NEW YORK – While its tough to tell if it's a preference or truly conceding, former Duke forward Jabari Parker expects to be the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
Parker said the Milwaukee Bucks have promised they would select him with the second overall pick Thursday if he is still available. A source told Yahoo Sports that the Bucks like Parker a lot, but have not made him a promise.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick, but Parker said they haven't shown any indication that they would select him.
"I have some comfort level with [the Bucks], especially with them just telling me … 'We want you,' " Parker said at a pre-draft media session Wednesday. "I didn't get any real answer from the Cavs. I'm just going with what I'm certain with."
Parker's words give the expectation that former Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins would be the No. 1 selection. However, a source said the Cavs are still undecided as of Wednesday afternoon on whom it would take at No. 1. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that a potential deal between Cleveland and the Minnesota Timberwolves involving Kevin Love and the No. 1 pick has sputtered. Another source told Yahoo Sports that the Cavs have offered Australian point guard Dante Exum a private jet for a workout in Cleveland. It's uncertain whether Exum will work out for the team.
When asked about Parker's words, Wiggins hesitated before saying, "I haven't heard anything. [Being selected No. 1] would be like a dream come true."
Could Parker, a Chicago native, just prefer to be closer to home? Chicago is only about a 90-minute drive from Milwaukee. He said he is not opposed to going to Cleveland; it's a short plane ride from Chicago and he would enjoy playing with former Duke guard Kyrie Irving.
"It would be a great opportunity, too," Parker said of Cleveland. "Anywhere that I'm going, I'm going there for a reason. If they're going to pick me than I'm probably going to go on that stage and accept that hat."
Parker also scoffed at a report that he tanked a workout in Cleveland, stating that his family values and Duke pride would never allow him to do that. A source has said Parker showed well-rounded skills in a good workout in Cleveland, but struggled at times with his jump shot and needed to get in better shape.
"I've been dealing with [negativity] my entire life," Parker said. "People have been giving me negative approaches about my weight, but I don't have any problem with the way I am."
If Wiggins is indeed selected No. 1 overall, he would be the second straight Canadian selected first. Cleveland selected Nevada Las Vegas forward Anthony Bennett, a native of Brampton, Ontario, a year ago. Wiggins said that being selected No. 1 would not only mean a lot to him, but to Canada as well.
"That's more of the competitive side just me wanting to be above everybody else, not wanting anyone to go ahead of me," Wiggins said. "I still want to go [No.] 1."
While Parker and Wiggins are expected to be taken with the top two picks, several sources believe that injured former Kansas center Joel Embiid or Exum are expected to be the next two selections by the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic, respectively. Former Indiana forward Noah Vonleh could round out the top five, a source said.
Embiid is expected to be out four to six months after having foot surgery last week and also has a serious back issue. One NBA scout said that if Embiid was totally healthy, he is the only player in this draft that could end up being a top 10 player in the league.
"[Embiid] is still going to be the player he is, dominant, blocking shots, dunking on people," Wiggins said.
However, an NBA executive with a top 10 pick said of Embiid's injury, "It is a concern."
Aside from Embiid, Exum is the draft's biggest mystery, as he has not played on American soil since the 2003 Hoop Summit. He last played in a game on Aug. 18 for Australia in the Oceania Championships scoring two points in six minutes against New Zealand. Exum turned down an opportunity to play for Kentucky last season and doesn't believe his draft stock was affected by not playing for an American college last year. He's worked out for the Bucks, Sixers and Magic.
"I didn't understand at first about being the mystery guy," Exum said. "But being in the States now walking down the street, no one knows who you are. It's a good thing. But you get one or two people that say, 'Hey, is that Dante Exum?' "
The top 10 picks in the NBA draft could include the selection of three power forwards in Vonleh, Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Kentucky's Julius Randle. Vonleh is expected to be selected first among those three power forwards while Gordon is not expected to drop any later than the eighth selection from the Sacramento Kings, sources said. Gordon and Randle have also worked out twice for the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the seventh pick.
"A lot of people are putting us in the same category as the top power forwards in this draft," Vonleh said. "We were supposed to have workouts together, but that didn't end up happening."
Three other guards to keep an eye on in the top 10 include Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Louisiana Lafayette's Elfrid Payton. The little-known Payton is a draft sleeper who could be the first Ragin' Cajun in the first round since Kevin Brooks in 1991.
"Coming from a small school, the average fan doesn't know me," said Payton, who worked out for the Lakers and Kings.