Calming The Storm Or Telling The Truth?: With the NBA Trade Deadline roughly 23 days away and the situation with the New York Knicks still floating around the disappointing phase, news that Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony “will stay” with the Knicks becomes interesting in the wake of conflicting reports from all sides of the situation with Anthony and the Knicks.
Anthony has two more years remaining on his contract in New York; this one ($21.388 million) and an early termination option next year ($23.333 million). Anthony has kept no secret that he plans to opt-out of his deal in July and hit the free agent market. Anthony says he wants to listen to other scenarios and experience what the open market is like. Along the way Anthony has repeatedly said he wants to remain in New York long-term, but that he wants to understand his options.
For the Knicks, that’s a scary proposition, mainly because they risk losing a marquee free agent for nothing in return. There have been reports suggesting that Anthony has already decided to leave and that he’s showcasing for his eventual exit. There are others close to the situation who believes Anthony is sending signals in efforts to force change in New York before agreeing to a new multi-year deal.
So Sunday night when Anthony’s wife La La Anthony said on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” that she felt her husband was staying with the Knicks, it immediately launched a ‘is he or isn’t he’ discussion in the media.
“I get blamed for everything. No matter what happens, it’s my fault,” Anthony said – [watch the video here]. “All these talks if he’s staying in New York or not; I’m somehow the mastermind behind if he stays or not.”
When asked directly if she thought her husband was staying where he is, she emphatically said she thought he was.
“I definitely think he will stay,” Anthony said. “I know that he wants to stay, and I support him wherever he wants to go.
“Listen, I used to live in Denver with him. If I can live in Denver, I can live anywhere. I just want him to be happy.”
The timing of the statement is interesting with trade talks surrounding Anthony ramping up on the heels of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant saying “everyone wants to play in LA.”
»In Related: The New York Knicks Team Salary.
The Knicks clearly have some tough decisions to make before the February 20 NBA Trade Deadline. The question becomes how much stock do the Knicks put into an off-the-cuff answer to a question that started with whether or not La La and Carmelo have “relations before a game?”
This could genuinely be how the Anthony clan feels or this could simply be an attempt at good television theater for a show many people probably didn’t know existed.
What You Don’t Want To Hear: Despite what’s best described as a reality check, the 2014 NBA Draft class still looks to be one of the better crops of young talent the NBA has seen in a while. Especially when you consider that of the 30 players drafted in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, only three are averaging double figures in scoring and only six drafted players are averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
There are five players that could legitimately be the top overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. As the hype needle on each swings with each passing day of the college basketball season, here are a few brutally honest things to know about each player, and why they may not go number one overall despite their hype.
#1 – Joel Embiid (Kansas): Despite the hype, Joel Embiid is not the next coming of Shaquille O’Neal. He’s not even the next Dwight Howard. Embiid is a very promising draft prospect because he has an interesting array of skills and he has made a huge leap this year at Kansas, but before you go crossing other names off the board keep in mind, he is still very raw. He is still very new to basketball and while he’s the best big man in the NCAA, he is far from ready for full time work in the pivot in the NBA. The team that takes Embiid number one will need to have a development plan for him and need to be patient with what he can’t do on a lot of levels. The best NBA comparison to Embiid is Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. It took Hibbert easily three years to find his game at the NBA level before becoming one of the best bigs in the game. The runway for Embiid looks to be about the same. In every draft there are names that the media fall in love with because of potential, only to have that snatched away on draft night when reality sets on. The reality on Embiid is that he is a promising NBA talent, but he’s got a ways to go before he’s a full time starter in the NBA and that could create a boom or bust scenario for Embiid.
»In Related: The history of every NBA Draft pick, by pick.
#2 – Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): When Wiggins wants to be assertive he is an amazing basketball player. In virtually every game you see him make plays that just are unexplainable in terms of ability. The problem for Wiggins is for every play you have to watch again to see if it really happened, there are three where he disappears in games. That’s a real fear for NBA teams that require effort on every possession. There are some that believe Wiggins is not challenged at Kansas and in the NBA when things matter a little more and the competition is greater that he’ll rise to the occasion, but if you are sitting on the top pick is that a risk you are willing to take? There is no doubting Wiggins might be the most talented player available in the 2014 draft class. The problem is that he does not bring max level intensity every time he plays and that’s a scary prospect. Pairing Wiggins with the right coach might be the key to maximizing his ability, but the problem is the teams that draft at the top of the draft tend to have issues in that department. Pound-for-pound Wiggins is going to be hard to pass on at the top of the draft, if teams cannot get past his intensity issues he’ll take a tumble. The best things Wiggins could do for his draft stock is to absolute crush it in the NCAA Tournament. If he turns in a snoozer on the big stage he could have a long draft process.
