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NBA PM: Analyzing Jabari Parker’s Decision

Jabari Parker is expected to announce whether he is going to enter the NBA Draft tomorrow. We take a look at what he has to gain/lose.

Yannis Koutroupis

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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.

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.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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NBA Daily: Potential Free Agent Bargains

With the NBA’s free agency right around the corner, David Yapkowitz identifies some valuable players that could be had for a nice price.

David Yapkowitz

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The NBA Draft is in the rearview now which means free agency is right around the corner—this coming weekend, to be exact.

With seemingly few teams having money to spend, it might not shape up to be as crazy a free agency period as some believe.

Already, several players such as the Los Angeles Clippers’ Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic, the Denver Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler and the Atlanta Hawks’ Mike Muscala have chosen to exercise their player options rather than test the open market. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Carmelo Anthony will do the same.

With little money to go around, some free agents are going to have to settle for whatever is left. There might be a few guys who end up signing bargain contracts, and here’s a look at some players who could end up on that list.

Mike Scott – Atlanta Hawks – $1,471,382

One year ago, Mike Scott was recovering from multiple injuries and was seemingly on the borderline between being in and out of the NBA. He signed a one-year contract with the Washington Wizards last offseason and ended up having a resurgent year. He emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards bench that has been one of their weaknesses for some time.

He’s a stretch-four, a perfect fit for today’s NBA game. He put up career-high shooting numbers with 52.7 percent shooting from the field and 40.5 percent from the three-point line. He played well against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. He’ll fetch more than the minimum contract he signed last summer, but again, it’s a question about how much. Plenty of teams could use a versatile shooting big man with solid defense.

Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors – $1,471,382

Seemingly buried on the Golden State Warriors bench his first two years in the league, Kevon Looney broke out this season and proved he could be a valuable option in the rotation. To begin this season, he was even behind rookie Jordan Bell in the lineup. It wasn’t until Bell went down with a brief injury that Looney got his chance.

With today’s game increasingly moving away from positions and big men needed more of an all-around skill set to thrive, Looney is perfect. He’s shown an ability to guard multiple positions. He can finish well around the rim and he’s active on the glass. One area he could improve on is developing a consistent jump shot, but that’s something that can come with time. Depending on what the Warriors decide to do with JaVale McGee and David West, Looney might be squeezed out from the team. He’s sure to attract interest though around the league.

Jerami Grant – Oklahoma City Thunder – $1,524,305

When he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers four years ago, Jerami Grant immediately became a solid rotation player. He continued his strong play after coming over to the Thunder in a trade about two years ago. His numbers may not jump off the stat sheet (8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds), but he does a lot of little things that bring value to a team.

In today’s NBA, he’s able to play multiple positions both offensively and defensively. He didn’t shoot so well from beyond the arc this season (29.1 percent), but the year before he connected on 37.1 percent of this three-point attempts. He has that ability to spread the floor. He made $1,524,305 this past season and he most definitely is in line for a bigger payday. How much bigger though is the question. His versatility would be a boost to any team.

Will Barton – Denver Nuggets – $3,533,333

Heading into free agency, Will Barton had the best season of his career. He put up 15.6 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting from the field, 37 percent from the three-point line and 4.1 assists, all career-highs. He was a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award but he also proved that he could start as well. Known for being a scorer most of his career, he really developed into more of a playmaker this season.

Barton would be an asset to any team looking to add some wing firepower and playmaking to their rotation. Close to the end of the season with the Nuggets making a playoff push, Barton was thrust into the starting lineup for the final 13 games. During that stretch, he put up 19.2 points while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. He’s proved himself worthy of getting paid, it just remains to be seen what those offers might look like.

Isaiah Thomas – Los Angeles Lakers – $6,261,395

A little over a year ago, Isaiah Thomas was the face of the Boston Celtics and a legit MVP candidate. The Celtics were then swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it was revealed that Thomas had an injury that required surgery. After being dealt to the Cavaliers last offseason, he never really was able to fit in with the team and they jettisoned him off to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline.

He looked a bit more comfortable with the Lakers but ended up having to shut it down in late March due to lingering injury issues. He once was on the threshold of receiving a max contract, but that doesn’t appear to be so anymore. There’s no question about his value to a team if healthy. He did average 15.6 points and 5.0 assists in 17 games with the Lakers. It’s possible he opts for a one year deal to prove he’s healthy and then test free agency again next summer. In any case, provided his injuries are behind him, he could be a free agent steal.

It will be interesting to see how the free agent landscape unfolds money wise. The players on the list can all be capable contributors to a playoff contender. It just seems like most of the teams with cap room this summer are teams in the midst of rebuilding. These guys could wind up being contract bargains for a contender off the bench.

