Measuring Up: Jabari Parker

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

As the NBA draft draws closer ever so slowly, I think we’re starting to run out of ways to scout some of these top prospects. We’ve got the combine, we’ve got interviews, we’ve got workouts, we’ve got video breakdowns. And all of it is great. The problem is that it’s hard to add anything else to all of the analysis that already exists. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking at with regards to the players the Milwaukee Bucks could select with the #2 pick.

Instead of poring over highlight reels or vertical jumps (as much of a sucker I am for prospects who can jump really high), we’re going to start talking about how those prospects fit in with the Bucks, particularly with the young players comprising the “core” of the team. We’ll start (for no particular reason) with Jabari Parker.

Many scouts and draft analysts have Parker listed as a small forward/power forward. While he was at Duke, Parker played a range of positions, even spending some time as the nominal center on the floor as Mike Krzyzewski tried all sorts of positional shenanigans to keep his star player on the court. However, the commonly held belief is that Parker’s size (6′ 9″, 241 lb) slots him in as a small forward in the NBA. But concerns about his possibly-suboptimal-but-maybe-sufficient-and-probably-fine athleticism and ability to guard small forwards in the NBA have been the primary knock against him throughout the predraft process. In addition, if the Bucks were to draft and play him as a small forward, he and Giannis Antetokounmpo could be struggling against each other for playing time.

So if small forward isn’t his spot, why not run him out at power forward? Guarding bigger (and ostensibly slower) forwards would eliminate the concerns about being exposed defensively while also forcing those players to range out and guard him on the other half of the court. The question here is whether playing him against power forwards places him at a size disadvantage. To solve that, I gathered measurements (again, from the DraftExpress database) to see how he compares physically against a variety of power forwards in the NBA today (these are all pre-draft measurements from each player’s respective draft year):

[table id=37 /]


(Note: we don’t have vertical numbers for either Davis or Parker because either no one has ever measured how high those players can jump or the person that did collect them didn’t have the forethought to share those numbers with the rest of us.

*Reported by  ESPN’s Chad Ford from a late May workout. Half my kingdom for a standardized measurement database.)

Now obviously, some of these players don’t really compare skill- or role-wise with Parker. Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge are deadly shooters that do less on the move or in transition than Parker likely will. Paul Millsap and Kenneth Faried are both distinctly undersized power forwards who do the majority of their damage inside. Anthony Davis is otherworldly. Et cetera. But putting these players up and comparing them with Parker gives us a rough idea of how he stacks up against some of the top opposition in the league today.

From a physical standpoint, Parker wouldn’t be giving up too much were he to match up against most of these players. His 7-foot wingspan places him comfortably in the range of players like Blake Griffin, Love, and Faried. Most successful “undersized” forwards seem to make up for it with long arms (hey there Terrence Jones) or a big ol’ vertical leap, like Thad Young (who is probably the best example of a “tweener” on this list). Parker for sure has the wingspan.

Since we don’t have a vertical for him as of yet, however, we’ll have to get a little creative with our estimate. DX provides a handy tool that provides the average athletic tests by position for a given draft year; 2013 is the most recent year for which those numbers are provided, so those are the numbers we’ll use to build this comparison. The average vertical jump for a small forward, according to that chart, is 36.9 inches. Now, even though it’s been his primary criticism, I think it’s fair to say that Parker has at least average athleticism for the position (it’s almost certainly better than that). But still, let’s say he only has a 35 inch hop. That still compares quite favorably to almost every power forward on this list. It’s a quick and dirty comparison, but it would appear that the measurables we do possess point toward Parker’s ability to man the power forward position fairly capably.

One factor that we don’t especially have a clear measure for is strength. There isn’t a great way to measure overall strength in the combine or workout process. The only strength-related metric we have is the bench press, which, when you consider it, is a pretty poor method of measuring any kind of basketball capacity. Weight-wise, Parker is within the range of all of the other players on this list, so there’s hope that he can withstand the physicality of larger opponents. Still, strength and the ability to match up against the inside scorers he will come across is probably the bigger concern when we discuss Parker at the power forward position. Against longer opponents, the possibility of cross-matching on defense with Giannis Antetokounmpo is also a possibility.

