NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Hornets sold their only pick in the NBA draft to the New York Knicks for an undisclosed sum of cash Thursday night.

The Hornets had the 45th pick, a second-rounder, and used it to select center Josh Harrellson of Kentucky for the Knicks in a deal that was completed shortly before New Orleans’ turn to pick arrived.

General manager Dell Demps said before the draft that the Hornets would select the best player available regardless of position. But they said they didn’t feel the highest-rated player on their board had much of a chance of contributing to a playoff team that finished 46-36 last season.

“We had a number of guys on our board that we thought could help us,” Demps said, “but when those guys were no longer available, we moved quickly to make the trade. We didn’t want to pick someone just to be picking. We will use the money we acquired strictly to make our team better (in free agency).”

Demps said the Hornets explored making a trade to move up and make sure they got one of the players they had targeted, but they couldn’t find the right deal.

“We didn’t get real close on that,” Demps said. “We tried some different avenues, but we came up short.”

New Orleans earlier had swapped picks with Philadelphia and moved up five spots by exercising an option to swap second-round picks, which it had acquired in a trade in which it got guard Willie Green and forward/center Jason Smith from the 76ers for forwards Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins, one of two first-round picks the Hornets acquired a year ago.

This is the third time in four seasons that New Orleans has made a trade involving the draft. Last year the Hornets used their No. 1 pick (No. 11 overall) to select Cole Aldrich for Oklahoma City, then shipped his rights to the Thunder for Brackins and forward Quincy Pondexter.

In 2008, the Hornets selected forward Darrell Arthur with the 27th pick and traded his rights to Portland for $3 million. Arthur’s rights were later shipped to Houston, then Oklahoma City.

The Hornets’ No. 1 pick this season, No. 19 overall, was acquired by Milwaukee in a three-team trade that was finalized before the draft. The Bucks used the pick to get Tennessee forward Tobias Harris.

New Orleans originally sent the pick to Portland for guard Jerryd Bayless, who was later shipped to Toronto, and the Trail Blazers sent the pick to Charlotte.