Jan 20, 2014, 9:18 PM EDT
Andrew Wiggins hasn’t been quite as good as many hoped at Kansas, but that doesn’t significantly diminish the 2014 NBA Draft. This beauty of the upcoming draft – and the reason so many teams are tanking – is how strong and deep it is at the top.
The team with the NBA’s worst record gets just a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the lottery, hardly a safe proposition in a draft that features only one elite prospect. But this draft features several, meaning teams don’t need to combine tanking and lottery luck. Just tanking will do.
The NBA’s three worst teams will be guaranteed the option to pick at least one of Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Marcus Smart – that is if all six of those players declare for the draft, which is not a given.
And the growing view among NBA executives seems to be Jabari Parker will not leave Duke this year. Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, a Parker friend and big man, is going to Duke next season. Parker is a bright young man with a strong family and the feeling is he understands both the importance of education and feels he owes Duke and the chance to have a great Duke team, which more than likely is the next two seasons. Plus, Parker has seen what staying in school has done for other greats compared with the tough starts for even stars like Kobe Bryant.
First of all, Parker owes Duke nothing. In fact, Duke owes him a lot more than the scholarship it’s giving him. Elite basketball players like Parker generate so much money for their schools, and most of it goes to coaches, administrators and other people whose compensation is artificially inflated by the NCAA’s absurd amateurism rules.
That said, if Parker wants to stay at Duke another year for whatever reason, more power to him. That’s his choice, and outsiders shouldn’t tell him what’s right or wrong for him.
I don’t actually expect Parker to stay, though. That’s easy for him to believe now, while he’s cruising, averaging 19.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. But what if he suffers a minor injury? That might convince him to stop risking his future for little compensation. What about when Duke’s season ends? That might give Parker the sense of finality he needs to go pro.
Or maybe, without any additional impetus, Parker just realizes how much money is at stake. I don’t know whether the Kobe comparison came from Sam Smith or trickled down from Parker himself, but the example seems pretty ridiculous. Does anyone think Kobe regrets how his career turned out? By skipping college, Kobe accelerated the timeline for getting his second contract – when NBA players really cash in – and added an additional year(s) to the post-rookie-scale portion of his career. Though there are plenty of variables that would have been affected, Kobe skipping a year of college basketball probably added more than $20 million to his career salaries.
Many players in Parker’s position consider staying in school. Few actually do. The money is just too great.
Lastly, we’re hearing this third-hand at best. Perhaps, Parker told NBA executives who told Smith. More likely, there were more links in the chain and more possibilities for the message to get twisted.
It’s possible Parker stays at Duke another year. I still consider that unlikely.