Knicks open to trading first-round pick?

NEW YORK -- Sure, the New York Knicks lost their 49th game of the season on Saturday night. But in a big-picture sense, the night couldn’t have gone better for Phil Jackson’s club.

Two of their biggest competitors for a top pick in June's draft earned improbable wins.

The Philadelphia 76ers (14-49) beat the Atlanta Hawks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves improved to 14-47 with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

So, thanks to a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, New York (12-49) gained an edge in the race to the bottom of the NBA standings.

This is significant because the team with the worst record in the league has a 25 percent chance to get the top pick in the draft. It is also guaranteed a top-four pick.

At this point in the season, the draft and free agency are the only things left worth talking about when it comes to the Knicks.

Jackson hopes to rebuild the team this summer with a top pick in the 2015 draft and plenty of money to spend in free agency.

To that end, Jackson has been scouting some of the top college prospects in person recently. He attended an Ohio State game to watch D'Angelo Russell earlier this month and later went to Kentucky to see the Wildcats' top prospects.

But those counting on seeing Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke's Jahlil Okafor in a Knicks jersey next season might want to temper expectations.

In an interview on ESPN New York's "The Robin Lundberg Show," ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst said the Knicks are at the very least considering their options when it comes to trading their first-round pick.

Specifically, Windhorst said the Knicks are looking into "opportunities" to see "what they could possibly get if they trade their draft pick."

Of course, it's wise for Phil Jackson and the Knicks to at least gauge the market for the pick.

The trade market for their selection won't really materialize until New York finds out where it picks. That will happen in late May after the NBA's draft lottery.

Then, New York will have a clearer idea of what it can get back in a trade of the pick.

Due to NBA rules, the Knicks can't trade the pick prior to making a selection, but they can agree to select a player for a team and then trade the player after making the pick.

So, in theory, the Knicks can acquire an impactful player by trading their draft pick. They can then use their cap space, which is expected to be at least $25 million, to sign a premier free agent.

This scenario would give them two established players to play alongside a soon-to-be 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony.

This option might be more palatable than wasting another season or two of Anthony's prime waiting for a 19-year-old prospect to develop into a star.

Obviously, there are plenty of reasons for the Knicks to hold onto the pick.

For one, the Knicks will have the player they drafted under contract for four seasons at below-market value. The franchise would also have the option to extend the player's contract and possibly match offers other teams make to the player when he is a restricted free agent.

So there are compelling reasons to trade the pick and compelling reasons to hold onto it. Jackson will have an interesting decision to make between now and late June.

Knicks eyeing Kentucky player? League sources say the Knicks have had either a front-office member or scout at approximately 20 of the past 30 Kentucky practices and games. This confirms a New York Daily News report that stated that no team has watched Kentucky play more than the Knicks this season.

The Knicks' regular attendance at Kentucky practices and games is an interesting development. It could be taken as a sign that the Knicks have significant interest in taking Towns with their first-round pick. It could also be an indication they are doing their homework on Willie Cauley-Stein in case they fall out of the top two slots.

Question: Do you think the Knicks should trade their first-round pick?