Face Off: Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins
A high profile wing with franchise changing potential doesn’t come around every day. It’s already been four years since Paul George was scooped up at a bargain price in 2010, and a rail thin kid, named Kevin Durant, dawned a Seattle Supersonics cap close to a decade ago. This special 2014 class sports two high profile wings with loads of potential. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have some lofty expectations to live up to before they’ve even heard their names called on draft night, and teams in the top 3, looking for a wing, are going to have some tough decisions to make. Here’s my breakdown of each prospect vying for not only the title of the first swingman off the board, but possibly the #1 pick.
Size and Measurements
Firstly, size matters. Especially in the NBA draft where one inch can either send a player’s stock on an upward trajectory, or sometimes the other direction. While both players opted to skip the combine last month, Wiggins and Parker both measured out big in individual workouts.
Wiggins stood 6‘8.75’’ in shoes, and his 7’ wingspan helped him achieve a power forward-esqe 8’11’’ standing reach.
Parker has almost the same measurements, measuring 6’9’’ in shoes, sporting a 6‘11.75’’ wingspan, and an 8‘11.5’’ standing reach.
Both wings have not only elite length to play the 3 spot in todays’ game, but either player would measure out pretty well against a large portion of power forwards in the league. For a little perspective, Joakim Noah and David Lee measured out with an 8‘10.5’’ standing reach, Al Horford sports an 8’11’’ standing reach, and Blake Griffin’s 8’9’’ standing reach is a full 2’’ to 2.5’’ shorter than either small forward prospect.
From a size standpoint, both players are remarkably similar, and while Andrew Wiggins could stand to gain some weight to take the beating of an 82 game schedule, Parker could stand to take his conditioning to a higher level. Both players are already addressing these issues, and will continue to do so as pros, so from a size perspective they’re are shockingly even.
Edge - Push
Athleticism in today’s game is a big factor in draft stock, especially when trying to project the defensive end. While Wiggins is a well known high flyer and speedster, Parker’s athletic ability is often underrated, especially for a player that wreaked havoc in the transition game in the ACC.
Andrew Wiggins has athletic ability firmly rooted in his DNA, his mother was an Olympic sprinter, and his father, an NBA player. Even while declining an invitation to perform in the NBA Draft Combine, in Chicago, Wiggins’ easily created the most buzz that week by releasing his 44’’ vertical photo on instagram. ESPN even dedicated a SportsScience segment to Wiggins, and pegged his open court stride over a foot longer than Kevin Durant’s.
Hype and press aside, Andrew is a terrific athlete. His second jump is world class, and with his aforementioned 8’11’’ standing reach, Wiggins’ projects to be effective on the offensive glass, and often cleaning up his own misses, like he did at Kansas. 19.4% of his shots at the rim came on put backs, which was higher than 7 footer and #1 pick contender, Joel Embiid. His athletic package paired with his length also project him as a guy that can immediately guard two positions at a level much higher than the capabilities of most rookies.
In fact, from an athletic standpoint, the only trait Wiggins leaves a little to be desired is strength. As an NBA slasher, hops and a quick first step will get you to the hoop, but upper body strength is often the X-Factor that can mean the difference between trying to pick up and And 1 or shooting two. Adding strength is something all young players work on when entering the league, so long term this most likely wont be an issue.
Jabari Parker, on the other hand, doesn’t really project as being overly athletic. His physique is a bit doughy, but at 240 lbs, he very much knows how to use his strength and throw his weight around. Jabari may not be the most athletic player, but often times his lack of athletic ability gets exaggerated.
Parker will never be a jump out of the gym athlete, but he’s great on the break, and his end to end speed is pretty solid. Although not one of the glamor categories, body control is another element of overall athletic ability, and Parker has fantastic body control and coordination. His workout video that was recently released also showed him looking more trim and more explosive than he did last season at Duke.
