While Charlotte GM Rod Higgins has denied Thursday’s selection of D.J. Augustin at no. 9 overall is a precursor to shipping Raymond Felton to New York, that David Lee is one of the Knicks’ only coveted assets — outside of a certain self-proclaimed no. 1 point guard in the NBA’s expiring contract — is hard to dispute. The Bergen Record’s Steve Adamek elaborates :

The potential departure of Lee, however, could yield the point guard general manager Donnie Walsh declined to draft to potentially replace Stephon Marbury, albeit a stopgap one, such as Portland™s Steve Blake, Seattle™s Luke Ridnour or one from among Memphis™ gaggle of guards.

œI think there are other ways to solve the problem if we have to, a guarded Walsh said Friday when asked about not drafting a point instead of Danilo Gallinari

œI know there are conversations going on, Lee™s agent Mark Bartelstein told The Record.

Given his druthers, and his salary-cap reduction plan for the summer of 2010, Walsh would rather unload Zach Randolph and the three years and $48 million still left on his contract to alleviate what the Knicks™ president called a œsurvival of the fittest logjam for minutes up front that Gallinari™s arrival creates.

But, Lee, a free agent next summer if he doesn™t get a contract extension before the start of next season, is far more enticing trade bait. œA lot of people want to get David Lee, Bartelstein said.

Adamek reports Gallinari will be throwing out the first pitch at this afternoon’s Yankees/Mets game. Unlike Pedro Martinez, it’s nice to learn Gallinari has no qualms about taking the mound during the day,