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NBA AM: Is Carmelo Committed To New York?

Carmelo Anthony’s wife may have tipped his free agency cards, or she might have been trying to calm the trade rumor storm… The possible 2014 NBA Draft class has issues.

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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.

»In Related: The NBA Rumor Round-Up – your daily look at the latest NBA rumors.

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.

» ICYMI: Moke Hamilton filed his first Power Rankings for Basketball Insiders, The Thunder top this list, but number 2 isn’t as expected… Alex Kennedy takes a look at the free agents still available for those teams looking for some veteran experience… Nate Duncan caught up with Warriors GM Bob Myers on a wide range of topics. The easiest way to make sure you don’t miss anything is bookmark the NBA Section.

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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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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