Jabari Parker Would Be Wise to Consider Returning to Duke for Next Season

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 01:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Syracuse Orange during the first half at the Carrier Dome on February 1, 2014 in Syracuse, New York.  Syracuse defeated Duke 91-89 in overtime.  (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Gerry Broome

Jabari Parker may be crazy like a fox.

The freshman phenom has always been assumed a lock for the 2014 NBA draft. He'd spend his compulsory season in college before making untold millions at the pro level.

According to ESPN's Chad Ford, that might not be the case. The NBA insider revealed in his most recent SportsNation chat that pro scouts are under the impression that Parker is considering a return to Durham, N.C. next season.

Regarding Parker and Kansas' Joel Embiid, he said:

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.

Ford went on to say that the Blue Devils star won't improve much with another year in college and that the biggest reason he'd stay at Duke is because he loves playing in college so much and wants to win a national title.

On the face of it, Parker would seem stupid to turn down guaranteed millions of dollars. Aside from the risk of a debilitating injury, he only needs to see what staying at Oklahoma State did for the perception of Marcus Smart and his draft stock this past season.

Both ESPN's Marcellus Wiley and Grantland's Michael Baumann were unequivocal in their stances on Parker:

When you think about all the factors involved, though, is it that a crazy idea?

OK, it probably is.

In the spirit of fairness, let's consider some of the positives of Parker returning to college.

Who's to begrudge somebody if they're happy playing in college? Sure, the 19-year-old can come back and get a degree at any time after he enters the NBA, but what he can't do is make up for lost eligibility. A college career is finite, and once you throw your name into the draft hat, there's no coming back.

Real life isn't like Necessary Roughness, in which Scott Bakula and Sinbad dropped their professional jobs and suited up for the Texas State Armadillos.

Maybe Parker really does love Duke so much so he's patient enough to put the pros on hold in order to spend one more year in Durham.

He did tell ESPN's Andy Katz that the second-round loss to Mercer may affect his pro decision, per SportsCenter:

Before we get too syrupy about how noble this would all be, also consider the more pragmatic aspect. Where would Parker's draft stock be one year from now?

As things stand currently, he's a lock for the top five, and it would be a shock for him to fall out of the top three. What he isn't is the consensus No. 1 overall pick.

That would seem to be Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. Some draft experts also believe his Jayhawks teammate Embiid could be the No. 2 pick.

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 22: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks talks with Joel Embiid #21 as they walk onto the floor after a timeout during the game against the Towson Tigers at Allen Fieldhouse on November 22, 2013 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If Parker stays until 2015, he's guaranteed to be the top pick in next year's draft. This year, he's stuck in one of the most stacked draft pools in recent memory.

Wiggins is one of the most coveted stars to come along in years, and people are talking about Embiid in the same breath as Hakeem Olajuwon.

Who are the projected top picks for 2015? Jahlil Okafor? Myles Turner? Emmanuel Mudiay? Maybe Wayne Selden and Caris LeVert gets thrown in there.

Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, Parker will have a stranglehold on the top spot of the NBA draft board in a year's time.

Basically, he can either head for the NBA now and make millions of dollars, or he can stay at Duke and possibly make more millions next year.

There isn't a wrong decision here, so no matter what Parker ultimately chooses to do, he wins.