On Friday afternoon, the Duke Blue Devils suffered the biggest upset of the 2014 NCAA Tournament to date as the Mercer Bears stunned them 78-71. The victory was a huge upset for a Duke team that is supremely talented, but no player will likely suffer in the long term more than star freshman Jabari Parker, who surely won’t be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft because of the loss.
During the loss to Mercer it seemed that Parker was overwhelmed by the moment, or at the very least by an opponent that was stacked with seniors and played disciplined basketball. For the game, Parker went 4-for-14 from the field, 0-for-3 on three-point field goal attempts, scored 14 points, had seven rebounds and turned the ball over four times. Few people could reasonably say the forward didn’t care about the result after the game, but it was clear he wasn’t the offensive force most expected him to be against a team that ranked 100th in the BPI.
There is no doubting that Parker is still a magnificent prospect for the NBA Draft, as he averaged 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 assists per game. Furthermore, at 6-foot-8, 235-pounds he has the type of frame that seems set to succeed at the NBA level. The freshman can shoot the ball from the outside and he even knows how to attack the rim. Few could doubt that Parker is going to be a success in the NBA, and if he continues to play hard on the defensive end of the ball he could even become a superstar.
And while that fate certainly will come with time, Parker faces an uphill battle to the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft because of the last impression that he gave teams. Whoever ends up with the top pick will have to wonder whether Parker is going to succumb to the pressure of leading a franchise for the long haul, if he is ready to perform against grown men on a nightly basis and whether he is mature enough to brush off bad stretches, and this game didn’t help in any of those regions.
So as the worst teams in the NBA gear up for a franchise facelift courtesy of the draft, it can be made certain that they will look to the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Julius Randle as the top contenders for the No. 1 pick. And they will all have the Mercer Bears to thank.