Jabari Parker spent one season at Duke before writing a lengthy letter declaring his intentions to forego his NCAA eligibility and declare for the NBA Draft. This was not a surprise, even though Parker seemed to be flirting with the idea of returning to school after Duke’s second-round loss to Mercer in the NCAA Tournament. Now, on the eve of the NBA Draft, the front office for the Cleveland Cavaliers is debating whether Jabari Parker should be their No. 1 draft pick.
Last year, Cleveland drafted Anthony Bennett first overall. This pick came as a surprise to many and Bennett solidified that speculation by averaging only 4.2 points per game as a rookie. This year, the Cavaliers want to redeem themselves from last year’s debacle.
Parker brought a sense of maturity to the Blue Devils last season that was unmatched by any of the other premier freshman in the county. While averaging 19 points per game, Parker played like a senior throughout the entire season by not taking plays off and leading the team by example. “He’s a mature kid. He’s a talented kid. He’s not somebody who is full of himself,” former Blue Devil Grant Hill stated about Parker. Although Hill mentioned he has a tough time remaining objective due to his Duke roots, he believes that Parker should be taken with the No. 1 pick.
While the front office has allegedly been pushing to bring in Parker, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert seems to be pushing for Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is a freakish athlete who became popular through acrobatic dunks and athletic ability. Last year, Wiggins and Parker squared off when Duke played Kansas in Chicago on Nov. 12. Kansas came out on top, but Parker stole the spotlight from Wiggins with a 27-point, nine-rebound performance while looking like the more complete player.
While Wiggins is undoubtedly a talented player and athlete, he is not the best fit for this Cavaliers roster. With young guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters still maturing, Cleveland needs to bring in a talented, consistent individual who already displays a high level of maturity. Sure, Wiggins is athletically superior to Parker. Nobody in their right mind would debate that. However, the skill level and maturity of Parker is unmatched by any one else in the 2014 draft.
If the Cavaliers are split on whether to choose Wiggins or Parker it could be because Parker did not help himself at last week's visit with the Cavaliers. Jeff Goodman reported that Parker worked out for Cleveland last Friday and it was a “disaster.” Parker appeared out of shape less than a week before the draft. He weighed 254 pounds — more than 10 pounds above his playing weight at Duke — with 11 percent body fat.
After last year’s draft, you can never be too sure what the Cavaliers are thinking. However, it is safe to say that the top draft pick is between Wiggins and Parker. For Cleveland, they need talent and maturity. Parker is the perfect fit.
Haynes is a Sporting News contributor. A former college basketball player, Haynes is a partner at the law firm of Haynes & De Paz, P.A. in Orlando, Florida. Follow him on Twitter at @bhaynes32 or email him at [email protected]