Jabari Parker has decided to enter this year’s draft, as he writes on SI.com in a piece with Jeff Benedict. There was less clarity about Parker’s decision than with anyone else projected to go in the top half of the lottery, as the possibility of playing with AAU teammate and top 2015 prospect Jahlil Okafor at Duke next season tugged at his heart. Ultimately, Parker, the No. 2 prospect in the rankings of Chad Ford of ESPN.com and the third-best with Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, has opted to head to the NBA after his freshman year.
Parker says the decision came down to his conclusion that the NBA gives him the best opportunity for growth on and off the court, as he writes in the piece. He also acknowledges that he considered going on a two-year Mormon mission rather than playing basketball, but he’s chosen not to do that.
The combo forward averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game for Duke, which suffered an upset loss to Mercer in the NCAA tournament. Teams consider Parker and the Kansas duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid as the primary contenders for the No. 1 overall pick, though many prefer the greater upside that Wiggins and Embiid have, as our Charlie Adams noted when he examined Parker’s stock last month.
In any case, today’s news is a relief to teams with significant chances at one of the top two or three picks in the draft, as well as those farther down the lottery order, since the absence of Parker from the draft would further commoditize the other top prospects. Parker notes in his piece that he’s sent official paperwork to the NBA, and Wednesday was the final day that underclassmen could withdraw from the draft and still retain their college eligibility, so there’s finally clarity surrounding the top of the 2014 draft.