It's not often you hear a potential star basketball player say he wants to play in Milwaukee. However, Duke's Jabari Parker did and the Bucks were thrilled to get him in the NBA Draft. Parker is the early favorite on NBA odds for Rookie of the Year.
Parker Already Bucks' Best Scorer?
The Bucks were terrified when Kansas freshman Joel Embiid went down with a broken foot that the Cleveland Cavaliers would then take Parker with the No. 1 overall pick, since he was the guy that Milwaukee wanted all along. The Cavs instead went with Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who is considered to have more upside than Parker but isn't ready to be a major contributor as a rookie on the offensive end. Most NBA scouts believe Parker's offensive game is NBA ready now -- he most definitely needs work on the defensive end -- and could score 20 a game his first season.
Parker also will get heavy playing time immediately, either at small forward or as a stretch four on a team that is badly in need of offense. Milwaukee averaged just 95.5 points per game last season, with free-agent guard O.J. Mayo one of the biggest busts in the NBA in 2013-14. Parker is the +250 favorite at sportsbooks to give the Bucks their first ROY winner since some guy named Lew Alcindor in 1969-70. He went on to have a pretty good career. I don't think Parker will average 28.8 points like Alcindor did in his first season.
Wiggins is the +650 second-favorite, and his playing time could be impacted by whom the Cavs might land in free agency. I'm specifically talking about LeBron James, although it's pretty unlikely he returns to Cleveland. Wiggins, a small forward, is a tremendous athlete, but he needs to learn to shoot. He doesn't have a ton of range yet. Whereas Parker might be the No. 1 option on the Bucks, Wiggins is maybe No. 4 on the Cavs. The last No. 1 overall pick to win the ROY Award was Cleveland's Kyrie Irving in 2011-12.
The only other player under +1000 on NBA odds is the Lakers' Julius Randle, and I'd frankly put him over Wiggins in this category. I'm presuming the Lakers are going to be pretty bad again next season, barring a shocking signing of both LeBron and Carmelo Anthony, even with the return of Kobe Bryant. They will have zero post presence with the expected loss of Pau Gasol, so Randle should be able to get plenty of touches in the low post. The only worry with him is whether his foot will require surgery to correct a pin that was placed incorrectly in there when he broke it in high school. Randle probably would have gone higher than No. 7 if not for those foot worries.
Utah's Dante Exum and Boston's Marcus Smart are each +1000. Exum supposedly is a freak athlete but also perhaps the biggest wild card of the draft. He hasn't even turned 19 yet (will July 3) and obviously didn't face the best of competition in Australia. The Jazz were giddy the Magic passed on Exum at No. 4 in favor of Aaron Gordon (+2000). They have their backcourt of the future with Exum and Trey Burke, a member of the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie Team.
The long shots for the award are the Spurs' Kyle Anderson, 76ers' Embiid and Thunder's Mitch McGary, all at +5000. Anderson and McGary will be lucky to see major minutes on NBA contenders, while Embiid might not play at all next season as the Sixers tank yet again.
NBA free picks: Oddsmakers got it right: This award is Parker's to lose.