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Knicks Draft Greek Forward Kostas Papanikolaou At No. 48, Await Free Agency

(credit: PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/GettyImages)

(credit: PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/GettyImages)

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. (WFAN/AP) — With only a second-round pick in this year’s NBA draft, the Knicks took Kostas Papanikolaou from Greece at No. 48 overall.

The 21-year-old forward is still under contract with Euroleague champion Olympiacos of the Greek league, so the Knicks expect to keep tabs on his development.

“We think it’s an investment in our future,” general manager Glen Grunwald said. “Given with where we are at with our team and where we want to go, it was unlikely we were going to draft anyone in 48 that was going to step in immediately contribute. So we felt that this player could grow overseas. He’s got at least one more year left in his contract. We will evaluate him next year and we will decide when to bring him over.”

The Knicks entered the draft without a first round pick because they included it in the Tracy McGrady deal with the Houston Rockets back on Feb. 19, 2010.

A member of Greece’s national team, Papanikolaou wrapped up last season by winning the Greek League and Euroleague championships with Olympiacos.

Next up for the Knicks, who were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, is trying to sign both Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak.

J.R. Smith and Landry Fields are also free agents and Grunwald said they’ve expressed interest in coming back and they’re looking to keep all four once the free agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

“Free agency is important to us this year,” said Grunwald. “We’ll hopefully make some strides in that area. With the 48th pick, if you look at the history of the success rate, it’s not that great. We’re happy with the pick we made and think ultimately he can contribute.”

An arbitrator ruled last week that Lin and Novak get to retain their early Bird rights. Under the decision, the Knicks can exceed their salary cap to resign their own players and also allow the team to sign other free agents.

“The NBA is doing a great job of keeping us abreast of what’s going on. But you know it’s between them and the players association and when they reach a resolution or not, we’ll operate under whatever rules exist,” Grunwald said.

The ruling should help the Knicks’ hopes of keeping both Lin, their starting point guard, and Novak, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. They are expected to re-sign Lin no matter what but would have been limited in their other options beyond that if they couldn’t use Bird rights.

Your thoughts on the pick? Be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)