#3 – Jabari Parker (Duke): A lot of NBA teams like Parker for all kinds of reasons. He is a good leader. He is humble. He plays hard. He is a student of basketball. The problem with Parker is there are questions about how much more he can be as a basketball player. The recent shooting struggles have not helped his case, but the truth is that like a lot of Duke players he is viewed as more of a finished product than a kid with loads of potential. Maybe that’s because of how precise the Duke system is run, but the generally vibe on Parker is he might be the most ready to play NBA talent on the board, but his ceiling as a star might be a touch lower than Embiid or Wiggins who have the potential to be huge stars. Factor in that Parker is a practicing Mormon and has talked about doing a two-year missionary assignment before coming to the NBA, there is some risk. Most NBA scouts are not buying that Parker or his family is going to risk his NBA career over his church obligations and that Parkers’ soon-to-be public image may do more for the church than him taking two years away from basketball. Personal issues aside, Parker is a special talent. If NBA teams can get past their concerns about his overall ceiling as player, Parker might be the safest pick at the top of the draft board because he looks to be the most ready to contribute on day one, but if a team is swinging for the fences with the top pick Parker might not have enough untapped potential to get him tabbed number one overall.
»In Related: Check out the NBA Draft Pick Debt Page.
#4 – Julius Randle (Kentucky): There is an awful lot to like about Randle at the next level. He is arguably the best low post player in college basketball and his game translates perfectly to the NBA four spot. He is a player in the mold of a Zach Randolph, and is just a beast on the low block. The knock on Randle is a very small wingspan and that tends to red flag players, especially in the rebounding department. The best comparison might be Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, who teams doubted, but were ultimately proven wrong. NBA teams are going to take a long look at Randal at the top of the board and if there is a dark horse to jump to the top it might be Randle. It’s hard to image that Randle could leap frog Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, but you have to keep him on the radar simply because of all three players, he has maybe been the only one to meet expectations.
#5 – Dante Exum (Australia) : There is something to be said about being out of the public eye. As NBA scouts scrutinize and over examine players in the college game, the Australian point guard is training and waiting for the draft process to get underway. Not being exposed can be a blessing and a curse. Utah’s Enes Kanter did OK without playing a minute of college basketball. Cleveland’s Dion Waiters didn’t work out or meet with a single NBA team and got drafted at the top of the draft. Exum will work out for teams and will be part of the showcase process surrounding the draft, but he’s not on the floor every week and that makes him a little bit of a mystery for some. There are something to know about Exum. He is rail thin. Think Shaun Livingston when he came into the NBA. Exum’s frame will support a lot more bulk, so that’s something he’ll work on as he progresses. Exum is an electric scorer. He has his critics that point to a suspect jump shot, but he’s been aggressively working on that and showed a lot of promise in the Under-19 tournament this past summer. Is he is a point guard? That’s a fair question for a kid that’s a legit 6’6, the answer is yes, but not in the Chris Paul sense of the term. He is more of a scoring point guard like a Derrick Rose or a Russell Westbrook. He’ll score more points than hand out assists and that might be a red flag for some teams looking for a true play maker. Of the bunch, Exum may have the most to prove to teams in workouts and if he can define his frame a little between now and eventual workouts, Exum could be the real sleeper at the top of the draft simply because people are not seeing him every day.
There are a few more names that could surface in the top overall pick discussion most notably Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. He might not possess enough potential to go number one overall but he has shown a lot of promise that he is a legit contender for a pick in the two to five range.
Arizona’s Aaron Gordon is having a solid season. In any other draft he’d likely be higher on the draft board but the depth of this class might push him to the outside of the top five and into the next five pick range.
Indiana’s Noah Vonleh is also getting a lot of love from NBA scouts. He is not likely a top overall pick candidate but he may be firmly planted in the five to ten range along with Michigan State’s Gary Harris.
Given how soft the 2013 NBA Draft has turned out to be in terms of immediate rookie talent, the depth of the 2014 NBA Draft is going to create some interesting possibility, even though the players seated at the top of the draft have their wrinkles.
