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I nervously check ESPN, GoDuke, and Duke Report every few hours. I’m on Twitter looking for any rumors or inside information. I even have a Google alert set to notify me of any news articles with the key words “Rodney Hood NBA Draft” and “Jabari Parker NBA draft.”
I’m just like every other Duke fan, anxiously waiting to find out if Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker will stay at Duke and make next year’s team a frontrunner for a National Championship or if they will head to the NBA and leave us with another “extremely talented but inexperienced” team.
During this waiting game, I’ve been thinking about why it’s taking so long for Parker and Hood to make a decision (you know, besides the fact that they are teenagers who are being asked to make a life-altering, potentially million-dollar decision in a matter of weeks). Here’s my theory for each of them:
I believe Rodney Hood is almost a lock to declare for the draft. He was touted as one of the best freshmen in the country during his season at Mississippi State, and Coach K thought enough of his skills to make him a captain on this year’s team before he ever played in any real competition. He likely came to Duke thinking that he would play one year on a good Duke team, take the team deep into the NCAA tournament while gaining much-needed exposure and head to the NBA as a Top 10 pick. While he had a very good season, he was always second fiddle to Jabari Parker and did not have a good showing in his lone NCAA tournament game.
My assumption is that Hood is waiting as long as he can to see who else will be declaring for the draft. The draft class this year could be stacked, especially if the entire Kentucky crew decides to declare, which could very well push Rodney outside of the lottery. If the Kentucky one-and-dones all decide to take the quick NBA millions, Rodney may consider returning, improving his defense and becoming a more consistent offensive threat, and then declare next year when the draft is a bit weaker.
Jabari is more of an enigma than Rodney Hood. He is widely thought of as a top three pick in this year’s draft, so returning for another year would have very little positive effect on his overall draft stock. He definitely has areas of his game that could use some improvement, but most players his age would choose to make those improvements while being paid than to do so while eating Top Ramen and living in a dorm. Jabari Parker, however, is not “most players.”
My theory is that Jabari is trying to decide what he truly values at this point in his life, as well as waiting to see what Joel Embiid will do. When it comes to values, the case can be made for staying in college for another year. Once Parker moves on to the NBA, basketball is no longer just a “thing he’s good at.” It becomes his job. Parker may understand this and want to have another year enjoying the college life (I can’t blame him … I often daydream about being back in college with nothing to worry about but going to class and remembering to retrieve my laundry from the public laundry room.)
I also believe that Joel Embiid’s decision will affect Jabari, as most draft boards have Embiid going #1 and Parker going #2. If Embiid decides to remain at Kansas for another year – which isn’t be out of the question since he has only been playing the sport for a few years – Parker may decide to forgo the rest of his college career and head to the pros. It would be an extremely tough decision to turn down a chance to be drafted in the top five in the NBA draft … it may be impossible to resist being the first overall pick.
Of course, I would love to see both of these players come back. A starting five of Tyus Jones, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor would immediately be the best in the country, but I totally understand if one or both of them decide to leave Duke. In the meantime, I’ll keep checking ESPN.com and waiting for a decision to be made.