Jabari Parker – The Safest Pick, but is he the right pick?

Jabari Parker had some fans at Duke. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Jabari Parker had some fans at Duke. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Jabari Parker has been on the NBA radar for several years now. After a largely successful 1-year tenure at Duke, Parker declared for the NBA in unique fashion. While Andrew Wiggins might have the higher ceiling, scouts agree that Parker is undoubtedly the more NBA ready player – and is the odds-on favorite to win rookie of the year. But is he a franchise player?

Jabari Parker is a 6’8” SF/PF with a 7’0” wingspan and weighs close to 240 lbs. On an undersized Duke team this season he played much of the year at power forward but he has the skills and ability to play at the 3 in the NBA. His freshman year at Duke was impressive by the numbers. He averaged 19 ppg on 47 % shooting from the field (50.3% from 2p and 35.8% from 3p). He also grabbed 8.7 rpg while hitting 73% of his free throws.

He is built tough – while he could stand to firm up a bit, Parker has an NBA ready body and knows how to use his strength. Although not as explosive as other prospects like Wiggins or Julius Randle, Parker can move well for a man his size and is great at running the floor and moving in transition. He is able to lead the fast break with above average dribbling skills and will often grab the defensive rebound and push the ball down the floor. His long wingspan assisted him in collecting 1.1 spg and 1.2 bpg this season.

In terms of offensive talent, Parker was as good as any other prospect in college ball. His ability to score in a variety of ways made him difficult to handle defensively. Parker has the moves to score inside the paint, but also to spot up and shoot – both off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations. He can finish at the basket, face up his defender and drive or play with his back to the basket. His strength, skill and high basketball IQ makes him very difficult to guard as he can finish with both hands and fade over both shoulders. He is not afraid to put the ball on the deck from the three point line, nor does he waste many possessions– his 28.4 player efficiency rating was 2nd in the ACC.

The Downside

So with all those positives, it’s hard to imagine many weaknesses. But there are a few concerns regarding Parker’s transition to the NBA. The real problem is that Parker might be a tweener at the next level – too big to play/guard the 3, and too small to play/guard the 4. As it stands, scouts are anxious to see whether an improved conditioning regime leading up to the draft improves Parker’s lateral quickness.

Parker struggled all year defending both the perimeter and the interior. Parker moves well for his size, but his lateral quickness is lacking. As such, he is likely to be exposed by quicker NBA 3’s at the next level, especially explosive slashers who can penetrate. Additionally, Parker doesn’t do a good job of closing out on 3s at this point in his career.

In terms of interior defense, Parker was too often outworked by opposing big men for low post position, even when Parker was bigger or stronger. Like many young players, Parker was often caught out of position, a problem that was especially apparent in pick and roll defense. Parker sometimes did not hedge on a ballhandler or rotate quickly enough on help defense.

Parker is athletic but he is not an elite athlete. This could also limit his defensive potential at the next level. With these issues in mind, the question is who does he guard at the next level – bigs or wings?

Offensively, Parker has all the tools, but he settles for too many long 2s.

Parker as a Buck

The Bucks have secured the greatest chance of landing the top pick in this year’s draft and at the very least “earned” a top-4 pick.  In a poll of 30 NBA executives conducted by ESPN last week, Jabari Parker received the most votes as the top overall pick in this year’s draft (Parker 17, Joel Embiid 8, Wiggins 5). Scouts love Parker’s “floor” as much as they love his ceiling. Of the top-3, Parker is the safest bet by far. He is guaranteed to be a very crafty and skilled offensive player who could step in and lead the Bucks in scoring next season.

Scouts compare Parker to Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and former Buck and number 1 overall pick, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson. Parker is humble and very coachable. In his year at Duke he developed a special relationship with Coach K. Parker is quiet but intelligent and well spoken. It would not be a surprise if Parker was not only a perennial all-star but also a leader in the community and perhaps even president of the Player’s Association down the road.

On the court Parker’s offensive skillset is undeniable. Despite being a big scorer Parker is a team-first player.  In addition to adding a major scoring punch Parker is also a very good rebounder. He was first in the ACC in defensive rebounds and 3rd in the conference in total rebound percentage.

Parker + Giannis

It’s a bit tricky to assess how Parker will fit alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee’s most important player, moving forward. The NBA game is less oriented to traditional positions than in the past but it seems that both Giannis and Parker fit best in the 3-spot at the pro level.  Giannis and Sanders are both suited to compensate for some of Parker’s defensive shortcomings as athletic and rangy weak side defenders but Embiid and Wiggins project as better defenders at the pro level.

