Today the world will find out if Jabari Parker will remain a Duke Blue Devil for his sophomore season, or continue the path of fellow freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid by declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft. (The Chicago Tribune, however, which is Parker’s hometown newspaper, is reporting the freshman is still unsure about his plans.) The Wayman Tisdale Award recipient as college basketball’s top freshman has quite the decision on his hands–a decision everyone involved in basketball is anticipating.
If Duke doesn’t start busting brackets in the first round of this year’s NCAA tournament with a loss to Mercer and Duke successfully advances deep in the tournament, then this article doesn’t exist. Parker easily commits to the NBA, as there isn’t much left for him to do at Duke. The fact that Parker had an underwhelming performance against an opponent many people hadn’t heard of before might be concerning to some. (Parker scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting and 0-for-3 from deep against Mercer.) Not to mention, Parker was noticeably absent on the floor for the Blue Devils during critical defensive possessions late in the game, which really made the world question if his defensive ineptitudes are a problem. But outside of the lackluster performance in the NCAA tournament, there are other reasons why Parker would chose to stay at Duke for another year.
One huge reason is a chance to vindicate the loss to Mercer in next season’s NCAA Tournament–that’s crazy to think about already, but it’s true. Duke is bringing in four McDonald’s All-Americans, including Jahlil Okafor, who won the Morgan Wootten Award as the National Player of the Year, and Tyus Jones, who is regarded as one of the nation’s top point guards. Throw in Grayson Allen and Justise Winslow and Duke could be handed the keys to the NCAA Championship Game even without the return of Parker. However, why would Parker want to miss out on all of that fun? Even taking all of these factors into consideration, the choice is clear for Parker–commit for the draft. Let’s dive into why Jabari Parker should declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.
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Parker is NBA ready
Grant Hill was right when he called Jabari Parker the most NBA-ready prospect in the land of college basketball, saying (via CBSSports.com), “But he is as close to being an NBA prospect right now as you’re going to find in college. He is the real deal. He is talented, he is a good person. The thing that impressed me is the way he uses his size and strength–he is NBA-ready, physically. He is a special player and I think he will be a great NBA player.”
As an individual player, Jabari Parker has nothing left to prove at Duke. Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in his first season at Duke. He shot 47 percent from the floor and 36 percent from deep, while his true shooting percentage stands at 56 percent and his effective field goal percentage is at 51 percent. Parker is the highest scoring freshman in Blue Devils history and was the first freshman to lead Duke in scoring and rebounding.
Parker’s offensive game is extremely polished. In his inaugural campaign at Duke, he showed the ability to create offense by himself and in more ways than one. He can work in the post and from the perimeter, plus he’s shown the ability to catch fire and experience a Carmelo Anthony-like “hot hand” when things get rolling. Who doesn’t remember at the beginning of the season when Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker faced off? Parker went off for 27 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-18 from the field and 4-of-7 from three–many of which came in consecutive fashion as he pulled up and dropped bombs from the top of the arc.
Scouts can dissect his game all they want–that’s essentially what scouts do, so there’s always something every prospect can improve on, which is important to note. Parker has proved his skill-set to be versatile, but above all, he showed the ability to score, which always translates directly to the NBA. Can’t you envision him coming into the NBA and dropping 20 and 10 on a nightly basis, no matter the opponent?
The Downfall of Former Returning Prospects
The decision process of highly-touted prospects is intriguing because there are so many different avenues the decision could travel down. What would have happened to Kwame Brown if he chose to attend college for even a year, or maybe two? Maybe he isn’t the laughingstock of the NBA, maybe he’s actually a competent big man. Hell, as a college student myself, I couldn’t blame a young athlete wanting to stay inside the protection of a college campus for one more season, where every move one makes isn’t scrutinized to the largest extent. Outside of their game performances, how much did we hear from Wiggins and Parker? Not much, which is probably how they prefered it. However, this is a different avenue in the NBA when their names will be plastered over SportsCenter nightly, even more wo than during their freshman seasons. But, in this case, let’s discuss the profiles of two former highly-touted prospects that chose to return to school and had the results backfire on them.