Will Jabari Parker find success against NBA forwards? (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Will Jabari Parker find success against NBA forwards? (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

On the offensive end, Parker would definitely cause issues for opponents with his shooting ability. At that position, he’s basically the definition of a stretch-4 and brings solid footwork as well as above-average passing for the position – the main question here is whether he would be able to operate in the post against bigger opponents than he faced in college. Mike Schmitz over at DX recently broke down Parker’s performance against NBA-caliber length.

Though it’s a fairly limited sample, drawn primarily from Parker’s two performances against Syracuse this year, that analysis also shows that he had difficulty working inside against an athletic defender in the University of Virginia’s Akil Mitchell. Instead, his success came primarily when working in the high post and when drawing defenders out to cover him around the perimeter. If he does operate primarily at that position, Parker will likely have to improve his post moves and work on finishing around and through the bigger, longer opponents he’ll match up with in the NBA. His immediate impact will likely come via his ability to operate in that high post area and hit jumpers while keeping his defender out of the paint.

Of course, installing Parker at power forward would impact the the players at that position already on the Bucks’ roster. Will they be amiable to paying Ersan Ilyasova $9 million to come off the bench? Whatever will happen to John Henson? Is Giannis Antetokounmpo ready to start, or would he benefit from another year of development coming off of the bench? Is Larry Sanders ever going to grow up and provide a defensive backbone to the team? If Antetokounmpo isn’t ready to start, a defensive pairing of Sanders and Henson could allow Parker to play significant minutes at small forward and help alleviate any defensive growing pains he experiences. If Giannis is ready to play serious minutes, Henson might find himself competing for playing time should Parker also prove ready.

At any rate, picking Parker would give the Bucks a different kind of player than they have selected in recent drafts. The team’s frontcourt has been stocked with length and athleticism in recent drafts, with the likes of Sanders, Henson, and Antetokounmpo being chosen primarily on those attributes. Selecting Parker would be more similar to the selection of Tobias Harris in that the Bucks would be taking skill over raw athleticism.

But the Bucks are heading in a very different direction as a franchise right now, so we likely wouldn’t have to worry about Parker’s playing time. He also comes with the reasonable expectation that he can provide an immediate impact as a rookie, something that other recent first round picks haven’t. If Parker is selected, expect for him to see the court significantly more than other Bucks rookies in the last few years. In addition, his flexibility to play between the two forward spots should help him find playing time once the team’s frontcourt rotations are established.

I honestly don’t think it’s possible to go wrong with the top four players in this draft. Joel Embiid, Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Dante Exum each look as though they can be amazing players in the NBA. The current state of the Bucks also leaves them in a position to accommodate whichever player they decide to take with the #2 selection. While each player fills a different need and carries with him different strengths and risks, it still appears that the Bucks are in a comfortable position as they continue to prepare for June 26.

Categories: Draft Talk

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  1. I think the big question is how to pair who we draft with Giannis. If the Bucks think Giannis is athletic enough to play SG then we can draft Parker no problem. However if we view Giannis as primarily a SF then we should go Wiggins and have him at SG. (Assuming the Cavs draft Embiid with this line of thought.)

  2. Not sure why, but I’ve never taken seriously the idea of Parker as a stretch-4 until reading this article. Guess I never realized how big he is. Him operating out of the high post, as a sort of point forward to run the offense through, using his skill and decision-making to set things up for everyone or attack on his own, could be a great deal of fun, and solve some of the issues Knight had running the offense last year.

    The closer this gets, the more tantalizing all the various possibilities are becoming. Parker as the stretch-4, out of the high post, providing versatility, ready to contribute immediately; Wiggins on the wing, learning on the job, flying down the break in transition and shutting down wings in tandem with Giannis in perhaps the longest lineup ever witnessed; Exum running a dual-point guard situation with Knight, up-tempo, graceful execution, also very long, instrument of chaos…

    I don’t think there’s any chance the Cavs don’t take Embiid if he measures up and is healthy, mostly because he fits exactly what they need, now and into the future. After that, I’m becoming more and more excited about pretty much every possibility. This is good times.