If you are looking for more on the 2014 NBA Draft Class, check out the Top 100 Prospects powered by DraftExpress.
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NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks
Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.
Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.
So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.
Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.
But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.
Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.
Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.
But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.
So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.
He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.
Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.
But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.
Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.
Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets
Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.
Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.
That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.
But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.
But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.
The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.
NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key
Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.
The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure.
Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders.
Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.
Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them.
Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll.
Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.
Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well.
Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.
The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA.
Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.
As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.
NBA Daily: Defensive Player of the Year Watch
An inside look-in at the early frontrunners for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In this fresh edition for Basketball Insiders, there are a few players that should be finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of course, this prestigious award is given to the contributor who makes the biggest impact on the floor for their team on the defensive side of the ball. In two out of the last three seasons, the award has gone to Rudy Gobert, the rim-protecting center for the Utah Jazz. This past season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won both the DPotY award, as well as Most Valuable Player for a second straight year. Over the past few years, the trending group of finalists for the award has been consistent no matter what the order ends up being.
Can anyone new break in this year?
Anthony Davis will always be in the conversation for this award as he has shown throughout his career that he is one of the league’s most ferocious game-changers. Despite never winning the award before, he has made four NBA All-Defensive teams as well as being the NBA’s leader in blocks on three occasions. Davis’s block numbers are a little lower than they usually are at 1.9 blocks per game this season – compared to 2.4 for his career, per Basketball-Reference. This could be due to the addition of Marc Gasol to the Lakers’ frontcourt, a move that has boosted the team’s rim protection. If Davis can raise his numbers again, he should be in consideration for the award purely based on his defensive presence on the court – but he should still finish among the top five in voting.
The center for the Indiana Pacers – the former potential centerpiece of a Gordon Hayward trade with the Boston Celtics – has continued to show why the team would not package another one of its top players with him. Turner is the current league leader in blocks with 4.2 blocks per game, elevating his game beyond any doubt in 2020-21. He is one of the more underrated rim protectors in basketball, as he has only one top-five finish in the DPotY voting in his career. Turner has also improved his steals metrics this season by averaging 1.5 per game, thus providing a strong defensive presence alongside All-Star frontcourt mate, Domantas Sabonis. Turner should be the frontrunner for the award as things stand right now, but that could change as the season progresses, especially as his injury impacts proceedings.
The reigning two-time MVP should always be in the conversation for the DPotY award as he revolutionizes the defensive side of the floor at an elite level. Currently, Antetokunmpo is averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game to go along with a 106.5 defensive rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. It goes without saying, but Antetokounmpo is a chase-down block artist, always there to contest shots around the rim with his long frame. The 6-foot-11 power forward is one of the league’s top five players due to his exceptional play on both sides of the ball and will always be considered for the DPotY award as long as he in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar has been arguably the best defensive small forward in the game over the past few years. He first gained major recognition for his defense during the 2014 NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Miami HEAT. Since then, Leonard has racked up six All-Defensive team nominations to go along with two Defensive Player of the Year awards. This season, Leonard remains an elite defender for the championship-hopeful Clippers with 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game – but his defensive rating is the highest of his ten-year career at 107.8.
The current league leader in rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers is having a monster season thus far. In a contract year, Andre Drummond is currently putting up 19.3 points per game, 15.8 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game and 1.6 blocks per game. He also has a very stellar defensive rating of 105.0, a culmination of points allowed per 100 possessions. Drummond is not on a very good team, but that should not take away from the impact he makes when he is on the floor. As a pure rim protector and rebounding machine, he should finish higher up in the voting results than usual, even if his season doesn’t end with Cleveland.
Honorable Mention: Tobias Harris
The Philadelphia 76ers have started the season on a very high note at 9-5, all despite loads of COVID health and safety protocols preventing their full team from taking the floor. Tobias Harris has played a major part in their early-season success leading the NBA in defensive win shares among starters who have played at least 10 games with 0.184, per NBA Advanced Stats. Along with that, Harris is also second in defensive rating among qualified starters at 99.6. The veteran forward has averaged 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. So if the 76ers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, Harris’ overall play will be a huge reason for that success.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships – and these players are the type of players that can change the result of a game every night. Keep an eye on these players as the season moves along as they should garner consideration for both All-Defensive team nominations and the DPotY award.