The Duke Blue Devils finished the 2013-14 season in disappointing fashion with a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.
Freshman forward Jabari Parker is now on the verge of selecting where he will play basketball next season. Will it be back with the Blue Devils, or in the NBA? Parker told ESPN's SportsNation, in the video below, that he has not yet made a decision but would by this coming Tuesday or Wednesday:
While Parker is weighing his options, let us weigh them for ourselves.
Why Jabari Should Stay at Duke
One big reason Parker might stick around is for the sake of furthering his education. Parker had a GPA of 3.7 while in high school, and he seems to value education a great deal.
According to an article by John P. Huston in the Chicago Tribune, while Parker was a junior in high school he was selected to be a guest speaker at St. Sabina Academy’s eighth-grade commencement ceremony.
"If you lean on your books and your education, it will take you so much farther than basketball,” Parker said. “Basketball is going to be short. It's seldom that many people end up in good situations after their career has passed if they don't have an education."
Parker has carried his academic focus from high school to college as well. Jeff Benedict of Sport Illustrated wrote, “Determined to keep his grades up, he chooses not to date or go to parties. Movies are his main escape, whether downloading half a dozen each week or going to the theater with his roommate.”
Another reason to stay is because of his game.
Now I am not saying that he is not NBA-ready, but his game could use some fine-tuning. There were times when Parker was dealt with a fair matchup, and his scoring struggled because of this. Even in Parker’s breakout performance against Kansas in the beginning of the season, once Kansas’ freshman star, Andrew Wiggins, began to guard Parker, he began to shoot much worse than he had in the first half.
There were also long spans of time where Parker’s play would not be up to par for him. From Duke’s matchup against Elon until their loss against Syracuse over one month later, Parker was not shooting very well. He scored a total of 144 points during that 10-game span and shot an average of 35.3 percent from the field.
He began to pick it back up for a while until the last two games of the season, the two biggest games of the season. In the ACC Championship and their one playoff game, Parker had a shooting percentage of just 34.2 percent.
Although Parker has the potential to be a top pick in the draft this year, that does not imply learning at a lower level would not still benefit him. This is his last opportunity to fine-tune his game before he faces a tough matchup every night in the NBA.
Why Jabari Parker Should Go to the NBA
The biggest reason to leave, and I am sure most people would agree, is the almighty dollar sign.
If Parker stays another season and for some reason is a much worse player, it could prove costly. He could suffer an injury, something Parker is already familiar with. These things could greatly affect not only his future as a player, but his future financially.
Most would say that if Parker were to declare for the draft, he will be one of the top two picks. For the sake of not scaling this in favor of the argument, let’s say he is selected second. According to Real GM’s Rookie Scale, Parker would make well over $12 million in his first three seasons as the No. 2 overall pick this season. This is not including the endorsement deals that would line up for Parker.
Now if Parker were to hold off from the NBA and have a miserable sophomore season at Duke, let’s say he still makes it in the NBA, but this time it is at pick 10. Parker would then make just over $6 million. This is half of the money only eight picks apart.
A talent like Parker would likely never drop that low, but if you care about your money, why risk it?
Another reason Parker should go pro is because he is ready to, physically. If a player is a consensus top NBA prospect, then there is not much reason to hold him in college to play with lesser talent. If you want to learn how to be a better professional, you must first become a professional.
Following the tough streak Parker had, he bounced back very well. In his final nine games of the regular season, Parker averaged over 20 points, 11 rebounds and held a field-goal percentage of 56 percent. It was appearing more and more clear that Parker has what it takes to make the next jump in his career.
ESPN’s Jay Williams interviewed Parker in December and asked him if he hopes to be the most versatile player in the 2014 NBA draft. Parker replied, “I hope so. With development, with listening skills, with the staff, I think I could reach that level.”
This showed his determination to develop into the best player in the 2014 NBA draft.
I believe Parker is going to return to Duke University for his sophomore year and his second season with the Blue Devils.
One important part of this entire thing for Parker was to be able to leave a legacy. Upon losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Parker was asked if this game would play a role in his decision. Parker said that it would and that it is “incomplete.”
If Parker stays at Duke, he will have a great opportunity to make a run for a national championship. He will be another year seasoned, and Duke also signed two of the top five players in next year’s class, including the nation’s No. 1 high school player, Jahlil Okafor.
After doing some homework on Parker, you just get the feeling that he looks for much more out of life than money and basketball. The risk is not as high as some would make it seem for Parker to wait another year or maybe even two if Parker went on a fast track to earn his diploma.
This may be the time for Parker to take his own advice that he provided those eighth-grade students with: “Lean on your books and your education, it will take you so much farther than basketball.”