The two athletes in discussion are Perry Jones III and Marcus Smart. An early 2011 mock draft showed PJIII as the fifth overall pick during his freshman season. Perry Jones III averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds on 55 percent shooting during his freshman campaign at Baylor. In his returning sophomore season, Jones averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. Still solid numbers, but there was no improvement, which was the point of PJIII returning to Baylor. If there’s no improvement statistically, then that gives NBA GMs no reason to spend a high pick on a player if they don’t believe he can develop. Jones’ stock plummeted and he wound up being selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 28th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
In two NBA seasons, Jones has played a total of 1,044 minutes and averaged 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds. Jones has also been assigned and recalled to and from the NBA Development League 18 times in these two seasons. One can only imagine the difference in his career if he was selected by a team that could give him the proper minutes instead of being stuck behind Kevin Durant in OKC. Let’s not forget all the money that PJIII is missing out on too. Bleacher Report brings up that Jones is earning about 50 percent of what he should be if he chose to come out in 2011. The No. 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, which was Jonas Valanciunas, is making over $7 million in these next two season, while Jones will make about $2.2 million during that same time span. Perry Jones III obviously made a big mistake by staying for another season, a mistake that could derail his entire career. Next up, let’s talk about Marcus Smart and his decision to return for his sophomore season this year.
Marcus Smart was a guaranteed top-five selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, with the likelihood of him going top-three very high. Instead of declaring for one of the weakest drafts in recent history, Smart returned to school to take part in the tanking palooza that the 2014 NBA Draft has turned the NBA into. This is the main problem for Smart, because he had a successful sophomore campaign. His scoring increased from 15.4 to 18.0 points per game and his field goal percentage rose from 40 percent to 42 percent–marginal increase, but still an increase. The improvements are impressive considering Smart increased his scoring by nearly three points per game, while only taking one more shot from the floor. This is beautiful and all, but even after those improvements, DraftExpress has Smart as the No. 6 selection, which is still iffy.
It’s almost guaranteed that Smart doesn’t go top five, so his return to Oklahoma State appears to have hurt his draft stock, just based on the load of the star power in the 2014 class. Then, there was this situation, which certainly wouldn’t have happened if Marcus Smart didn’t remain in Stillwater. Plus, Marcus Smart and the Cowboys registered zero NCAA tournament victories in his two seasons there. If athletes return to school to win, it certainly didn’t happen in Stillwater with Marcus Smart. So a reputation-tarnishing three-game suspension, zero NCAA tournament victories and entering a loaded NBA Draft don’t exactly scream that Marcus Smart made the right decision by going back to OKSU. The future is unpredictable, so it’s not insane to wonder if any of these things could happen to Jabari Parker. Marcus Smart’s main reason for returning to school was an early exit in the NCAA tournament during his freshman season. What if Parker suffers the same fate next season that he did this season? The NCAA tournament is unpredictable and the team that is selected to win before the season almost never wins when all is said and done. (Shoutout to UConn.)
Factoring In The Unknown
It’s a terrible thing to think about, but the unknown is a serious possibility. The unknown being things that no one can imagine that could happen at Duke with Parker next season. There are so many circumstances that could happen to Jabari over the course of another season at Duke. For example, look at Mitch McGary. McGary had an exceptional late run during his freshman year at Michigan, that catapulted his draft status and had him as high as the late lottery in some mock drafts. Instead of capitalizing on his performance, McGary returned to school and suffered a season-ending back injury. McGary could return to Michigan, but if he declares for the 2014 Draft, he appears to be a lock for the second round–the opposite of what would have happened if he declared for the draft last year. What if an injury happens to Parker? That could seriously affect his NBA Draft status, or NBA career for that matter. The potential worst-case scenarios for Parker are never ending if he returns to Duke, which is too scary of a fact to ignore.
While there are pros for returning to school, the cons outweigh the situation. If Jabari Parker declares for the 2014 NBA Draft today, he is a lock as a top-three selection and possibly No. 1 overall. When Parker is dropping 25 points a night and running away with ROY honors next season, no one will be thinking about Duke losing to Mercer in the NCAA tournament from a season ago. We live in a “what have you done for me lately?” world, which especially applies to sports. If Jabari Parker scores five points in a game, no one is going to wonder what would happen if he was still at Duke. Kevin Durant’s freshman season at Texas saw his squad upset in their second round NCAA tournament game by USC–how many of you knew that? More appropriately, how many of you care? Exactly. If Jabari has a successful NBA career and rookie season, then no one will care about his career at Duke. If his freshman season is any indication of his NBA success, then Jabari Parker will be just fine.
It’s hard to argue against a kid wanting to stay at school for another season, but this is a special case. His talent is so noticeable and when someone is locked in as a top-three pick in an NBA Draft that has been compared to the Dwyane Wade/Carmelo Anthony/LeBron James/Chris Bosh draft of 2003, it’s clear-cut how NBA ready they are. Parker needs to chase the money while it’s available and guaranteed. There’s no telling what could be in the plans for Parker next season, which is an unavoidable factor. Play it safe Jabari, declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.
If all signs point true, Jabari Parker will be coming to a tanking team near you in the 2014 NBA Draft.
What should Parker do?
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