NBA tank jobs beware: Jabari Parker may not be planning to help your cause.
Asked during a SportsNation chat what the latest on Parker's and Joel Embiid's draft statuses were, Ford revealed some potentially franchise-altering information:
Both are weighing their options. Both are seriously considering returning ... with Parker so much so that several scouts are claiming he's coming back to school. But I think that's premature. They have time. The deadline is April 27th to decide. However, if they declare after April 15th, there's no turning back. They'll lose their college eligibility.
Before uttering muffled versions of "uh oh," understand that nothing is official. Ford makes it clear that Parker has not reached a definitive decision yet, so a departure from Duke remains very much in play.
Still, it's difficult to ignore speculation entirely.
Well before his Blue Devils were upset by Mercer in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Parker, per the Associated Press (via ESPN's SportsCenter) indicated he wasn't sure if he would make the one-and-done NBA jump:
Expanding on those sentiments, Parker had the following to say, via the AP's Joedy McCreary:
If I feel like there are things I could improve on or things I left, like during the season, then I will probably come back.
Saying that I didn't give it my all and that I have regrets, that I have to come back because I owe this program so much. A deciding factor is where I'm going to grow the most, whether it's in the NBA or even in college, the learning experiences that I need as far as (growing as) a basketball player.
While Parker cites growth as a driving force in his decision, that was before Duke fell to Mercer. The taste of defeat and weight of failed expectations may still linger, especially after Parker's poor performance during that game.
Mercer's defense held him to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the floor, disallowing him from displaying the same NBA-ready offensive dominance that carried him through the regular season.
"I don’t know what I’m going to do," he said afterward, per the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein.
Imminent dollar signs say otherwise.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Parker going first overall in his latest mock draft. Passing up the fame and fortune that comes with merely going No. 1—or in the top three—would be unprecedented, not to mention seriously impacting the NBA draft picture.
Teams are planning on Parker leaving Duke. That's a fact. There wouldn't be so many blatant tank jobs if the 2014 draft class wasn't insanely deep. Parker is a big part of that depth.
If he returns to Duke, that significantly impacts the draft order, thereby ensuring more than one team realizes tanking was done in vain. Then there's the matter of next season. Additional tank jobs could be staged if Parker is to headline the 2015 draft class.
But that's getting ahead of the game.
Parker is still a top 2014 draft prospect—not 2015—until he personally says otherwise.