COMMENTARY | Now that Utah Jazz fans have hopped on the Jabari Parker bandwagon, let's set the record straight.
What you've been hearing about the Duke sensation coming to Utah in this mock draft and that mock draft is just that -- a mock-up. What's fact? Jabari is the best player right now in college basketball, averaging 23 points and eight boards per game for Duke.
There are several reasons Jabari may not end up in Utah -- yet there are others that indicate he may.
First the arguments against him coming here -- then the arguments for all the Jabari-to-Utah talk.
If the former Butler star goes "Big Time" at Utah -- and his points per game average in 2013 is the best it's ever been at 16.4 -- the Jazz may re-sign Hayward to the max deal he wouldn't sign earlier this year and he'll become a huge rap star. If not, the Jazz might draft a shooting guard like Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart -- and trade Alec Burks and his $2 million/year salary set to increase by $1 million next year -- or draft Kentucky center Julius Randle or Kansas center Joel Embiid and trade topsy-turvy Enes Kanter -- topping out this year at $4.5 mil as his paycheck goes up biiiig tiiiime in 2014.
As for Hayward, this white rapper should be the No. 1 enemy of anyone on Jabari's bandwagon -- because they play the same position. If you like Jabari, you should be rooting for Hayward to fail in his "contract year" and follow his old Butler U. coach to Boston -- probably what will happen anyway for reasons I'll go into in a minute.
Jabari rooters should be paying attention to Kanter because The Big Turk is not living up to his potential, and as indicated in the previous paragraph, he's making a pile of money doing very little. Despite having his best season in a Jazz uniform. scoring 11 points per outing, Kanter hasn't quite measured up to ex-Jazz big man Al Jefferson -- who averaged 18 and 9 in Utah last year and just over that total during his three-year Jazz career.
The trade deadline is fast approaching for Kanter and predictions of him being better than Jefferson -- or having a bigger bed -- are patently untrue. If the Jazz don't deal Kanter he could be offseason trade bait -- or draft bait if he continues to struggle. In which case Utah would have to find a center either in free agency or in the draft, neither of which is good news for Jabari fans.
Another year at Duke
In case you didn't know, Jabari is a perfectionist. If his Blue Devils don't win the whole shebang in March, there is a possibility he might opt to stick around for his sophomore season at Duke -- though Coach K doubts he'll stay, according to Bleacher Report. That said, Bleacher Reports rarely turn out -- and besides, Jabs is not big on being in the limelight, either. If the Jazz want a shot at obtaining Jabari they had better take him now while the gettin's good; else they'll give Trey Burke and Co. another year to get better -- though it might already be too late. More about that in a minute.
Parker surprised a few people when he decided he wasn't going on a Mormon mission after high school -- but maybe that's because he wanted to make sure he had worth as an NBA draft pick and his head on straight before deciding to leave. If he's going on a mission, he'll now go after his freshman year, according to these insiders. He's deeply religious, he listens to what his mother, the former Lola Finau, advises him to do to the letter, and he looks at basketball as a living -- nothing more. Is that what Jabari fans want to hear? Maybe not, but it's possible the Jazz might be willing to put Jabari on ice for a bit. More about that ... after this short interlude.
You already know this guy will deal his own mother for two basketballs, four players with expiring contracts and a partridge in a pear tree -- if the tree is included in the deal and can be shipped overseas for future considerations.
After all, Lindsey did work for the San Antonio Spurs, an organization notorious for parking European draftees across the ocean for a year or (gasp!) two years while they work off their Euro deals -- and work on their game. Might another trend begin in Utah where you see Mormon players like Jabari work off of a new, religion-based two-year plan? This would be the year for Lindsey to try out such a theory -- and Jabari would only be 21 by the time he got back.
The Utah Jazz
It is possible -- not likely -- the Jazz play themselves out of the bottom 10 this season and into (doh!) the mid-round. Oh, perish the thought! In order for that to happen immediately, the Jazz would need to win in January, doable considering nine of their 13 games are against teams with losing records -- and the Jazz have won four of their last seven.
By the time Valentine's Day hits, it is possible for the Jabari-to-Utah dreams to fade -- only to be revived by several teams, including Boston, that might do anything for Gordon Hayward. Boston's coach is Butler's (and Hayward's) former coach, Brad Stevens. Think those two might want to play for each other? Um, hello ... they talk on the phone all the time! Any number of teams might deal Utah back into the lotto -- if the Jazz were willing to part with Hayward.
We're months from knowing who's going where in the 2014 NBA draft. Here's what we know: If Utah were to finish worst to fifth-worst, the odds of securing a 1-to-5 draft pick increases from 0.5 percent for a 14th-place finisher, based on this 2013 estimate, to between 8 and 25 percent. So if Utah finishes with the worst record, it has a 1-in-4 chance of getting the No. 1 pick.
Utah has teetered between being the worst team and third-worst all season -- so the chance that its lot will change too much is slim. Most experts predict the Jazz to get about 18-20 wins and finish in the bottom five.
In terms of Jabari's value and whether he warrants such a high pick -- the answer is yes, and it makes sense for the Jazz to give him a serious look. There is no need to sugarcoat it; dude can flat out play, perhaps better than Hayward. Also, grabbing Jabari could be a marketing coup as well as a good player-personnel move -- since Jabari has the most polish of any player likely to be drafted.
Brian Shaw was a sports reporter, editor and columnist at Salt Lake City Weekly, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Enterprise and The Valley Journals. He has also been the Utah Sports Examiner at Examiner.com since 2009.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jabari Parker
- Utah Jazz
- Gordon Hayward
- Enes Kanter