Duke Basketball: Will Cavaliers Take Jabari Parker with NBA Draft's No. 1 Pick?

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

Duke's Jabari Parker (1) walks off the court after losing to Virginia in an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, March 16, 2014. Virginia won 72-63. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

As we approach the 2014 NBA draft, there is a foursome that has separated itself from the rest of the field. Duke’s Jabari Parker is very much a part of that group, along with Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum.

The question now from a Duke perspective is whether the Cleveland Cavaliers will pull the trigger on Parker with the No. 1 pick like they did with fellow Blue Devil Kyrie Irving. Of course, the fact that it is the Cavs who own the rights to the first pick for the third time in four years is incredible, especially when their 2014 odds are considered, via ESPN:

The general line of thinking is that Wiggins has the biggest upside in this draft, which means Cleveland may go that route. Wiggins’ ceiling is in the Kevin Durant and LeBron James range (remember, this is a ceiling we are talking about, not a prediction), but Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal notes that Parker is very much on Cleveland’s radar:

One glance at Parker’s statistics during his freshman season at Duke will tell part of the story as to why Parker is on the top of that draft board.

He averaged 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals a night behind 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. He can score from anywhere on the floor, but his post-up game is what makes him so appealing as a small forward with good size, because he will be able to score over some of the shorter defenders he faces next year.

What’s more, Parker was Duke’s best rebounder last season, has a high basketball IQ—which leads to smart shot selection—and is a solid ball-handler.

It is somewhat concerning that he only averaged 1.2 assists to his 2.3 turnovers a game though, considering how often he drew the majority of the defense’s focus. He should have been able to find open teammates a bit more consistently.

Still, Mike Krzyzewski had nothing but positive things to say about the young man, via Daniel Carp of The Chronicle: “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.”

A year under Coach K’s tutelage is certainly a contributing factor as to why Parker is seen as one of the most polished and NBA-ready talents in this draft class.

We still come back to that ceiling question, though, when discussing Cleveland’s top pick. Ideally, a No. 1 overall selection can be a franchise-changer, and there is reason to be concerned that Parker won’t exactly stand out on an NBA floor with a lack of explosiveness. His defense leaves something to be desired as well. 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

To be fair, Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated thinks the attention being paid toward Parker’s lack of athleticism has been a bit overblown:

Perhaps the bigger obstacle for Parker than a perceived lack of quickness in terms of going No. 1 is the fact that Cleveland needs help at center. Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com thinks that Embiid will be the selection because of that hole in the lineup:

The Cavaliers are one of the only teams that might consider taking Embiid over Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. The Cavaliers have a hole at center, and Embiid -- despite his back issues -- is just too big and too good to pass up. Pairing Embiid with point guard Kyrie Irving gives the Cavaliers one of the best young duos in the Eastern Conference to build around.

Between Embiid filling a need for Cleveland and the simple fact that Wiggins has the higher ceiling, it would be somewhat surprising if Parker went No. 1 to Cleveland. 

What would be a bigger surprise, though, is if he fell out of the top five. That simply isn’t going to happen.


Follow me on Twitter: