As the NCAA tournament rapidly approaches, college basketball teams across the country are squeezing in their final practices and film sessions before the madness begins.
While the Mike Krzyzewskis and Tom Izzos of the world are doing that, NBA front offices are preparing to watch some of the best prospects in the world compete in what is essentially a high-pressure audition.
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The race to become the No. 1 pick in the draft is wide open, especially now that Kansas superstar Joel Embiid is dealing with a lingering back issue that may scare some teams off come draft day. That means Duke’s Jabari Parker has the opportunity to solidify himself as the next No. 1 pick with an impressive tournament.
Parker averaged 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals a game this season behind 47.8 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. He was named the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year for his efforts and has the Blue Devils as a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance.
Parker is so talented that he can overshadow someone like Rodney Hood, who may just be a lottery player himself. To his credit though, Hood has the right attitude about playing alongside Parker and completely understands his role, via Laura Keeley of The News & Observer:
The main thing is just letting the offense run through him. Me, I’m like a crutch. When they’re starting to load up on him, I’m an option to help him take over games. Down the court, we’re doing a better job of me or him, mostly him, touching the ball every single time down the court because he can create so much for other people and himself.
Parker’s incredible skill set has been well-documented at this point.
He can hit from behind the three-point line, slash past defenders off the dribble, finish at the rim through contact when he gets there and has developed a post-up game that has become more lethal as the year progresses. What’s more, he is a terrific rebounder and a solid defender.
Adam Kaufman of Boston.com has watched this skill set and has trouble believing any NBA team would pass on the chance to draft Parker:
It boggles my mind how there's even a chance Jabari Parker wouldn't go first in upcoming NBA draft. That said, I hope he slides to #Celtics!— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) March 16, 2014
Ryan Ward of Examiner and Lakers Nation agrees:
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the Lakers would be foolish to pass on Jabari Parker if available. Best player in the draft IMO…— Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner) March 18, 2014
The NCAA tournament is the perfect opportunity for Parker to provide answers for any lingering questions NBA executives may have about his merits as a potential No. 1 pick.
He has to be able to show that he can be a better facilitator. He is only averaging 1.2 assists per game, which is somewhat disappointing considering the fact that he is the focal point of almost every opposing defense. Parker should be able to open up more opportunities for his teammates when facing double-teams or increased defensive pressure.
Parker will also have to demonstrate that he can handle the pressures of the one-and-done tournament setting as the superstar.
The NBA playoffs are all about stars thriving in the biggest moments, as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal have demonstrated over the past 30 years, just to name a few.
If a team does use its No. 1 overall pick on Parker, it will want him to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come. For as much pressure as there is in the NCAA tournament, especially with the word Duke sprawled across your chest, there is even more in the NBA playoffs for the marquee players.
Will Jabari Parker be the No. 1 pick?
After all, legacies are shaped by postseason performances.
If Parker thrives under this pressure and turns in a number of impressive performances that lead the Blue Devils to the Final Four, he will further solidify himself as a potential No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
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