We’ve now previewed all of the top prospects in this year’s draft. Is Parker’s offensive talent enough to overlook his deficiencies on the other side of the floor? Does Parker’s fit alongside Giannis concern you? Many of you have argued that the Bucks should go with the best player available, regardless of fit. While this is a valid position, the top of the draft is as talented as it has been in years. If the Bucks do land the top in the draft, is Parker the best player available?

Who is your guy and why?

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Categories: Draft Talk

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  1. Give me Wiggins or Embiid. I’d rather see them try to go big. Hopefully they will not be in this spot in the draft again for a while, might as well go for the homerun.

    Of course I doubt they will get the first pick and who they select will largely be decided for them.

  2. If go Wiggins 1a, Parker 1b. Wiggins length and quickness could cause big problems for opponents on both ends, but Parker seems like an outstanding all-around prospect.
    I’ve got no idea how personnel shakes out this summer, but if the Bucks get either player, I foresee a pairing with Antetokounmpo on the court.
    I’m reminded of Muthu Alagappan’s basketball analytical study, suggesting the reality of 13 true NBA positions, and how there is likely more flexibility on the court than a straight up 1-5 categorization.
    I think the Bucks make this work.


  3. Wiggins. Eventually to win the east your going to have to be able to guard LeBron. Though neither can do it right now, it’s conceivable that Wiggins might be able to 3-4 years from now. Don’t think Parker will ever get to that point.

  4. Wiggins is the pick I’m hoping for. I understand the knock that he’s too passive, but he was never really allowed the full spotlight at Kansas. He became way more aggressive once Embiid went down. Wiggins is a guy who could play/guard 3 different positions, and teaming him with Knight and the Greek Freak, would give the coach (whomever that may be) a lot of different options. Parker may be more NBA ready now, but the Bucks aren’t looking to win right now. Take Wiggins and let this young team grow into something.

  5. I personally like the idea of a defense first team concept and with that belief I’d pick A.Wiggins as the top pick and have him play in the SG position alongside Giannis at the SF position and Knight at the Point.

    Outside of that I think the Bucks should also give some consideration too making a play for the services of Spencer Hawes in the offseason as he’ll help give that valuable floor spacing from the big position and allow L.Sanders and J.Henson to play the Power Forward position more often where they may not get overworked and out muscled by other teams’ true bigs as often.

    This thought process also means that the offense will remain on the stagnant side until Wiggins and Giannis are able to develop their offensive games; this goes for Henson and Sanders too. However, when these young guys do begin discovering their offensive potential (hopefully within the next couple years) then this team would be pretty stacked as far as talent and capability, but they’d still need a good coach to harness that talent and capability… who will that be? Not likely L.Drew.

  6. After hearing complaints for years about how Bucks management aims for the worst possible scenario (the dreaded low playoff seeds), I don’t see how choosing Parker changes that. Score first/defensively challenged/positional hybrid SFs usually aren’t game changers in the NBA unless a true wonder like Durant. And you very well may just end up with Derrick Williams 2.0 as with Carmelo or Big Dog.

    Adding Parker improves the Bucks (of course) but does he move the dial enough to get a team into the top half of the playoff bracket on his own – even after a few years of seasoning? So if you’ve got your pick of the litter, why not take a big swing on a high upside guy like Wiggins or Embiid who might not be “ready” quite yet but who in the long run might raise the team’s ceiling into the upper half of the Eastern playoff seeds?

  7. As awesome as it’d be to put Wiggins with Giannis or to have the next Hakeem, there is something to be said for an on and off the court leader. All good teams, and organizations for that matter, have a designated leader. That alpha role is necessary for a happy and comfortable tribe.

    We could be three years down the road having Wiggins and Giannis, having a top four pick next year because we have no leader/pure scorer, have had a few coaches fired, and worse, have no team in Milwaukee.

    New owners, potentially a new GM/coach, a new deal mandatory for the team to stay… a safe and ‘unsexy’ pick of Parker may end up saving the Bucks.

    • Whoa…. Drafting Wiggins leads to no team in Milwaukee, but Parker is going to keep the team around?

      That’s a huge stretch there.

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  9. The choice is Wiggins, and I really don’t see any question about that.

    A) Wiggins will probably play the 2 in the NBA. The Bucks biggest need is a 2.

    B) Parker is more NBA ready, but the Bucks are not an NBA ready team. I’d rather have a player who isn’t quite NBA ready yet, but has a higher ceiling. Let the “tank-fest” last another year, add another top pick in next years draft, and see where Wiggins/Giannis/Henson/Sanders/Top 5 pick can take you. The last thing the Bucks need is to draft the RoY and win 40 games next season.

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