Lateral quickness is probably Parker’s biggest knocks as a prospect. The modern NBA small forward is a big quick player that can handle and shoot, and questions arise as to whether Parker will be able to stop or even contain NBA small forwards away from the hoop. The label of a defensive tweener, is not a great thing to have attached to your name, but Parker’s nearly 9’ standing reach helped his cause due to the fact that he may be able to guard some NBA stretch 4’s. Parker is an aggressive guy who shows a lot of desire, and I think his conditioning will be something he continues to work on. I doubt Jabari is ever a top flight athlete, but I think there is a much higher chance of him maximizing what he’s given than becoming the next Oliver Miller.
Edge - Wiggins
Jabari Parker certainly has the reputation of a scorer, his first 7 games in a Duke uniform he never failed to top 20 points, and he dazzled fans and scouts with a combination of post play, long range shooting, and great savvy with the ball in his hands. Especially for a player his size. Wiggins, on the other hand, started out slow. He took advantage in the transition game, on the offensive glass, and driving to the lane. Andrew gained steam over the course of the season. By March he had tallied two games over 30 points and had gained a lot of confidence in his long range game. A closer look at each prospects shows a closer race than many would have expected six months ago.
Andrew Wiggins - 35 gp 17.1 ppg 1.5 apg .448% FG .341% 3 PT .775% FT
Andrew Wiggins’ offensive package almost reads like a foundation for the future. He’s not super polished in any one part of his game, but he can do a little bit of everything and had success doing a lot of different things over the course of the season. He’s got a loose handle, but his first step can get him past just about any defender he’s seen thus far. His shot is good, with a high release, and he’s shown success in the mid-range game too. His conference stats also show a player who was much more confident the 2nd half of the season.
Andrew Wiggins Big 12 stats - 18 gp 17.6 ppg 1.8 apg .452% FG 3 PT .368 .764% FT
While Parker is the more steady, mature scorer, Andrew Wiggins actually tallied the same amount of games of 25 points or more. Wiggins showed big game ability, including back to back 27 and 29 point games in January, and back to back 41 and 30 point games when high profile teammate, Joel Embiid, went down with an injury.
Wiggins also showed major development in his long range game. Wiggins’ Big 12 three point percentage was very respectable and his 43 three pointers made tops Jabari Parker’s 35 long balls. In addition, Wiggins’ had a slight edge on FG% at the rim when compared to Parker (63.6% to 62.7%).
Andrew’s main offensive weakness is immaturity in his game. Again, he has a nice foundation, but he’s prone to disappear and lose the desire to look for his own shot. As a result or these lapses in aggression, Wiggins had 6 games of under 10 points this season, including KU’s elimination game in the NCAA tournament. This lack of aggression leads some to question his ability to be a true number one option at the next level. Wiggins certainly has the foundation in place and the athletic tools to become a 20 plus point scorer in the NBA, but he has some work to do to get there. His three point range is a definite plus, for a relatively raw offensive player. Will he become that number one option player? That is the real question with Andrew Wiggins.
Jabari Parker - 35 gp 19.1 ppg 1.2 apg .473 % FG .358% 3 PT .748% FT
Jabari Parker’s high court IQ and polished offensive arsenal helped him make quite the introduction to the NCAA scene. Parker’s ability to create space for himself and work both the post game and out on the wing made him a dangerous weapon for Duke. Jabari also has a strong desire to produce, and plays with a high level of energy. Whether it was hitting a couple three pointers, or flying down the open court for a dunk, Jabari Parker seemed to find a way to put the ball in the hoop.
Parker’s mid range game is a major plus for a 6’9’’ 19 year old. He shot 39.2% on 2 point jump shots, which is significantly higher than Wiggins 33.5%. Despite an ACC three point slump, Parker showed his ability to shoot from deep during the non-conference season.
Jabari Parker ACC stats - 18 gp 17.6 ppg .8 apg .453% FG .301% 3 PT .731% FT
Parker’s ACC slump was hardly poor play. He still averaged over 17 points per game, and close to 10 rebounds. Duke lacked any legit post players this year, and Bari’s offensive production dip probably had a lot to do with him playing out of position, including stretches at the center position. Parker bounced back at the end of the year, including a 30 point outburst against North Carolina, in which he looked absolutely beastly. His high energy and desire to score will only help his cause as he matures and really learns when to strike and when to lie back.