  3. The fact that he has the lowest standing reach coupled with the fact that he’s not a good defender to being with has me a bit worried about this strategy.

    Just for comparison’s sake, Ersan’s pre-draft standing reach was measured at 9’1.5″

    • I think it’ll probably come down to where he’s less exposed defensively: keeping up with small forwards or measuring up against power forwards. I’m leaning toward the latter. Not ideal, but it seems like the best situation you could put him in.

      • “If you have to ask whether he’s a SF or PF, he’s a PF.” – @KevinArnovitz

        I like that.

  4. Jeffrey Suttie

    I’m of the belief Giannis will be able to take the better of the two forwards in the future. He has the length to guards most 4s, but not the strength at the moment.

    Parker is an ideal fit next to Giannis on offense in that he will/should be a dominant scorer. Before I label Jabari a “point forward” though, he needs to show a consistent ability to pass the ball.

    I like the forward thinking in that at the 3/4 Giannis and Parker should be almost impossible to guard. They should be great as long as the opponent doesn’t have a 3/4 combo that could matchup with both of them (ex: Durant/Ibaka), but even then as we add pieces that should be able to take advantage of other matchup mismatches.

    Nice job on the article too

  5. Chad Ford reported recently that jabari measured 6’9″ in shoes, a 6’11.75″ wingspan and a 8’11.5″ standing reach. Thus was about two weeks ago at the Wasserman workout. I fond the numbers hard to believe, but that’s what Ford reported.

  6. You also have to realize that Parker may be a “stretch 4”, but he is also much more than that. He is a good enough ball handler to run the fast break and to take slower power forwards off the dribble. Check out the video against Kansas where he goes coast to coast, does a euro step through two defenders and finishes off the glass. I can’t see many people who are considered stretch 4s doing that. A better comparison to make would be to Carmelo or Pierce.

  7. Jabari at the 4 I think is ideal.

    The man is 6′ 8.5 inches tall and big (240 pounds) and strong. He may not have the reach of Ersan or certainly Henson but he’s much stronger than both and certainly much more offensively skilled than either. He can post up as well as pop out and shoot 3’s. He also can handle in the open floor and pass.

    Defensively, he won’t have to track down super quick, athletic small forwards. He showed at Duke he can bump and bang and rebound (nearly 9 per game). I see a big time, versatile skilled 4 (power forward).

    Also, he’s so young he’s going to get nothing but bigger and stonger.

    He’s like a taller Barkley but more versatile.

    • Jabari Parker is Tobias Harris II, a tweener too slow to defense SF and to short to defense PF. He can score some points without able to defense anybody.

  8. I think I would prefer Giannis at the 4. With his length and shot blocking instincts I think he would be a great help defender along with sanders. That would help neutrlize SF on going wild on Parker. Also with Parker’s good post game he would beat up on smaller 3s like Carmelo does.

  9. I have said it before that the Bucks should definitely take Parker over Wiggins if that is the choice. Parker has a greater offensive skill set, better work ethic, and an Alpha Dog personality compared to the mild mannered Wiggins. Wiggins advantage is athleticism. I’ll take the basketball player over the athlete.

    Another thing is with Jabari’s character is I believe he will want to be part of the long term future of the Bucks. I’m afraid with Wiggins we will go thru a couple years growing pains and just when he’s reaching his peak his rookie contract will run out and he will head to a big market team.

    In saying all this if somehow Embid is still on board I take him over Parker or Wiggins.

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  11. Buck should takes Embid. Wiggin or Exum should be second choice. Jabari Parker may help to win couple more games next year, but without playing defense upside, the team will be mediocre in the low lotteries or eight seed again. Remember, Big Dog scored 20 points per game and played bad defense. The Bucks didn’t win any title with him either.

  12. I’m not a Bucks fan, but, from an outside perspective, I think it’s too early to look at slotting in a rookie as a stretch 4. Even for seasoned and stronger players of similar size like LeBron and Melo, playing the 4 takes a heavy toll at times.

    I think you’d want a player like Parker to slim down as much as possible and put him at the 3 first. Then maybe run him at the 4 for small stretches of small ball play. It’ll probably be the easier position for him to excel at starting out.

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