Why Jabari Parker Could Be the Biggest Lottery Steal in 2014 NBA Draft

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 27:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the hoop against Michael Young #2 of the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With a diverse treasure trove of talents at the top of the 2014 NBA draft, there's a decent chance Duke forward Jabari Parker will be passed over a couple of times before being picked.

Kansas' Joel Embiid is a rare prospect who's the likely favorite to go No. 1 if his back holds up, while Andrew Wiggins is an awe-inspiring athletic prodigy who is garnering top-pick consideration.

There are scenarios where they could end up as the top two and some clubs might try to trade up to get Dante Exum. Consequently, there's a real possibility that Parker could drop to third or fourth on draft night.

If that happens, what an incredibly valuable pick he would be.

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 14:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball against the Clemson Tigers during the quarterfinals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 14, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (P
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We can't blame teams for wanting studs like Wiggins, Embiid and Exum. If they reach their full potential, they would probably be better than Parker.

However, Parker is without a doubt the safest prospect in the entire class, as he's not nearly as risky from a development standpoint. If one or more of his aforementioned peers don't reach their ceiling, Parker may emerge as the best pick from the 2014 class.

With so many mock drafts placing Wiggins and Embiid at the top, it's important to remember that, talent-wise, Parker is No. 1 material and he would be a surefire No. 1 pick in almost any other draft.

His most recent workout showcases his polished ball-handling ability, quick footwork, smooth shooting and abundant athleticism.

Does this look like someone whose ceiling is drastically lower than Wiggins' or Embiid's?

Remember, Parker is just 19 years old and hasn't reached his top floor yet.

That workout is a nice refresher, but if you watched him closely during his freshman year at Duke, you know he is ready to get buckets in the NBA immediately.

He scored 19.3 points per game as a college freshman despite constantly being the focal point of opposing defenses. Parker connected on 47 percent of his field goals despite playing the 3, 4 and 5 offensively.

Most importantly, he showed the ability to carry his team, notching an impressive 17 20-point games.

Barely out of high school, Parker displayed dominant versatility at Duke. He proved he could drill step-back triples, work for position in the post and score with either hand. Perhaps most brilliantly, he exhibited smooth mid-range skills.

This dangerous repertoire will be put to good use in the NBA, where his team can utilize him on the wing and also sprinkle in some post-ups during favorable matchups.

Parker's diversified scoring attack has drawn high praise from Gary Parrish of CBS Sports:

His freshman campaign ended with a thud in the NCAA round of 68 against Mercer, but scouts are more focused on what his best nights look like.

In early March, he dropped 30 on North Carolinaand made it look easy. Parker executed drop steps, slashes, step-throughs and mid-post jumpers as if he was a collegiate veteran.

Watch how comfortable he is executing all these moves:

NBA eyes love his ball-handling skills, because he's going to give his coach a ton of flexibility to run different sets when he's on the floor.

Utah Jazz radio man David Locke explained that many defenses will mistakenly switch big men onto Parker during pick-and-rolls, giving the gifted forward a chance to burn them:

When Parker's not operating as a small forward on the wing, he'll be battling in the paint against combo forwards and 4s, much like All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

He'll run into some trouble against seven-footers and guys with crazy wingspans, but in most matchups, his size will be more than adequate to combat power forwards. When you pair his footwork and quickness with these measurements, you get a highly effective interior scorer.

The scary part is that he'll improve significantly once he enters the league. Parker is just getting started, and with his alpha-dog demeanor and willingness to improve, he'll be a pain for every opponent he faces.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Defensively, Parker didn't shine in college, but concerns on that end of the floor have been overblown. He looks lighter on his feet now than he did at Duke. In all likelihood, he'll put forth more effort than 'Melo on that end and be as good or better than Paul Pierce.

Even if he's a mediocre defender, his offense will be more than worth the pick.

All of this is not to say that Embiid and Wiggins aren't outstanding prospects. They are. Exum is also intriguing enough to draw interest from squads selecting in the top three or an outside club looking to trade up for him.

Out of 15 different mock drafts (12 gathered by NBA.com and three additional CBSSports.com mocks), nine projected Parker landing third overall.

So if two or even three players are indeed drafted ahead of Parker, the Philadelphia 76ers or Orlando Magic are in for a real treat.

They would have the unbelievable fortune of landing a No. 1-caliber player. Parker is not only the NBA-readiest player of the crop, there's still a chance he could wind up having the best career of anyone in this draft.


Follow Dan O'Brien on Twitter for more NBA Draft coverage: