Wednesday night represented the lowest point of the Celtics‘ frustrating season. A 20-point home loss to the Warriors ‘and it wasn’t even as close as it sounds.
Jabari Parker could be slipping right to the Celtics. (AP)
When lottery day arrives, this could be the loss Celtics fans look back on as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Losses aside, when you think of this struggling Celtics squad, you still think of a team that plays hard. Wednesday night that thought disappeared.
‘I didn’t think our energy was an A-plus,’ coach Brad Stevens stated postgame, ‘let’s just put it that way.’
We have seen all season long that no matter what, Stevens’ team plays hard ‘ but not anymore. Lack of effort will make for horrible basketball to watch over the final 21 games, but it will yield a fantastic draft pick at the end of the not-so pretty rainbow.
Boston still holds the fourth-highest lottery odds, sandwiched between the Magic (third) and Lakers (fifth). The Lakers saw the Celtics lay an egg and came out Thursday night determined to one-up them — by suffering the most lopsided loss in franchise history. The Lakers fell to the Clippers, 142-94, and it seemed like Blake Griffin and company finished off every possession with a dunk. I turned it off at 104-56 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter — it got that bad. Orlando, on the other hand, has only one less win than Boston, so the third spot in the lottery is not out of the question.
What would finishing as the third-worst team in the NBA mean? It would give Boston a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick and a 47 percent chance at selecting in the top three. The worst result would be the sixth pick, and that would only have a 4 percent chance of happening.
We have been under the impression that owning a top-three pick is an absolute must in order to obtain one of the top-tier prospects expected to enter the draft. There are very intriguing players to be had throughout the entire lottery, but Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker seem to have separated themselves from the pack. However, Chad Ford‘s most recent mock draft for ESPN insider had a new view of the draft. Embiid and Wiggins hold down the two top picks, but Parker is not in the third spot. Ford has the Magic using their pick on Dante Exum, who is said to be climbing draft boards (by working out in a gym in Australia). This leaves the C’s selecting Parker in the No. 4 spot, and making out like bandits.
I had the Celtics using the fifth pick on Exum in my mock draft last week, but there are two things that I do not understand about Ford’s most recent mock. Firstly, Exum has always been a projected top-five pick, but how has he climbed all the way to third by doing nothing? The Magic really want to use their top pick on a wing, yet Ford believes they are very high on Exum. But more importantly, why is the best player in this draft dropping to fourth? I’m still waiting for a good answer on this one, but Celtics fans will gladly take it.
Parker would not only be a perfect fit in Boston, but he is an immediate upgrade over Jeff Green at small forward. Parker is clearly one of the most skilled prospects in recent years, but unlike the other projected top picks who are hyped on potential, Parker is NBA-ready right now. He is the complete package on the court, his game is just as smooth on the perimeter as it is in the paint, and standing 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds doesn’t hurt, either.
However, Parker is just as good a person as he is a basketball player. His parents both push him to be great but encourage him to remain humble. After one of Parker’s better high school games for Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, the press was waiting for him to leave the locker room to give interviews. Parker never appeared. He had returned to the gym to sit with the junior varsity team and cheer on those players while passing out water. Keep in mind that he was the top prospect in the country at the time. That’s the type of guy Jabari Parker is.
Parker remains the top player on my big board, even though I have Embiid going with the top pick. There’s a difference. If I had to pick next season’s Rookie of the Year, I would pick Parker. If I had to pick the first 2014 draft pick to become an All-Star, I would pick Parker. It is unjustifiable to allow Parker to slip to the fourth pick, but it sure makes things easy for Danny Ainge if Boston can land him in that spot.
By now I’m sure all of you have seen what Parker is capable of on the court. Take a look at him off the court in one of his recent sit-downs with ESPN.
Parker also was featured on ‘Good Morning America’ while in high school, and he discussed his Mormon faith (Ainge is Mormon as well — just another reason Parker is such a perfect fit with the C’s). It’s an old interview but a good look at how grounded he is, and it shows the good family he comes from.
It’s impossible not to like Parker as a young man, he will surely find success at a high level in the NBA. Not to say that Wiggins and Embiid will not, but Parker is a sure thing.
Shifting the focus over to the Kansas duo, Embiid, who has been banged up recently, has been shut down for at least the remainder of the regular season. Embiid sat out Wednesday night against Texas Tech and will miss at least one more game to rest his back. The big man’s status for the Big 12 tournament in up in the air, but he is considered a sure thing to play come March Madness.
Wiggins has remained consistent of late, but his numbers are merely acceptable, whereas Parker’s stats really go above and beyond to show what type of player he is. Wiggins scored 15 points in last Saturday’s upset loss to Oklahoma State, then ended his double-figures streak on Wednesday with nine points, although he only played 23 minutes in a blowout win.
Not much movement to report this week on the draft board in terms of quantity, but the potential fall of Parker, from No. 3 to No. 4, right into Boston’s lap, is a story in itself. Keep an eye out for another mock draft from me next week, pending any big news that steals the story. But this week Parker has stolen the headlines in terms of NBA draft talk in Boston. Parker continues to play the best basketball in the country, yet slowly slide down draft boards. Don’t let it fool you, this kid is special.
Parker spoke Friday about the chances he will even enter the NBA draft after his freshman season. He has not changed his stance at all since the last time he discussed his future, maintaining the image that he very well could play his sophomore season at Duke if he thinks it will benefit him.
“If I feel like there are things I could improve on or things I left, like during the season, then I will probably come back,” Parker said. “A deciding factor is where I’m going to grow the most, whether it’s in the NBA or even in college, the learning experiences that I need as far as [growing as] a basketball player.”
If you are a Celtics fan, you now are also a Blue Devils fan this March. Both Parker and his team’s success could be the determining factor on whether or not we see the freshman standout in the NBA next season.
The closer the draft gets, it is scary that Parker is still talking about returning to Duke when he clearly knows how high his NBA value is. With Parker’s NBA-readiness, I believe going to the league now is indeed the best move for him to grow next season.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.