Analyzing Jabari Parker’s Decision
Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker is expected to announce tomorrow whether he is going to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. He’s meeting with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski today to help finalize his decision. Typically there’s very little suspense for a prospect ranked as high as Parker, who is still in the mix to be the top overall selection. The smart financial choice is always to leave when your stock is that hot. However, from the day that Parker committed to Duke he always left open the possibility of staying for his sophomore season.
Coach K has clearly been operating under the assumption that Parker would be gone as he is fully equipped to field a contender next year with or without him. He currently has the top-ranked 2014 recruiting class, which consists of a dominant low-post presence in Jahlil Okafor, a true playmaker in Tyus Jones and incredibly skilled and athletic swingmen in Grayson Allen and Justice Winslow. Okafor happens to be a close friend of Parker; the appeal of playing with him and the rest of this incredibly talented class is among the reasons why he’s given staying as much thought as he has.
Another big reason is that Parker’s freshman season couldn’t have ended in more disappointing fashion. Duke was upset by Mercer in their opening round game of the NCAA Tournament. Parker struggled, shooting just 4-14 from the field and admitting afterward that it left him feeling incomplete about his college career. While accepting the Wayman Tisdale Award, which goes to the top freshman every year, Parker said his decision is based on where he can improve the most next year.
“I don’t know where that is right now,” Parker said. “I’ll talk to Coach about it and lay out my options, but I’m just really glad I get the best of both worlds.”
Last Friday, Parker also put out this cryptic tweet that left everyone just as confused as the contradicting reports regarding his decision that continue to surface.
Decision making= Working at your own pace. Becoming your own boss. What's in your best interest. What makes you happy.
— Jabari Parker (@JabariParker) April 11, 2014
If Parker’s decision is truly based around where he can improve the most the next year, it’s undoubtedly in the NBA. No offense to Coach K, one of the greatest teachers of basketball the game has ever seen, but in order to play for him Parker has to take a full class schedule at one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country. In the NBA, Parker’s sole focus will be improving as a basketball player. He’ll be able to dedicate himself to his craft and compete against the best players in the world night in and night out. He’ll also have the very best resources at his disposal in the NBA. Sure, there are some things (mainly his defense) that he can improve on by returning to Duke for his sophomore season that would help him be a better pro in the long-term, but Parker is NBA-ready and would almost undoubtedly have a sizeable role as a rookie.
Now, where he would have more fun at is a completely different question altogether. There’s a lot to be said about being the big man on campus at Duke. He’s a star there and his return will be embraced with great joy and jubilation. The Blue Devils have already been tapped by several outlets as the preseason No. 1 and that’s not contingent on Parker returning. His return would likely cement their status as the top team going into the next season, though. They’d be firmly in the mix for the national championship and likely only lose a handful of games at the absolute worse.
In the NBA, Parker will probably lose a handful of games in his first month because he’ll be heading to a team in a rebuilding situation. The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz are going to head into May’s draft lottery with the best odds of landing a top-three pick, where Parker is projected to be selected. While you can’t rule anyone out of making the playoffs in the East next year and the Jazz have a lot of young, already developing talent, losing will be far more common for him no matter where he lands than it would be at Duke, where he’d be a part of one of the best “super teams” college basketball has seen in recent years.
Parker has been talking to agents to get as much information as he can while sitting on the fence and one of the things they’re likely pointing out to him is that being a top-three pick in this year’s draft guarantees him just under $8 million, not including endorsement deals that he’s likely to receive as a very marketable and likeable player.
As good as Parker is, he’d likely slip a couple of spots in the 2015 draft if he were to stay for a couple of reasons. One, the 2015 draft class is littered with great big men prospects, like the aforementioned Okafor, and as a sophomore your perceived upside always takes a hit. Plus, Parker is really going to be under the microscope. The bar is going to be set very high for him and if he doesn’t clear it convincingly, teams are going to fall more in love with other, young prospects. Look no further than what happened with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart this year. He could have been the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, but he decided to stay and despite the fact that he improved virtually across the board and is as NBA ready as anyone in the class, he’s still slipped a few spots. Those few spots will cost him a couple of million, but that’s just the nature of the draft.
