It is official: Jabari Parker declared for the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon. Parker was on the fence between choosing to stay at Duke or go to the pros, but he made his decision and will now be expected to be one of the top picks off of the board. So what makes Parker one of the top talents available in the draft?
Parker’s versatility for his size (6-foot-8 and 235-pounds) is tremendous. Parker is able to score both inside and out, making him arguably the most dangerous offensive threat available from day one in the draft.
Parker is great at playing with his back to the basket, which is somewhat unusual due to the fact that he is not a true post player. Nevertheless, Parker has moves similar to forward Carmelo Anthony in that he is able to fade away from the basket or shoot a bunny hook shot over either shoulder. Parker can also face up his man like Anthony and take him off the dribble to finish at the rim. Close to the basket, Parker plays with a relentless motor in which he constantly looks for put back opportunities at the rim to get his team easy buckets. He also has the willingness to create contact and finish through traffic, showcasing his toughness and competitive spirit on a game-to-game basis. The part of Parker’s game that is the most overlooked, however, is his above average athleticism that allows him to get off the floor and finish above a defense on a dunk off the drive or an alley-oop. Parker’s deceptive athleticism is definitely an advantage that he will have in the NBA as most teams will not always be expecting Parker to charge forward and finish an offensive put back over the top.
On the perimeter, Parker can be equally effective due to the great range on his shot. Parker has the ability to pull up in the mid range and shoot over the defense or spot up beyond the arc and knock down the three-point shot. Parker has a sweet stroke, and even though he did not always have the best shooting games, his percentages from the floor were still solid overall, as he shot 47.3 percent from the floor 35.8 percent from three, leading to 19.1 points per game. Parker will have plenty of opportunities to work on his jump shot and improve it even more at the next level, and that could prove to be the most deadly part of his game as he goes through his career.
Another solid skill that Parker can bring to the table is his ability to rebound the basketball. He averaged 8.7 rebounds per game, which is great for a player who is expected to play at the small forward position in the pros. Parker has the ball handling game, court awareness and athleticism to be a weapon on the fast break, be it finding an open teammate spotting up from three or creating an opportunity for himself pulling up out on the perimeter or finishing at the basket. His ability to get the rebound on defense allows him to set himself up to be this type of weapon, and no defense wants to see a small forward with guard like skills driving up the court to pass out to open perimeter shooters. Parker has the chance to be a special weapon if he can continue to work on his stamina and athletic ability and practice transition situations with whichever team chooses him in the draft.
The thing that Parker will have to work on the most is defense. He has above average athleticism and great size but lacks the defensive awareness and lateral quickness to be a solid defender coming out of college. Parker will have to find the right trainers and defensive coaches to show him the ropes on how to be effective on that end of the floor if he wants to reach the ceiling of a true superstar. The best players in the league get it done on both ends and help their team win in every way possible. Parker is not ready to do that just yet, but with his great work ethic, he certainly has the potential.
Projection: Top 3 Pick