Jabari Parker doesn’t have many weaknesses when the ball is in his hands. Parker doesn’t really operate as a distributer, and setting up teammates would be a plus for his overall game. He’s a high IQ player, who can work in the post, out on the wing, and he’s a guy who can put the ball on the floor and use his creativity and understanding of the game to make something happen. The Carmelo Anthony comparisons are not terribly far off when you think back to 2003 when Melo and the Orangemen cut down the nets. While Wiggins is more of a promising work in progress, Parker is closer to the final product and without a doubt projects as the player most likely to make the biggest difference in the scoring column as a rookie.
Edge - Parker
The defensive side of the ball is where Andrew Wiggins makes up some ground on the more polished Jabari Parker. Tightly tied into his overall athletic package, Wiggins showed incredible ability guarding the perimeter and wreaking havoc in presses this year at Kansas. Jabari Parker, on the other hand, did a solid job defending the post while playing slightly out of position, but struggled containing athletic wings on the perimeter.
Wiggins was often given the task of guarding the opposing team’s best player, and in Bill Self’s man to man heavy defensive scheme, Wiggins really excelled as a pesky, rangy defender. His defensive stats don’t jump off the page, but 1 block and 1.2 steals per game only tell part of the story. At times he would show flashes of an elite defender, including his 41 point outburst against West Virginia. Wiggins tallied 5 steals, 4 blocks, and dismantled a press break that was lead by an All-Big 12 point guard, Juwan Staten, and showed he could be anywhere and everywhere when his focus is on point. Wiggins also recorded 6 games on the year in which he stole the ball 3 times or more and 9 games of 2 or more blocked shots.
Andrew Wiggins projects as a guy who can play defense from day 1, and can guard both the 2 and 3 spots in the NBA. Most rookie defenders take a bit of time to get the hang of things, and Wiggins will be no exception, but his year of man to man boot camp at Kansas will serve him well at the next level.
Again, if there is a weakness of Andrew Wiggins on the defensive end, it’s occasional lapses of focus. Andrew was a solid defender all year, but that next gear he showed glimpses of was not an every game sight. Wiggins has the potential to be an All-Defensive team player in the NBA, but he must improve on his overall focus to achieve his potential on the defensive side of the ball.
Parker’s defensive stats don’t tell the story of a lackluster defender. His 1.2 blocks per game and 1.1 steals per game are nearly identical to Wiggins, and his ability to defend the post was at an adequate at the NCAA level, but NBA translation is the question surrounding Jabari. Wiggins looks like a guy who can lock down two positions, while many wonder if Parker can even guard one at an average level.
Jabari’s wingspan and standing reach will serve him well in the NBA. 8‘11.5’’ is an excellent measurement, and if tasked with defending a post player, he won’t be easy to get a shot over. Parker looks to be working on his conditioning as well. Rumors surfaced that one of the reasons he skipped the Draft Combine was partially due to him being out of shape. He quickly shut those rumors down after a very impressive workout video surfaced on Cityleaguehoops.net.
Parker is a good defensive rebounder, as well, and actually increased his blocks per game to 1.4 blocks per contest in ACC play. He also rattled off 6 straight double digit rebounding games in the midst of a tough stretch in ACC play.
Not being able to guard your position is an issue when looking at NBA prospects, but I feel Parker has the desire to become an average defender in the league. He’s really long for his position, and with continued work on his conditioning he can maximize his quickness. He’ll most likely never become a lock down defender 23 feet away from the hoop. Although he lacks the defensive upside of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker is far from a lost cause, and with defense being a lot about effort, any coach can take solace knowing Parker will always give his all.
Edge - Wiggins
Intangibles\Clutch Play Making
Court smarts, being in the right place at the right time, and making a play in a pinch are the kind of traits coaches love their players to have. Jabari Parker’s intangibles are at a very high level, but Andrew Wiggins is also no slouch in this department either. Each players’ intangibles are rooted from different strengths in their games, but have both proven very valuable to their respective teams.