Parker is eventually going to be in the NBA and when he decides to make the leap, there is going to be a big role waiting for him. He has a very complete and well-rounded offensive arsenal that any team would benefit from adding. The league isn’t going anywhere and he’s too talented of a player and too hard of a worker to fall off the radar in any serious way. What it comes down to for him is if he wants to compete against the best while making millions or enjoy another year of college. If Parker left his decision up to anyone else, the paperwork to declare for the draft likely would have been signed in the locker room after the Mercer loss. Returning, though, gives him the opportunity to cement his place in Duke history as more than just a talented scorer who came through the program for a single season. It gives him a great chance to compete for a national championship, and for someone like Parker who has been stockpiling awards since he started touching a basketball, the appeal of adding a national championship to his collection may be enough to pass on the NBA for just one more season. By this time tomorrow, we’ll know exactly where his head is at.
Deng Wins Citizenship Award
Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the second commissioner of the NBA and presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
The two-time All-Star forward recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. In the video, he tells young people, “Look around you, and reach out. Make peace among those who are fighting. Forgive one another and encourage others to forgive. Build trust with people who fear each other. You are young, and if you are wise, you will build bridges with people your age that will last a lifetime. It is not too late to start…but it is not too soon either.”
This is his latest contribution to a number of international causes, including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organization that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The work in Africa focuses on building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities. Two courts, funded by Deng, will open in the summer of 2014 and include 12 hoops and locker rooms as well as basketball gear (shoes, jerseys, equipment). Plans are also in the works to increase the support of schools and renovate and build schools in South Sudan.
The program in the United Kingdom, where Deng grew up, focuses on providing opportunities for participation in basketball camps, clinics and events for all sections of the community. The primary goals are to increase participation in grassroots development, provide advice and support for children to pursue the sport at an elite level, and increase opportunities for participation among young women.
In the U.S., Deng’s work has been focused primarily on the communities in which he has played, Chicago and Cleveland. He has funded Thanksgiving and holiday events that provide meals and toys to the underserved and has also served as a mentor to the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” He is also an avid supporter of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program and has participated in PSA’s to raise awareness for World Malaria Day.
“The breadth and depth of Luol Deng’s community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,” PBWA President Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said. “But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.”
The PBWA comprises approximately 175 writers for newspapers, Internet services and magazines, who cover the NBA on a regular basis. Other candidates nominated by PBWA members this year were Miami’s Ray Allen, San Antonio’s Matt Bonner, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Toronto’s Amir Johnson, Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Nash, Chicago’s Joakim Noah and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul.
Life After Philadelphia is Just Fine For Turner
Evan Turner goes 1-on-1 with Basketball Insiders to explain how life in Philadelphia shaped the rest of his career.
Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and the next man in line to save the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his junior year at Ohio State University, Turner declared for the draft and eventually was taken directly after John Wall by the Sixers. Turner joined a team that won just 27 games the year before, but had more than a few promising young pieces.
Andre Iguodala, a former Sixers top-10 pick in his own right, was the oldest of the core bunch, at just 27. After him, the likes of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were all under the age of 24. All in all, adding a No. 2 pick to that mix looked to set up the Sixers for years to come.
For the most part, the beginning of Turner’s career was successful. After making the playoffs his rookie season and losing in the first round to the Miami HEAT four games to one, the Sixers pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2011-12 season.
Turner started 12 of those 13 playoff games during his second season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 points per game.
Just as Turner seemed to be coming into his own, though, the tides in Philadelphia began to turn, and turn quickly.
His third year in the league, and first year as a full-time starter, came and went for Turner. He posted decent numbers. His 13.6 points per game were second only to Holiday. He was third on the team in assists and sixth in rebounds. In the midst of his fourth season, while averaging a career-high 17.4 points, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Newly hired president of basketball operations, Sam Hinkie, had a plan in place that didn’t include Turner. It didn’t include Holiday either, as he was shipped off during the 2013 draft for Nerlens Noel and future first-round pick.
