May 17, 2019 | 5:09pm
| Updated May 17, 2019 | 5:58pm
CHICAGO — In breaking his silence, Knicks president Steve Mills declined to speculate about moving the third pick in the draft for Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis and said Knicks fans should be happy — and not sad — about Tuesday’s lottery results.
“We’re excited about where we are,’’ Mills said at Friday’s Chicago Draft Combine after being silent since the pingpong balls rolled. “We know we’ll get a good player at 3. So it’s something we’re excited about and look forward to.’’
The Davis Sweepstakes appears to be on hold until Pelicans brass can decide whether its star big man is in or out. According to an NBA source, Pelicans GM David Griffin has not begun collecting new Davis offers because he’s still adamant about changing Davis’ mind.
According to the source, Griffin still believes he can have as good a Big 3 in the NBA next season in Davis, Zion Williamson and star combo guard Jrue Holiday — especially if Kevin Durant bolts Golden State.
Asked if he would consider trading the third pick, Mills all but brushed off the query. “We’re here to evaluate the players that are here and we’ll keep moving along in our process,’’ Mills said.
The Knicks’ chances could have been greatly enhanced if an ESPN report is true Pelicans owner Gayle Benson told confidants the franchise would trade Davis to the Lakers “over my dead body.’’
There’s multiple reports Benson was miffed at Davis’ agent Rich Paul trying to get Davis to the Lakers to join his other client LeBron James in the middle of the season, causing chaos. The Lakers put together a five-pronged offer that New Orleans turned down in February but now have the fourth pick in the draft to dangle after their lottery luck.
Benson told a New Orleans radio station the “over my dead body” quote is “totally absurd” and “completely untrue.”
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka could be seen schmoozing for several minutes with Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry in what appeared to be a gesture to smooth relations between the franchises.
With Memphis leaning toward taking point guard Ja Morant at 2, the Knicks are a virtual certainty to take Duke’s swingman RJ Barrett at 3 — unless they are part of a Davis blockbuster. League insiders believe the Knicks likely would have to include their 2021 and 2023 picks from Dallas and two of three young prospects in Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
According to a source, the Knicks have Morant as a slight edge over Barrett on their early board but there’s still more to the draft process such as workouts and more interviews. The Knicks met with Barrett and Morant Wednesday, the day after the lottery.
“It’s been a good week for us,’’ Mills said. “As a group, we have a lot of guys here meeting the young players. We probably have interviewed 30 different guys over the course of time here. So it’s been a good productive week for us.’’
The NBA allows 20 formal interviews and the Knicks scouting staff performed another 10 or so with more fringe second-round/potential undrafted free agent types.
“We want to build this team the right way,’’ Mills said. “We’ve always said we’re going to continue to work hard during the draft process. We believe we’re a team that can draft well and this is all part of our plan and growing our team.’’
The Knicks also have the 55th pick in the draft and are riding a roll from last season when they selected Mitchell Robinson with the 36th pick of the second round and signed Allonzo Trier after he went undrafted.
Their biggest need for the roster is power forward so their second-round pick could be a position pick.
They also will look into offers from combo guard Frank Ntilikina to see if they can add another early second-round pick or late first-rounder.
Ntilikina has been a disappointment in his first two seasons and will make $5 million next season.
Moving him would give the Knicks enough space to enforce the option clauses of Trier and Damyean Dotson without affecting their room for the two max contracts of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, whom many league insiders feel have talked about forming a Knicks tandem.
The caveat is if the Knicks trade for Davis somehow, it could be tricky — though still possible — to still have enough cap space to sign two stars. As Golden State continues its roll to The Finals without injured Durant (calf), that could only mean good things for his eventual departure. The Warriors have never looked happier winning minus Durant.