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.