NBA Draft: 48th Parallel for the Knicks

Though mostly forgotten, Brian Quinnett was a good-shooting, though athletically-limited wing player from Washington State who had a modest three year NBA career that was highlighted by a 20 point game against Michael Jordan and the Bulls on April 4, 1991.

We invoke his memory today, hours before the 2012 NBA Draft, because he holds a place in Knicks history as the last player the Knicks selected beyond the 48th pick — which is the team’s only choice in this year’s draft — who made the roster and had any semblance of a career.

Quinnett and this year’s draftee will have an immediate connection as the lowest single draft picks the franchise has ever made. In 1989, Quinnett was taken 50th overall by former GM Al Bianchi in a year where the Knicks first round pick (No. 22 overall) was owned by the Portland Trail Blazers as part of the Kiki Vandeweghe trade. (The Blazers picked Byron Irvin, who played three seasons, had success overseas and is now an agent who represents Shawn Marion, Al Harrington, Jason Terry and others. He is also, by the way, Doc Rivers’ cousin.)

The Knicks this year do not own a first round pick (it went to the Houston Rockets in the salary dump trade for Tracy McGrady in March 2010) so while the draft begins at 7 p.m. for the NBA, it’ll be hours before the Knicks war room stirs with any real activity. Though some fans thirst for those wild draft nights, when commissioner David Stern says those four magical words — “WE HAVE A TRADE . . .” — there is a very low expectation that the Knicks will be involved in any of the action that’s being anticipated tonight.

Let’s address some FAQ’s right here:

Q: Can’t the Knicks buy a first round pick?

A: No, they can’t. In the new CBA, cash considerations have been capped at $3 million per season, which is July 1-June 30. The Knicks used their $3 million in the moves to land Tyson Chandler in December. So they can’t use any money in any kind of transaction until after July 1. That includes buying picks in this draft.

Q: Why won’t the Knicks be more aggressive on draft night with so many first round picks reportedly available?

A: For one, they don’t have the kind of assets lottery teams are looking for to make that kind of a deal. Secondly, first round picks immediately become guaranteed contracts that count against the cap for the next three to four years. So for any pick from No. 20 to No. 30, it’s between $1.1 million to $850,000 guaranteed in the first season for a player you’re not sure will even crack your rotation. Second-round picks come with non-guaranteed deals, which means you can waive them with no penalty. This makes the most sense right now, especially considering the uncertainty of free agency and need to use roster spots and payroll wisely for veterans who can step in and play.

Q: What about trading Landry Fields for a first rounder?

A: As expected, Landry was extended a qualifying offer on Monday, which officially made him a restricted free agent. Players who are not under contract for the 2012-13 season can not be traded, but by qualifying Fields, the Knicks basically offer him a one-year deal just to keep him restricted. This qualifying offer (QO) can be rescinded at any time. But, to answer the question, Fields cannot be traded on draft night for a pick because he is not under contract after June 30.

Q: OK, so then trade Toney Douglas for a pick?

A: Are you not reading any of this? Enough with the picks! Certainly the Knicks would consider moving up in the second round if it meant, say, giving up a future second rounder and the No. 48, but there would have to be someone they feel is a can’t-miss roster player. Marc Berman of the New York Post has tossed out names such as Darius Johnson-Odom, Hollis Thompson and Kevin Murphy has potential targets. All three are projected to be taken before the Knicks are on the board at 48, so if there is an opportunity to slide up a few spots to get one of these (or other) possible targets, perhaps we’ll see some action. But don’t expect anything bigger than that right now and don’t expect Douglas to be an asset used for that type of move.

Q: Fine, so now that you’ve ruined my anticipation for tonight’s draft, can you at least tell me if the Knicks get a quality player at No. 48?

A: History suggests you probably shouldn’t rush out and buy the guy’s jersey at Since 2000, only one time has a 48th pick emerged as a bona fide NBA player. In fact, this one pick turned out to be a very good one — and all-star, actually — but not for the team that selected him. It was in the 2007 NBA Draft that the Lakers selected Marc Gasol at No. 48. The following year his rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for his brother, Pau. Marc made his NBA debut that season (2008-09) and the deal worked out well for both teams.

Now, that’s not to say there is no chance you can land a quality player this late in the draft. Let’s check history once more. I have found at least 15 players since the 2000 draft who were selected beyond No. 48 and emerged as bona fide NBA players. A few: Rasual Butler (No. 52, 2002), Luis Scola (No. 55, 2002), James Jones (No. 49, 2003), Kyle Korver (No. 51, 2003), Marcin Gortat (No. 57, 2005), Ramon Sessions (No. 56, 2007), Isaiah Thomas (No. 60, 2011).

Knicks history has Brian Quinnett and beyond him we dug up some other interesting late gems: Kurt Rambis (No. 58, 1980), Frank Brickowski (No. 57, 1981) and Ken “The Animal” Bannister (No. 156, 1984).

As far as “targeting” a certain position, you really don’t do that at No. 48. As several NBA executives told me, when you get that deep in the draft, you go for the guy with this label: Best Player Available.

So while many of you have asked me who the Knicks may go after in the draft, that is impossible to answer until we see who is still in play.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.