Just as the Sixers were becoming “his” team, Turner was sent packing to a new zip code. In his mind, he never got a fair shake at trying to the be the guy he was drafted to be in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to shoulder it, to tell you the truth,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t start my first two years, but numbers wise I thought I did well. Nobody averaged more than 13 or 14. We were a great unit. My third year, my first year starting, I thought I did pretty well for a first-year starter. We missed the playoffs, which is always tough. Within the next year, it got blown up.”
Turner reiterated that in his mind, he wasn’t allowed the leash to become a franchise guy. But it wasn’t all for naught in Philadelphia.
“Honest opinion, I don’t think I ever fully got the chance,” Turner said. “But I got the chance to do a lot of great things. Learn how to win, learn how to defend, learn how to prepare.”
Since leaving Philly, Turner’s role in the NBA has shifted from a potential franchise player to a serviceable role man on a playoff caliber team.
Last summer, Turner inked a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after his stint with Indiana, and then two years with the Boston Celtics. Beyond the years in Philly, Turner’s life in the Association has been kind to him.
“It’s been fine,” Turner said. “On the up and up, I was fortunate to make the playoffs every year since leaving Philly. I made the playoffs two out of three, or three out of the four years that I was here. It’s cool, it’s a blessing. Healthy, stable, and living the dream.”
On Wednesday night, Turner returned to Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center to square off against his old team. Nowadays, this version of the Sixers is much different than the one he left behind. A process that nearly began with jettisoning Turner to the Pacers feels near completion, and the energy Turner once felt on the court in a Sixers uniform is returning in full force.
When walking around the building, this time as a visitor, Turner takes appreciation in seeing some old faces. The guys “behind the scenes” as he put it, always are welcoming. Brett Brown, Turner’s former coach, never fails to show him love, and the arena in South Philly, Turner says, is always a great reminder of where he came from.
Turner thinks the process that was kicked off with getting rid of him and his core teammates is promising, though.
“It’s turning around,” Turner said. “Just off the first eye glance, I know Coach Brown can coach his butt off. Even the fact that they’re getting up a real practice facility says a lot. Obviously on the court, the energy. You see on tv before, it’s more sold out. When you see the Sixers sometimes it would be a joke, in regards to how many games they lost, or whatever. But now it’s kind of like you’re going to see some great highlights, you’re watching a lot of energy from the crowd and things. I’m happy for them. It seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine for Turner in Philadelphia; he would be reminded of that as he was greeted with boo’s from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time Wednesday night. The city of brotherly love has a reputation that doesn’t necessarily precede its name.
“Much is given, much is expected,” he said. “One thing is, when you get kind of labeled as whatever, you kind of get tagged for the most critical stuff. I saw how sometimes Iguodala would get blamed for everything, and then I kind of moved into that. I went from the cute little kid, to moving into that responsibility. Then MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) went from that position. It’s just kind of, you know, part of the game.”
The harshness of the city, and Turner’s situation particularly, helped guide him through his career after Philadelphia. In Turner’s words, “The only way to go from here, in a certain sense, is up.”
Portland’s sixth man has lived a long, lucrative life in the NBA, even if it didn’t go exactly how it was initially planned to. Turner was quick to point out that any time he heard someone complain during his travels around the league, at least they weren’t facing the wrath of Philadelphia.
“Going into new situations, people are like, ‘Hey they do this or they do that,’ and I’m like are y’all serious,” Turner said with a smile. “Go to Philly and see what they’ll do to y’all.”
Maybe his time spent in Philadelphia didn’t turn out the way fans had hoped, but Turner found out quickly there was a spot for him in the league as a former second overall pick, and that his career has gone just the way it was supposed to.
“I’m a firm believer in everything is supposed to happen how it’s supposed to happen,” Turner said. “Regardless of which, it’s a blessing.”
NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft
The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft
So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.