Jabari Parker is the next big name in line on my series documenting the likely stars of the 2014 NBA Draft. As with before, comments, criticism, and disagreements are very much welcome. Everybody sees players differently (see: Hasheem Thabeet, Andre Drummond, Shabazz Muhammad), and it always interesting to get other opinions.
Previous entries: Andrew Wiggins
BACKGROUND: Jabari Parker was the biggest thing in basketball since LeBron James. He was dubbed the best high school basketball player in the country before his junior year even began. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in his junior year and was absolutely going to be the next LeBron until a foot injury and a special reclassification occurred. Andrew Wiggins reclassified to Jabari Parker's class, and with Parker missing much of his senior year due to a foot injury (or playing injured, and not looking good while doing so), the nation quickly became enamored with Wiggins instead. Parker also had some weight gain during his injury time, a cause for some concern. Parker was bumped to the #2 overall prospect in his class by Wiggins and committed to Duke to play for USA Basketball coach Coach K. He was still considered to be the next NBA superstar, but most of that pressure was cast off onto Wiggins, leaving Parker ready to prove himself as the best.
- Scoring. Parker is a flat out scorer, and is great at doing so. Best way to describe his offensive game: Versatile. He is great at posting up, has a dominant perimeter game, and is excellent at driving to the hoop. He can seemingly score at any time and against anyone, as he can drain fade-aways, shoot off the dribble, use spin-moves, or simply catch-and-shoot. He has little problem making space between him and the defender but also has a great ability to hit difficult shots over them. Thus far, he has dominated in just about every game.
- Posting Up. One of the primary ways Parker likes to score is by posting up. At 6'8" and 235 lbs, he is easily bigger and stronger than just about every SF and most PF in the collegiate game, allowing him to bully his way inside. He has great footwork and a solid spin move that he often uses to get around his opponent and straight to the basket. Can also hit the short fade-away if he can't get to the hoop.
- Killer Instinct. Unlike Wiggins, Parker has the "Kobe Instinct." He absolutely hates to lose above all else. His desire to improve himself and his game are very evident, and he is always willing to learn and increase his knowledge. He has the ability to and wants to take over every game, making him a true first-option for any team he would play on.
- Great Shooter. Parker is a fantastic shooter and can drain it from anywhere. He is shooting 55% from the field and 48% from three, which are both fantastic numbers, especially considering that Parker is a natural scorer. He has excellent mechanics, a high release point that is essentially impossible to block, and great elevation. He can hit fade-aways, can catch-and-shoot well, can shoot off the dribble, and can shoot with a hand right in his face.
- Great Rebounder. In 31 minutes per game, Parker is averaging about 8 rebounds per game. Because of his size and strength, Parker has an easy time boxing the opponent out. While the NBA features much bigger and stronger players, he has good fundamentals, and his numbers should not drop too much. He has shown a desire to collect rebounds, as well, rather than just watching the ball come to him.
- Great Hands. Parker's hands are incredibly reliable, helping him to finish (has a very soft touch), corral difficult passes (like Cousins), and handle the ball very well. This is one skill that will be greatly needed and highly valuable in the NBA, as it is very apparent that a player can only develop so far if he cannot keep the basketball in his hands (see: Jason Thompson catching the ball, Ben McLemore dribbling).
- Is NBA-Ready. Parker has both the skills and the body to make a very smooth transition to the NBA. At 6'8" and 235 lbs, his frame has already filled out, and he can bang inside with the best of them. He also possesses many skills that many develop with time and that some still don't have, including good court vision, good decision making, and overall, a high basketball IQ.
- Athleticism. This is, by far, the biggest concern with Parker. He is a good athlete, but not much more than that. He is a little slow in general and doesn't have great explosiveness. He does have some highlight dunks and great moves, however, so the athleticism is certainly there. A very accurate comparison would be Paul Pierce. He always looks a little slow and sluggish around the court with limited vertical abilities, yet has produced many highlight dunks and plays. The same looks to be true for Parker, as they both primarily use their big bodies and tremendous skills to get the job done. Pierce has been one of the best NBA players of all-time despite similar concerns for him, so many hope Parker can do the same.
- Defense. Like Wiggins, Parker has the tools to be a great defender. Unlike Wiggins, however, Parker has not shown as great of a desire to shut down his opponent. While he does often rise to the occasion (like most stars do when matched up with other stars), he needs to show the desire more often. He may have some trouble in the NBA keeping quicker guys in front of him, but has not had too much of an issue in college so far. Strength will not be an issue with Parker.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT:One thing is sure: Parker has all the skills to dominate night-in and night-out in the NBA. The biggest cause for concern, of course, is his athleticism. As mentioned above ("Athleticism" under the "Weaknesses" category), Paul Pierce is a nearly identical comparison to Parker: Both are flat-out scorers, both are good all-around athletes that are a little slow and limited vertically, both have tremendous skill, and both use their big bodies as their greatest weapon. The same questions were asked of both: Are they athletic enough to succeed? We all know what Pierce has done, and if Parker can succeed with the same body and athleticism, there is no doubt he can be one of the top 5 basketball players in the world, and maybe even better.
Parker against UCLA. This game was played in prime-time at Madison Square Garden and resulted in a Duke win against a solid UCLA squad. Parker displays just about everything, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Parker against Wiggins, but just Parker's perspective. Wiggins began guarding Parker towards the latter part of the game, and as a result, Parker did not score as much (a testament to Wiggins' superb defense). Nevertheless, he found ways to dominate the game and won the personal battle between him and Wiggins. This game also shows Parker's ability to shine in even the brightest of spotlights, as he was playing in one of the most awaited and watched games in years.