With the draft looming large and the Milwaukee Bucks having the best odds at obtaining this summer's top overall pick, it's a question worth asking:
Should they think twice about drafting Duke's Jabari Parker?
Early in the 2013-14 college season, the answer would have been an emphatic "no." As I wrote back in December, I felt the Bucks should, without question, draft Parker should they obtain the No. 1 pick.
By now, most know that Parker ended his one year of college basketball on a sour note. Duke lost its first game in the NCAA tournament to Mercer and, in that contest, Parker scored 14 points, hauled in seven rebounds and committed four turnovers while shooting just 28.5 percent from the floor.
One game doesn't take away from what otherwise was a great season, but some of his weaknesses were exposed.
Still, the Bucks shouldn't think twice about drafting him if he's on the board when they're on the clock.
Let's take a look at why.
It's no secret that the one area the Bucks need the most help is on the offensive end.
Despite slowing down the pace from 2012-13, the team still finished near the bottom of the league in shooting percentage and points per game.
Bringing in Parker would immediately help them improve upon a paltry 95.5 points per game and dreadful 43.8 field-goal percentage with his diverse offensive arsenal.
The freshman averaged 19.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent from three-point range. In ACC play, those numbers decreased slightly to 17.6 points on 45.3 percent shooting and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc. While his struggles were evident at times, on the whole, he had a stellar year.
And he'll only add to his already potent scoring ability.
Even though it was inconsistent, his jump shot is smooth. Parker has a quick first step and the ability to finish at the rack with the best of them.
Additionally, at 6'8", 235 pounds, he has a very solid and smooth back-to-the-basket game. It'll be more difficult for him to use that on bigger, stronger NBA opponents, but it definitely won't disappear from his game.
As the above video shows—and as announcer Jay Bilas proclaims in it—Parker can score in a variety of ways and is incredibly difficult to shut down.
Whether it's in the post, on the wing, from behind the three-point line or at the charity stripe, Parker can get it done—and that versatility as a scorer is incredibly valuable.
Even in Duke's tournament game against Mercer when he shot the ball poorly, he still managed to put up 14 points due to his ability to draw fouls and get to the line. A player who can do that when they're struggling in other areas will always produce, regardless of how he is shooting on a given night.
Simply put, Parker's offense makes him indispensable for a Bucks team that struggled offensively in 2013-14.
As a freshman, his leadership qualities probably didn't have as big of an impact as they will down the road.
But from a maturity standpoint, the 19-year-old Parker seems to be wise well beyond what's typical of most kids of the same age.
He is well-spoken, poised and never seems to say the wrong thing.
Last month, in his own words, Parker wrote an essay of sorts that appeared on SI.com explaining why he chose to enter the NBA draft:
I want to follow in my father's footsteps as a role model to youth, especially those kids who need the most help. My dad created the Sonny Parker Youth Foundation, which has helped countless boys -- including me -- develop into manhood and stay out of trouble.
I realize how much of a privilege and an honor it is to join the ranks of the NBA. I will do everything in my power to help deliver championships to the franchise that drafts me. At the same time, I recognize the obligation to represent the league in an admirable way off the court.
Up to this point I haven't given any thought to agents. But now that I've declared, I will turn my attention to the process of choosing someone to represent me. Money was not a factor in my decision to go pro. It won't be a factor in my choice of an agent. My number one criterion in choosing a college coach was an impeccable reputation for integrity. I'm looking for the same thing in an agent.
This past year at Duke has been a cherished chapter in my life. I'm very fortunate to have worn the blue and white. And I will always carry with me the memories of playing in front of the Crazies at Cameron. Now it's time to write the next chapter. I can't wait to get started.
Just based on this excerpt, it is clear that Parker knows both what he wants and how to handle life as a pro. That's rare for a player of his age.
Meanwhile, the Bucks have lacked a quality leader for quite some time.
On the current roster, there isn't a player who really stands out or who could lead the team in the right direction, now or in the future.
With his fiery personality, many may have believed Larry Sanders could be that guy. But with his rogue temperament and off-court issues, he has become an unlikely candidate.
Parker, seemingly, could slide right into that role and give the team a positive outlook moving forward. A lot of college players talk the talk, but not many live up those words. Parker, on the other hand, seems to back up his words with his actions.
Adding another mature, even-tempered individual to the roster would be only a positive for the franchise as it enters a new and exciting chapter.
Proximity To Home
Let's be honest: There are nicer climates and cities to play in than Milwaukee.
And while it's ignorant to believe places like New York, Los Angeles and Miami wouldn't be appealing to Parker once he hit free agency, staying close to home may be just as important to him, given his personality. Sure, once he's making the big bucks he can relocate his family anywhere, but that's easier said than done. Not everyone wants to uproot their lives and start somewhere new.
Being drafted by the Bucks would allow the Chicago native to be close to home throughout the entire year.
Given that the NBA can take its toll on youth, that's probably an important thing to take into account.
As Kevin Durant has shown, players can not only be happy in a small market, but they can also still profit from endorsements as well.
If the Bucks draft Parker, make a strong impression and make strides in the right direction, there's no telling what he may decide is best for him long-term.
Regardless, he seems more likely to give a small-market team a chance to win than the likes of Andrew Wiggins.
Ultimately, the Bucks can't go wrong with Parker, Wiggins or Joel Embiid—the three players who are often considered this draft's best—but the former Blue Devil is still the best fit for Milwaukee, even after some of his weaknesses were exposed late in the season.
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