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Duke's Parker cooking up a solid case for No. 1 overall spot

The Case for Jabari Parker at No. 1

POSTED: Mar 12, 2014 1:26 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Jabari Parker of Duke played on the USA Junior Select Team in 2013.

The latest is that Jabari Parker now may be a one-and-done at Duke to pursue his true calling as a professional dessert maker, an update from Parker himself this week after he delivered his creation of Jabari Bars, ingredients unknown, to Krzyzewskiville squatters who made camp ahead of the North Carolina game.

So apparently Parker can bake, too. That's close to everything. Scoring, rebounding, defending college centers as a projected NBA small forward at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, handling the ball, an advanced feel for the game for a freshman as the son of Sonny Parker, a Warriors' swingman for six seasons in the late-1970s and early-1980s. And kitchen game, with the understanding that the same batch shows up in Chapel Hill and the claims of food poisoning are nonstop.

Parker is the most complete player expected to be in the 2014 NBA Draft, if he ends up choosing that whole millionaire-athlete thing over culinary school. He's the most capable of making an immediate impact in the pros, especially on offense. He is, in the end, a safer pick than Joel Embiid, or Dante Exum coming from Australia, or Andrew Wiggins off a wobbly freshman season, or Marcus Smart as a point guard who can't distribute or shoot, or Julius Randle, who has overblown Zach Randolph comparisons.

That's also the problem. The Chicago native, from the same high school as Derrick Rose, projects to having a long and successful career, but a lot of front offices see Exum and Kansas teammates Embiid and Wiggins as having more potential. Teams like the sure thing, but some also speak of star power at No. 1, not dependability.

"Of all the guys, you could put him in an NBA game right now," one executive said. "He's not going to be an [immediate] All-Star by any stretch, but you could put him in an NBA game right now. You could put Embiid in an NBA game right now, but it would not be as seamless as Parker. [Parker] can handle the ball, he can rebound, he's physical. Embiid, he's a work in progress. You seen the progression throughout the year, how [Embiid]'s gotten better. His footwork has gotten better, his offensive moves have gotten better. He seems like a tough kid. He's been playing through injury. But Parker, offensively he can play in the NBA right now.

"Defensively, Parker plays the five most of the time for Duke. He never guards anybody on the perimeter. Is that because he can't do it or they're not asking him to do it because they rely on him on the offensive end? But there's not the ceiling with Parker like there is with a guy like Embiid or Wiggins. That's why those guys may go higher, because you're betting that those guys' athleticism is going to make them better players down the road."

So Parker would be the safe pick.

"Yeah," the exec said. "That's about right."

Athleticism is the primary concern with Parker -- it is good enough, the NBA says, but not the kind of pop preferred from a small forward who ideally will be able to create his own shot, and certainly not at the level of fellow wing Wiggins. In the best sign of all for Parker, he has been mostly in the top three, and fourth at worst, in the consensus rankings since the start of the season, without much fluctuation.

That is the other steady look as he averages 18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 30.2 minutes while shooting 48.3 percent, only 73.1 percent at the line, the first 30 games, with tests of the ACC and NCAA tournaments coming soon. Plus the baked goods. Very solid.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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