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NBA Daily: Kevin Knox and Kristaps Porzingis Already Have One Thing In Common

Kevin Knox’s experience on draft night was eerily similar to that of Kristaps Porzingis.

Moke Hamilton

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Michael Porter, Jr. might be the next Kevin Durant, but he could just as easily be the next Greg Oden.

And if you’re searching for comfort in the wake of the decision of the Knicks to pass on the opportunity to draft the young man who was widely regarded as being the top prospect in the class of 2018, it is pretty easy to find in the fact that of all people, Jerry West decided that Porter wasn’t worth the risk, either.

While Porter might end up being a Hall of Famer, when it comes to drafting prospects, we might as well be shooting in the dark. We all knew that Markelle Fultz was the best option for the Sixers in last year’s draft, and 12 other teams clearly had no idea what Donovan Mitchell had in store for the league.

Heck, two years ago, as I was recently reminded by someone on Twitter, I predicted that the Knicks would select Emmanuel Mudiay with their fourth pick. Instead, they walked away with Kristaps Porzingis.

If I were the man making the call back then, with the information I had, I certainly would have drafted Mudiay. And you know what? That decision probably would have gotten me fired, and rightfully so.

The true moral of the story is that we simply can’t see into the future and all the analytics in the world won’t able to measure things like guts and heart. So as the Knicks pin their hopes on Kevin Knox, it truly will be interesting to see how the career arcs of he and Porter compare.

As for why we would single out the Knicks and make the franchise’s decision to draft Knox over him a personal one, quite a few people in the know relayed the same information on the Knicks and Porter going back to their date at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May—they loved each other.

Thereafter, there were reports that the Knicks were looking to move up in the draft, and Porter was on their minds. On Thursday night in Barclays Center, with the Knicks on the clock, their fans in attendance cheered for Porter, as they were hopeful that he would be selected to be the franchise’s next stud.

They were disappointed, and now, they’ll hope that Scott Perry’s decision to go with Knox ends up being the right one. It might be, just like Porzingis was the right pick over Mudiay, and it might not be, just like selecting Frank Ntilikina over Mitchell wasn’t.

Like it or not, though, the two young men will forever be linked, both in my mind and in the minds of plenty of other Knicks fans.

“That’s just motivation,” Knox said of the Knicks fans in attendance chanting Porter’s name.

“A lot of people want him to get to the Knicks, but I mean, it’s all good with me. I’m ready to get to work. I’m ready to get to work and ready to prove people in Summer League and prove people in the NBA.”

Knox’s experience on draft night was remarkably similar to that of Porzingis, and now, if you even so much as suggest trading the Latvian unicorn for a player such as Kyrie Irving, Knicks fans just might call for your head.

It’s strange how quickly things can change for you in New York City. At the end of the day, it comes down to working hard and earning the adoration of the faithful in Gotham City. Porzingis succeeded there, and there’s every reason to believe that Knox will, as well.

“They booed Porzingis (on draft night) and look where he is now,” the rookie remarked.

“They can chant Michael Porter all they want, but they got Kevin Knox, and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to get better.”

When asked, Knox would tell you that he and Jayson Tatum happen to have something in common. According to him, neither of the two really got an opportunity to show what they could do at the collegiate level.

With more opportunities and more repetitions, the sky truly is the limit for the 18-year-old.

“I think I can pretty much play all around the floor,” Knox said.

“I can handle the ball, pick-and-roll situations, make plays, make passes. I can stretch the floor, shoot the ball, get rebounds, push it coast to coast. So I think that versatility in the league is something that a lot of teams really need, and I think that’s something I can bring to the Knicks right now.”

Privately, to members of the Knicks organization, Knox has spoken highly of the spotlight that he’s bound to face in New York and believes that playing at Kentucky helped to prepare him for the type of demanding environment that he’ll be introduced to once the season gets underway in New York. And even without a bad back, the crushing expectations and heavy burden could cause a weaker minded player to crumble.

A FaceTime call with Porzingis on draft night went a long way toward giving the rookie the confidence that he’ll need to thrive in New York.

That the franchise’s pride and joy immediately reached out to his new running mate to congratulate him, welcome him to the team and give him some insight is a good sign. At the very least, it shows that Porzingis takes his responsibility as being the team’s lead man seriously.

At most, it could signal K.P.’s being pleased with the selection.

We’re about to embark upon the story of Kevin Knox. We’ve only seen the preamble.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t know how the final chapter will end based on what you’ve read in the first chapter. So no, the Knicks fans that wanted Michael Porter on their squad didn’t get their wish, but in the long run, they may end up being better for it.

Just like Kristaps Porzingis, Knox wasn’t received warmly by Knicks fans on draft night.

Hopefully, for the rookie, it’s not the last thing he and the beloved Porzingis will have in common.

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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