The day after the Utah Jazz finished the 2013-14 regular season on Wednesday, April 16 tied with the Boston Celtics for the fourth-worst record, Duke freshman Jabari Parker finally made public his decision to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
Parker announced his intentions in the most unique way. He wrote a 1,300 word essay and had it published on Thursday, April 17 in Sports Illustrated.
In a day and age when college athletes hold elaborate press conferences to announce they are leaving for the pros, Parker did something unheard of. He was humble, and even forthright. He told the truth about everything in his life.
He talked about his family, his religion, about his financial standing, about his future at Duke and most importantly, about himself and how he felt after losing that game to Mercer in the NCAA Tournament. He gave us a peek into the frightened 19-year-old he was -- and into the man he was about to become.
That alone should impress every NBA team, scout and person to consider him as the No. 1 pick in the draft. Did Andrew Wiggins do that? No, sadly, no college athlete has ever written a 1,300-word essay to announce they’re turning pro.
Parker is the first, and hopefully not the last college athlete to do this. His conviction is precisely the reason the Jazz should draft him -- if they are afforded the opportunity to do so.
Here is the bad news. The win over Minnesota gives Utah -- and the Celtics -- each a 10 percent chance of getting the first pick at the 2014 NBA Draft. Winning that one game over Minnesota reduced the Jazz’ odds of drawing the top pick by about 1.5 percent.
Now the good news. Parker is currently going No. 3 to Orlando in the latest mock draft scenario. In addition to having a 10 percent chance of getting the first pick the Jazz also have a 33 percent chance of getting a top-three pick -- presumably high enough to select Parker. Here are five reasons the Jazz should select him instead of Andrew Wiggins.
After losing such a heartbreaking game to upstart Mercer, Parker admitted he had to reflect on what had just happened and what was to come. He blamed himself and admitted he was “incredibly disappointed” in the outcome.
But what really should strike you is that he’s not any different from any other athlete who deals with defeat. After a few days away, he “laced” his shoes and went back to the gym.
Nowhere in his 1,300 word essay do you get the impression that Parker thinks he’s bigger than the Duke program.
That's precisely the impression that Andrew Wiggins gave before he arrived at Kansas, during his time there and when he said goodbye.
Quite the contrary, in fact. Parker added Duke coach Mike Kryzszewski will “always be my coach.”
Wiggins seemed to take plays off and days off at Kansas, while Parker went all-out, full-bore, in every game. Everyone knows Parker needs work on his defense and he‘s a bit bulky and un-athletic.
At least he’s willing to learn how to be more adept on his feet -- and his essay proves as much. If you’re willing to put in the work in the NBA, that’s half the battle.
Parker is another in a long line of big man draft prospects this year who are just as adept at handling the basketball as they are in going to the rim.
He rarely, if ever, turns the ball over and also possesses the ability to shoot from long range, hitting on 35 percent of his three-point attempts at Duke. He also has a nice pull-up jumper in his game that should translate well to the NBA.
Where Parker really separates himself from Wiggins is in his ability to secure rebounds and his size.
While he doesn’t possess the lateral foot speed needed to defend as well as Wiggins, he is big enough to bang inside with his NBA-ready body right now and get double-doubles every night.
Wiggins is still a ways off from doing what Parker can do now -- and it’s why the Jazz could use Jabari right away.