How Duke's Upset Loss in NCAA Tourney Could Affect Jabari Parker's Draft Status

Micky Shaked@@mickyshakedContributor IIIMarch 22, 2014

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during their final minutes of their loss to the Virginia Cavaliers in the finals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Day 2 of the NCAA tournament has plenty of basketball still to play, and Warren Buffett's billions already appear to be safe.

Duke falling, 78-71, to Mercer in the tournament's biggest upset to date left only 16 perfect brackets in the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.

The upset also left Jabari Parker's future in serious doubt, which could have the Utah Jazz fist pumping their way to the NBA draft.

Jabari Parker tells @ESPNAndyKatz that his career is incomplete, and that could affect decision on whether to return for sophomore season.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2014

Parker had a rough night, shooting 4-of-14 for 14 points. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski played him just 28 minutes, opting to go with Amile Jefferson for defensive purposes.

The ACC Freshman of the Year still averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in guiding Duke to a 26-9 record. He is absolutely the real deal when it comes to college players. But with a potentially top-heavy draft class and some really terrible NBA teams salivating over the lottery, the slightest blip could shake up how things go on June 26.

There are several factors at play here. Does Parker return to Duke to "complete" his career? For the Win's Sean Highkin finds this highly unlikely:

It’s hard to think of the last prospect as highly regarded as Parker who didn’t jump to the NBA the first chance he got. Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger each stayed an extra year, and while both of them were projected to be high lottery picks, there’s a difference between projected high lottery picks and appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 touted as the future of basketball.

That would make this entire point moot (but don't stop reading, please). And if he does indeed return (unlikely), and Duke repeats a disappointing NCAA tournament (really unlikely), does he try again?

Will Joel Embiid follow Andrew Wiggins into the draft?

Can any mid-lottery picks play their way into top-five status over the next two weeks?

Let's be as clear as Stephen A. Smith: Parker's display on Friday won't cause him to "fall." He could suffer a similar fate to Kansas' Ben McLemore last year, when a poor tournament and bad workouts dropped him to the seventh pick. Interestingly, McLemore likely suffered further from the Jayhawks actually winning tournament games in spite of his struggles because it gave him more opportunities to play poorly. But Parker is too polished to slip that far.

No, Parker's shortened tournament won't have rattled pro scouts, but he certainly didn't do himself any favors. Wiggins still has the opportunity to gain the upper hand. He started by scoring 19 points to help Kansas avoid Duke's fate.

To this point, there is no clear consensus No. 1 prospect—no LeBron James or Anthony Davis—which means there should be plenty of shuffling among the top three or four picks.

And we haven't even hit the lottery yet. Depending on how the pingpong balls drop, Parker could be shuffled to the back of the elite prospect pack.

Milwaukee has the best odds to win the lottery, and the team has holes everywhere in the lineup. According to Behind the Buck Pass editor Justin Becker, anyone's guess about who the Bucks will draft is good:

They don’t really have any veterans that they could build around, so they are basically stuck on grabbing all the young prospects while they can. No matter who they pick in the draft, they will be looking for someone that can come into the NBA and be ready to play big minutes right away.

If Embiid declares, there's reason to believe Milwaukee could abandon the "Larry Sanders experiment."

ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required) seems to believe Philadelphia, with the next-best odds to pick first, has its eyes set on Wiggins:

In the midst of a 20-game losing streak, the Sixers have had Wiggins atop their board all year and believe he'd be the perfect complement to Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Thaddeus Young. The athleticism on that team would be crazy.

Dante Exum provides an interesting caveat. He's done everything in his power to this point to join Kobe Bryant.

Report: NBA general manager concerned Dante Exum will force his way to Lakers

— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) February 27, 2014

But if Orlando can't get its hands on Wiggins, the Australian point guard could finally put an end to the Jameer Nelson era. Ford could also see the Magic drafting Marcus Smart and officially handing the offense to Victor Oladipo.

Don't forget Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.

All of the dominos could fall Utah's way, allowing Parker to fall squarely into its lap. But John Hollinger's NBA playoff odds have the Lakers finishing fifth, one spot ahead of the Jazz. If Exum is off the board, Parker would be the most NBA-ready piece to fit alongside Bryant, ending Utah's dream scenario.

A lot can change during workouts and interviews, but with no more opportunities to see Parker play high-pressure games, the first few teams on the clock could easily take a pass. Which would be terrible.


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