Jabari Parker currently sits sixth on my current 2014 NBA Draft big board, which, I’m sure, confuses some people since most everyone not only has him in the top five but almost everyone has him in the top three. I’ll get into my reasons why I don’t have him that high a tad later on but for now, let’s get started on the good. He stands 6’8” and 240 pounds with a 7’0” wingspan. The measurables are there from a small forward standpoint and his offensive game is top notch.
In terms of offensive versatility, there’s probably no better prospect out there this year than Jabari Parker. His ability to score from all over is unparalleled by most. In transition, Jabari attacks the rim as both a ball-handler and off-ball runner. It gives him an added dimension that some other players with his profile cannot do. When handling the ball in transition, he’s able to push it through traffic and finish with great power and skill. When running without the ball, he fills lanes correctly and understands spacing concepts.
When Jabari Parker gets a defensive rebound and explodes up the court, he does have that LeBron James feel to his game but obviously not up to that same level of athleticism and explosion. Still, it’s extremely impressive to witness out of a young player. You can see his full skill on display when orchestrating on the fastbreak.
Parker often gets compared to Carmelo Anthony because of his natural ability to score the basketball in all types of settings but I see a little bit of Paul Pierce in him. He can score from both outside and down low when posting up against smaller defenders. Jabari can get his shot off against almost anyone and it’s a great asset for him to have going forward. His shot isn’t superb by any means but it’s adequate enough, especially in catch-and-shoot situations from three-point land. You don’t want him setting up his three-point attempts off the dribble. You’d much rather he do it off of the catch.
On non-transition jumpers this season, Jabari Parker was 107 of 278 (38.5%). It’s not a great mark but it isn’t bad, either. As long as he’s catching instead of creating, he’s perfectly fine. On all jumpers this season, he was 120 of 315 (38.1%). Obviously this isn’t up to the level of a Doug McDermott (165 of 386; 42.7%) but it’s still a solid number. It also doesn’t hurt that, as I mentioned earlier, Parker can get his shot off against most any defender due to his combination of size, length, and offensive intelligence.
One notable downside with Jabari Parker offensively, however, is that his shot selection isn’t up to snuff yet. That’s okay and something that should be worked out as he gets into the NBA but it is worth noting. He settles for a lot of tough or awkward shots because he can’t bully some defenders and thus gets off-balance and off-kilter. It results in him looking less than stellar offensively.
The other problem with Parker offensively is that for a 6’8” and 240 pound small forward, he doesn’t finish at a great rate around the rim in half-court sets. In non-transition situations this year, he shot 60.9% at the rim. While that’s great in college, you can expect that to drop off some in the NBA since he won’t be playing as the main “big” on the court primarily anymore. At Duke, he was used a lot at power forward and center so he got some easy shots around the rim. You can’t count on that in the NBA. Yet, despite his size advantage, he tended to struggle when dealing with contact at times. His Effective Field Goal Percentage in non-transition sets this year was only 49.8%. Nothing to write home about, either.
On defense, this is where Jabari Parker’s weaknesses really come to light. He’s not a good defender and that’s being polite about it. He does understand some team defense concepts and works to sew up his deficiencies but he is not a good man-to-man defender at all. His lack of elite athleticism comes back to bite him in the rear quite often. When matched up against better athletes, he routinely would get beaten to a spot or let a guy get around him. He also had trouble when guarding true big men. Parker was unable to stop them from getting whatever they wanted and had trouble bodying them up for long durations.
A big problem for him at Duke was where they played him. Because he was so skilled and so big, they opted to play him inside a lot defensively and that was one of the main reasons their defense suffered. He’s not a big deterrent at the rim and couldn’t stop anyone he was guarding. As a team defender, he was generally okay but not great. The potential is there for him to be a solid defender at the next level but he’ll always be hampered by his lack of elite athleticism and explosiveness on an overall level, both offensively and defensively.
The problem for me with Jabari Parker is that I don’t know what he is, I don’t know who he guards, and I don’t know where he plays. Parker possesses the offensive game of a small forward but the athleticism of a power forward. You really would like more raw explosiveness out of him but it’s just not there. Sure, he can get up and go get the ball on alley-oops or run the court in transition but the difference, athletically, between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins is extremely substantial.
I’m also not in love with him as a playmaker at the next level. I think he can do it but I don’t think he’s necessarily good at it. Per 40 pace adjusted minutes, Parker averaged 3.1 turnovers and just 1.5 assists. He averaged 0.14 turnovers per possession and just 0.07 assists per possession but also averaged 0.86 field goal attempts per possession. Andrew Wiggins, by comparison, averaged 0.16 turnovers per possession, which is a tad higher, but also put up 0.11 assists per possession and 0.82 field goal attempts per possession. Wiggins averaged more points per possession, fewer field goal attempts per possession, more free throw attempts per possession, and more assists per possession. In essence, Parker kind of was a black hole offensively at times.
One of the things that I do love about Jabari Parker, besides his offensive versatility, is that he’s a great rebounder and understands rebounding concepts. His instincts are off the chart there and I think he could be a great small ball power forward due to that. He boxes out well and uses his size and length to go get rebounds in tough situations. I think that’s a skill that projects very favorably for him going into the NBA.
Jabari Parker’s lateral agility and footwork is just so poor defensively that I don’t know how he survives at small forward in the NBA. I see him more as a small ball power forward in the Eastern Conference. I don’t have him in my top five and I doubt he moves in there just because his defense is just so horrific and his athleticism isn’t elite enough to warrant much upside to change that. So, I have him sixth.
Overall, as far as team fit goes, I think a team like the Milwaukee Bucks could really use him and might be able to hide him defensively because of their interior core of shot blockers but it’s tough to see a true fit for Parker right now. I’m sure the Utah Jazz would jump at the possibility of picking him, partly due to their need at small forward and also due to him being Mormon, but that’s about it. Another fit, possibly, could be Orlando.
Jabari Parker, in my honest opinion, will be a solid NBA player but nothing special. I actually believe he’ll win NBA Rookie of the Year next year since he’s probably the most pro ready prospect in the entire draft. However, I’m not high on him as far as upside goes. His floor isn’t low by any means so that’s a good sign, believe it or not. But any team looking for a guy who will turn into Carmelo Anthony, or something of the like, is probably going to be disappointed. He’s a nice player. I just seriously question his ability to make the necessary improvements to be a franchise level player or even a really good number one option.
Draft Projection: Top 5
NBA Upside Comparison: 2008-2009 Rudy Gay
NBA Downside Comparison: 2009-2010 Jeff Green
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