden State. But the Warriors are in a special situation.
Draymond Green is set to enter restricted free agency, at which point he, a guard-everyone defender, will generate immeasurable interest. Retaining him will likely cost the Warriors a max contract, a price they've long been willing to pay.
Tack on the roughly $16 million that max contract would start at to the $77.5 million in guaranteed commitments Golden State has for 2015-16, and the Warriors will need to foot a raw salary bill of more than $93.5 million.
And that's before even considering the luxury tax. The Warriors are on pace to shatter the threshold DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony says the league has set for next season:
Should the Warriors end up with, say, $94 million in total salary commitments, they would be $12.4 million over the luxury-tax barrier. That, per Larry Coon's collective bargaining agreement FAQ, would put them in line for a tax bill exceeding $22.2 million—and that's assuming they don't add any salary after Green.
Now, selling a first-round pick earning around $1 million won't make a huge difference. And while speaking with the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami in February, owner Joe Lacob didn't sound like a man who's worried about dipping into his rainy-day fund:
Committed or not committed, I don’t think we have any other choice. Numbers would dictate–anyone can look at them–that we’re very likely in the luxury tax and very likely very substantially, next year.
And you know what? We’re OK with that.
Shopping David Lee's $15.5 million expiring contract would cut into that bill more anyway. But a salary dump of that kind isn't easy to broker.
Besides, every little bit counts. And the Warriors might be interested in some extra scratch to help them afford their balloon payment.
Especially when they're a championship contender as currently constructed.
Minnesota Timberwolves, No. 31 and 36 Picks
Teams that are stuck deep within the throes of an extensive rebuild aren't wont to deal many of their picks. But the Minnesota Timberwolves—who own the first, 31st and 36th selections in this year's draft—may be an exception.
Because president and head coach Flip Saunders says so.
"I can probably guarantee you we're not going to keep both those second-round picks," he said, per Fox Sports North's Phil Ervin.
It's difficult to peg just what the Timberwolves might be after in any deal. That 31st pick is often viewed as a late first-rounder, and Saunders could want actual value for it. There's no guarantee cash is even good enough to pry No. 36 from his grasp.
Then again, the Timberwolves are the rare project that, with the exception of whom they'll draft at No. 1, has all the necessary pieces in place already.
Take a gander at what the meat of next season's depth chart will look like if they select Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor and Kevin Garnett returns:
|Timberwolves' Possible Depth Chart for 2015-16|
|Ricky Rubio||Kevin Martin||Andrew Wiggins||Kevin Garnett||Towns/Okafor|
|Zach LaVine||Shabazz Muhammad||Chase Budinger||Anthony Bennett||Gorgui Dieng|
|Adreian Payne||Nikola Pekovic|
|Source: Basketball-Reference, Basketball-Insiders|
Sure, this is just a rough projection. But still: Holy moly.
Unless the Timberwolves find takers for a veteran such as Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic—or give up on guys such as Anthony Bennett and Adreian Payne—they don't have room for second-round fillers.
At this point, they're better off unloading one or both of their second-rounders for a few stacks of hundy sticks that could help pay for the $35.8 million remaining on Pekovic's deal.
Philadelphia 76ers, No. 35 and 37 Picks
Knicks president Phil Jackson: "Hey, Sam. It's Phil."
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie: "Hiya, Phil! What can I do ya for?"
Jackson: "Look, Steve [Mills] and I have been talking, and we really think you need to spread the second-round wealth."
Hinkie and the Sixers have stockpiled five second-round picks. Yes, five.
No team needs five second-rounders—not even one that's lorded over by Hinkie, who collects second-round selections like they're stamps, or Pokemon cards or LeBron James' beard clippings. That many second-rounders promises only one thing: a ton of roster cuts.
Maybe Hinkie is willing to throw Jackson a bone and sell one of his jillion five, preferably the No. 35 and/or 37 spots. The Sixers could then put that cash toward the $12 million they'll be paying JaVale McGee to not play for them.
This, of course, presupposes that Hinkie isn't overly attached to his House of Second-Round Picks. And, judging by the rate at which he's hoarding them, he just may be.
As CSNPhilly.com's Gordie Jones previously underscored:
But no matter how those selections are used, they have value. How much? After a careful study of basketball-reference.com (and a bunch of scribbling on the back of an old Sixers-Suns boxscore), the conclusion was this: More than any of us might imagine.
Besides stockpiling assets for potential deals, the team can only increase its chances of finding potential contributors. And maybe, just maybe, the Sixers will get really fortunate and pluck a surpassing player like San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili, the 57th overall choice in 1999, or Memphis center Marc Gasol, the 48th pick in 2007 (by the Lakers).
Chances are Hinkie won't be drafting the next Ginobili or even the next Chandler Parsons. But if he views every second-rounder as his precious, the Knicks will have to sweeten the pot with tangible assets.
Depending how desperate they are or how in love with Jaiteh and Holmes they might be, a prospect such as Early could advance talks. If the Sixers don't select a point guard in the first round and plan to continue their trend of refusing to invest in free agents who help them win, the Knicks could also try pitching them on Jose Calderon's expiring deal.
Potential price notwithstanding, the Sixers are the Knicks' best shot at seizing a second-round pick, if only because they own one-sixth of the available selections.
*Salary information courtesy of Basketball Insiders.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@danfavale.