Basketball / Sports

Jabari Parker safest pick at No. 1 in NBA draft

With polish and purpose, displaying more authority than edge, Jabari Parker addressed the ridiculous report that he tanked a workout to persuade the Cavaliers to pass on him Thursday night with the No. 1 pick of the NBA draft.

"I have too much pride to just waste other people's time," Parker told reporters in New York. "I come from Duke and most importantly, I come from a family with good values."

While following the straight and narrow path from Simeon Career Academy to Tobacco Road, Parker barely got accused of cussing. Now the same earnest 19-year-old kid suddenly is tanking? A good reason exists why the ESPN report cited an anonymous source. Nobody who cares about his credibility would dare claim a comment as unfair as it was unfounded.

Parker reportedly shot poorly and struggled with conditioning enough to warrant a draft-night workout shortly after hugging NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. But you need a 42-inch vertical to make the leap from Parker not playing well to not trying and let one workout wipe out a lifetime of evidence to the contrary.

"I would be glad to look that person in the eye who wrote that stuff and can give me (his) assumptions," said Parker, who insisted he wasn't insulted. "I've been dealing it with my entire life, people giving me negative approaches about my weight. But I don't have any problem about the way that I am."

The way Parker is makes the silky 6-foot-8 forward the safest pick in the 2014 NBA draft, an occasion everybody around Parker anticipated since he was old enough to dunk. In the NBA's annual exercise in projection, with due respect to Andrew Wiggins, a future perennial All-Star himself, Parker offers the surest guarantee of production. If the Cavs do the smart thing, we all will be witnesses to Cleveland welcoming the franchise's most dynamic player since LeBron James.

Legitimate concerns exist over Parker's weight, which was reported as high as 254, and his ability to guard quicker forwards, but offensively his smooth game translates immediately in a league that rewards versatility. The Cavaliers cannot go wrong choosing Wiggins or Parker, but Parker's consistency on and off the court surely tempts an organization that cannot miss on a second straight No. 1 pick. Parker should publicly thank Anthony Bennett, last year's bust, if he hears Silver call his name first shortly after 6 p.m.

"Tomorrow is the day your destiny, everything changes," Wiggins said at the same news conference.

If the Cavs take Parker -- and late reports had them undecided -- it will mark the second time in six years that Simeon produced the draft's No. 1 pick. That would be remarkable enough for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Parker pal, to declare it Simeon's NBA Career Academy for a day.

Not that Parker would mind if Wiggins beats him to the podium. Without hesitation, Parker happily predicted the Bucks would draft him No. 2.

"I had some comfort level with them, especially with them telling me, 'We want you,'" Parker said. "I didn't really get answers from the Cavs, so I'm just going with what I'm certain with."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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