Knicks sign second-round pick Cleanthony Early

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The Knicks don’t get to draft that often.

Before this year, they’d chosen only once in each of the previous three drafts. And they had no selections planned for this year. Plus, they’d already traded their 2016 first rounder and next three second rounders.

But Phil Jackson dealt for the No. 34 and No. 51 picks, bringing New York into the NBA’s strongest draft in a decade. You better believe the Knicks weren’t going to squander those selections already.

Knicks team release:

New York Knickerbockers President Phil Jackson announced today that the team has signed forward Cleanthony Early to a contract.

Because the Knicks used the full taxpayer mid-level exception on Jason Smith, they can offer Early only a minimum contract. The deal can be up to two years – $507,336 this season and $845,059 the next.

Increasingly, players drafted in Early’s range get two years guaranteed, and I’d guess he did too. But because the Knicks are so intent in preserving cap space for next summer, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Early received only one fully guaranteed season.

In the meantime, he’ll try to earn some minutes behind Carmelo Anthony. Early, coming out of Wichita State, is fairly NBA-ready for a second-round pick. But he’s still a second-round pick. Anything positive contributions this season should be viewed as a bonus.