After much deliberation, Duke University standout Jabari Parker—one of the most highly touted NBA prospects—announced his decision to declare for the 2014 draft. A variety of teams bound for the lottery would love to add his talents for the 2014-15 season, but only one can make that a reality by selecting him.
Chances are that team will have to be on the board within the first three picks to do so.
Parker said the following of his jump to the pros, according to a Sports Illustrated article:
Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions:
Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player?
Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court?
The answer to both questions in undeniably the NBA.
His decision was likely made more difficult by a first-round NCAA tournament loss against Mercer, in which Parker finished with 14 points on a disappointing 4-of-14 shooting performance.
Despite the sour ending, the 6’8” small forward had a phenomenal season. He averaged 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He won the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year award for his efforts.
Parker can impact the game by crashing the glass, attacking the basket, getting to the free-throw line and knocking down three-pointers—he drained 35.8 percent of his attempts from downtown during his freshman year.
So what NBA cellar dweller needs that array of skills the most?
Los Angeles Lakers
With sole possession of the league’s sixth-worst record, the Los Angeles Lakers are an admitted long shot to land the dynamic former Blue Devil. They’ll need plenty of help from the Ping-Pong balls on May 20, but history has shown us that the basketball gods tend to favor L.A.
With Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash—who will be 36 and 40 years old, respectively, in 2014-15—set to earn more than $33.2 million next season, the Lakers desperately need to get younger. Luckily for them, they actually have a first-round pick in 2014 (looking at you, James Dolan).
Adding someone as talented as Parker would be a tremendous first step, in terms of helping to usher in the post-Kobe era. Perhaps more importantly, however, the 19-year-old could take some of the offensive pressure off of Bryant—who has battled two serious injuries in less than a year’s time—in the short term, while also learning from a bona fide legend of the sport.
He said the following of potentially landing in Los Angeles, per Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters via Twitter:
Much has been made of Australian prospect Dante Exum’s interest in joining the Lakers. Although L.A. appears to be his dream destination, he may not be able to earn as many minutes in that situation, provided that he’ll be a combo guard behind Bryant on the depth chart.
Truthfully, the Lakers couldn’t go wrong with either guy—but picking sixth in the draft would likely mean missing out on both talents.
It’s incongruous to find another one of the NBA’s most storied franchises toiling in the league’s basement, but that’s the state of affairs right now for the Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Asking a guy like Parker to fill the shoes of someone like “The Truth” isn’t entirely fair. However, with the ability to score below and beyond the three-point arc, rebound and catch defenders off guard with sneaky athletic ability, Mike Krzyzewski's diaper dandy actually fits NBA comparisons to Pierce.
B/R’s own Jonathan Wasserman agrees, also pegging an NBA comparison to 2013’s scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony.
“With a polished scoring repertoire consisting of everything from pull-up and step-back jumpers to fadeaways in the post, Parker demonstrated his ability as a go-to scoring option,” Wasserman wrote. “And with that 6’8”, 235-pound frame and deceptive athleticism, he’s shown he can play inside or out.”
Rondo still managed to dish out 9.8 assists per game in 2013-14 despite being surrounded by a lackluster supporting cast. Getting to dish dimes off to Parker next season would be a huge boost for Rondo’s morale and Brad Stevens’ rotation.
Milwaukee Bucks/Philadelphia 76ers/Orlando Magic
What truly needs to be said about the NBA’s three worst teams?
The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic are not even close to competing for a championship. In fact, only the Magic may be able to achieve a playoff-bound turnaround in 2014-15, because the Bucks and Sixers are completely out of sorts.
All three of these organizations desperately need the No. 1 overall pick (or close to it). However, even Milwaukee only has a 25 percent chance to land that opportunity. The freshly sold Bucks can’t drop any lower than fourth in the lottery, but that may cause them to miss out on both Parker and Andrew Wiggins—the consensus No. 1 overall pick, according to a mock draft by CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Zach Harper and Matt Moore.
Offense will be in high demand for these squads moving forward, as their rankings in offensive efficiency clearly dictate:
The bottom-feeders that finished a combined 57-189 pretty much inarguably need Parker the most, but he would be a better fit in a more promising situation.
The lowly Utah Jazz need a lot of help. Granted, the franchise is actually in a solid state of affairs, thanks to a plethora of young talents and a collection of expiring contracts, but gone are the days when Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer and John Stockton/Karl Malone pick-and-rolls dazzled the fan base.
Utah is looking to climb back to relevance in the loaded Western Conference, and small forward is undoubtedly its position of need.
Rookie point guard Trey Burke showed flashes of big-time potential—mainly in Game 82 against the Minnesota Timberwolves when he notched 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Gordon Hayward struggled from the standpoint of scoring efficiency after becoming the go-to guy and No. 1 option. He shot 41.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from the three-point line—both career lows—but he still managed to average career highs of 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.
The 24-year-old became the first player in Jazz history to record a 16-5-5 season since “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
The Jazz also have young and promising big men by way of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert, so rounding out that frontcourt with a guy like Parker—to replace washed up veterans Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams—is the most ideal outcome.
Parker would instantly become a go-to scoring option who could alleviate pressures from Hayward—who was hounded by opposing defenses all year long due to a lack of other viable scoring threats.
The Jazz finished 25th in offensive efficiency by scoring 100.6 points per 100 possessions; the league’s fourth-worst team from a record standpoint—tied with the Celtics at 25-57—also wound up 23rd in rebounding at 41.2 per game, per ESPN.
Parker is a perfect fit for this franchise as an alpha dog scorer who can rebound and bring significance back to an ailing organization. A young starting five of Burke, Hayward (if he's re-signed), Parker, Favors and Kanter would be very fun to watch develop together. Luck, however, needs to be on Utah’s side.
Utah has a 10.4 percent chance to win the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Hopping into the top three would give them a shot at drafting Parker, but Jazz fans need to have their good luck charms out when the lottery commences.