The NBA draft is less than three weeks away and free agency is less than four weeks away. So we’re at the point in the calendar when NBA executives are playing through different offseason scenarios. We all know the best-laid plans in May can blow up in late June and early July, so teams usually are prepared with a Plan B, C, D and E.
The Knicks are no different.
As evidenced by their recent -- and ongoing -- trade discussions with the Portland Trail Blazers, members of the Knicks' front office are seeking to acquire an additional draft pick.
One source described talks between the Knicks and Blazers as "fluid," with several different proposals -- as is the case with most trade discussions. One scenario discussed involved the Knicks taking back a player -- and Maurice Harkless’ name was among those that came up.
It’s unclear at this point where the Knicks and Blazers talks will lead -- if anywhere -- but you can be sure that different teams are having similar conversations across the league.
It's possible -- though unlikely -- that the Knicks-Blazers talks lead to the Knicks trading their No. 8 pick.
Members of the organization are high on several potential draftees at the eighth spot -- Kentucky’s Malik Monk, French guard Frank Ntilikina and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. among them, per sources. There's no way to tell how things will play out on June 22, but at least one of those guards should be available for the Knicks at the eighth spot.
There’s another guard who is on the Knicks’ radar though -- and he isn’t draft eligible.
Some members of the organization would again like to try to pursue Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio in a trade this offseason, sources said. The Knicks were close to completing a deal shortly before the trade deadline centered around Derrick Rose and Rubio. Talks continued until shortly before the deadline.
Per league sources with knowledge of the situation, some Knicks decision-makers see trading for Rubio as a viable option this offseason. Incumbent starter Rose also is an option at point guard. But the Timberwolves, coincidentally, see Rose as a point guard option in free agency, as ESPN reported last month. So even if the Knicks prefer to re-sign Rose, they likely will have competition.
It’s unclear at this point whom the Knicks would consider moving in a trade for Rubio or if New York and Minnesota would attempt a sign-and-trade.
If New York renounced its rights to Rose after July 1, it could open up enough cap space to absorb Rubio’s 2017-18 salary ($14 million).
If the Knicks end up acquiring Rubio, it also might impact how they approach the draft. Phil Jackson has said that the club is looking for guards and wings in the offseason.
Rubio seemingly would fill the void at point guard, so it’s possible the Knicks would turn their attention to a wing in the draft.
Top wings such as Jonathan Isaac, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson likely will be off the board by the time New York makes its pick. Wings likely available at No. 8 include Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, who is scheduled to work out with the Knicks later this month.
Ex-NBA exec thriving in Italy: Jared Ralsky -- an exec who has worked for the Spurs, Bucks and Pelicans -- built a strong team this season in Italy with Aquila Basket Trento. The team is currently in the final of the Italian league and has overperformed expectations given the club's resources and recent history. Ralsky, the sport director with Trento who is well-regarded in basketball circles, could be a candidate to fill an NBA front office role; several teams in Italy -- one being Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna -- are reportedly interested in hiring him to run their franchise.