We’re still a full two months and change away from the 2014 NBA draft. But that doesn’t mean the narrative horse-trading hasn’t already started gearing up.
Today’s installment: an “Insider” report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (subscription required) citing a poll of 30 NBA executives wherein Duke’s Jabari Parker, who officially declared himself draft-eligible last week, was selected as the top overall prospect.
It's almost assumed these days that the top overall pick in the NBA draft will come out of the Kansas program, whether it's Andrew Wiggins or freshman teammate Joel Embiid. However, in an ESPN poll of 30 NBA executives, it was Duke's Jabari Parker who racked up more votes than both Wiggins and Embiid. Wiggins entered the season as the consensus favorite to be the first to shake new commissioner Adam Silver's hand on June 26 at the NBA draft.
Now, Parker has seen his name astride more top-five lists than The Rolling Stones, so this shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise.
And while Parker hasn’t been No. 1 on too many official lists as of late, the Duke prodigy is listed at No. 3 on Bleacher Report’s most recent mock draft, to take just one example.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind the nature of the poll. Presumably, the 30 voters in question run the organizational gamut from lottery regulars to more upper-echelon franchises.
If you’re, say, a scout with the San Antonio Spurs, who’s going to appeal more to you: A high-upside, high-risk project like Wiggins or Embiid, or an equally youthful but eminently more refined player like Parker?
In a recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman on Parker’s potential as a No. 1 pick, one NBA scout (per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com) put it best, saying, "He's the safest pick in this draft. There may be others with more potential, but if you're talking about a guy who can come in, help you from day one, Jabari's your guy."
For his part, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's statement on Parker declaring for the draft couldn't have been more unequivocal in its blessings, per Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports:
Jabari could not have been better. He is the epitome of what you would want a basketball player to be – outstanding everyday on the practice court and in the classroom and a very humble young man... It was an honor for us to have him in our program and he will always be a part of our family here at Duke. We will be on the Jabari Parker team the rest of our lives and we know Jabari and his family will be on the Duke team for the rest of their lives.
Even if this year’s draft doesn’t boast the same landscape-altering talent as 2003 or 1996, the across-the-board positional depth makes it one of the more intriguing classes in recent memory.
It’ll be interesting to see whether this latest poll will help Parker’s stock—propelling him, perhaps, all the way up to No. 1—or if it will ultimately prove a meaningless anomaly.