Andrew Wiggins has made his share of big plays this season, including a head to head against Jabari Parker, where he hit a step back jumper and got a transition bucket to put the game away for Kansas. Wiggins’ athletic ability often puts him in a position where he can make a play on the ball, Paul George and Michael Kidd Gilchrest are players with these same types of athleticism based intangibles. His cool demeanor also served him well, as he came up big down the stretch in a close win at Texas Tech, and again on the road against Iowa State.
Parker’s intangibles are rooted in his advanced understanding of the game. While Wiggins’ bball IQ is pretty solid, Parker’s is just at a much higher level at this stage in their development. Parker isn’t a great distributer, but he knows when to make the right pass, knows the flow of the game, and his 39 put backs this season is a very impressive stat for a guy who spends a lot of time on the perimeter. While Wiggins’ calmness served him well, Parker’s aggression did the same at times. Demanding the ball in the clutch and wanting to close out games, allowed Parker to do just that, including his game winning dunk against Maryland.
Edge - Parker
With both players measuring out so similarly in the size and measurements category Wiggins and Parker are knotted at a tie with Wiggins taking athleticism and defensive ability, and Parker gaining the edge on scoring ability and intangibles. A face off cannot be complete with a tie, so for a tie breaker I’m going to use the trait that many draft analysts and front office personnel say separates a really good player from a star. Mental toughness.
From a mental toughness standpoint, Andrew Wiggins showcased great poise, and had his share of big plays throughout the year. He’s a high character young man, who is probably one of the better conditioned athletes in this entire draft. Keeping yourself in that kind of shape requires dedication to the game and a lot of work. He’s no slouch in the mental toughness department, but he often left people watching his games wanting more. Hype aside, there were times Andrew looked a tad disconnected during games, and while I’ve seen his 2nd gear, and been wowed by what he can do at that level, I often wonder why he doesn’t take it to that level more often.
Jabari Parker is a relentless offensive player, and a player with a very high motor. Parker is one of those players who’s fire for the game radiates onto his teammates and is very evident to anyone watching him. Jabari is also a high character guy, but unlike Wiggins he isn’t always in the best physical condition, although lately he’s stepped it up a notch from his playing weight at Duke. Parker’s mental toughness and desire can also get in his way from time to time. He can be known to take shots that are harder than they need to be because of his relentless nature with the ball in his hands.
Both players have a different style of mental toughness, and both guys are of a strong mental makeup, but I think Parker’s 2nd gear, his desire to take over will serve him very well at the next level, especially when he learns when to lie back.
Edge - Parker
With Jabari Parker taking the tiebreaker, he arises as the victor in this edition of Face Off. Each player brings something very different to the table, and are firmly cemented in the top tier of prospects in this draft class.
Wiggins’ remains a top flight prospect as well, and a player who looks to jump into the league as a defender much better than most rookies. His athletic ability gives him immense potential, and the ability to contribute right away; however, while he has a good foundation a lot of his offensive potential is up in the air. With Embiid being looked at as a project, and Parker as the NBA ready safe bet, Wiggins is the player who kind of shoots the gap as far as being athletic enough to make an impact from day 1, but also having a lot of work to put in going forward.
Parker’s understanding of the game, offensive ability, and now that his great positional size has been confirmed, makes him the most NBA ready prospect in the top 3. While defense and athletic ability are not his strongest areas, he doesn’t project as below average when you take into account his work ethic and desire to get better. Jabari Parker is a ready made franchise changer, who can probably get you 17-20 points per game as a rookie, and at 19, a player who sill will improve and continue to grow.
I don't doubt at all that Parker can get 17-20 pts per game,but i wouldnt be surprised if its on 39-40% shooting,and how much would that really add to a team like the bucks,especially since he will probably give up more than that on defense...What do you see his fg% to be at his rookie year?
I come to this conclusion as well. I think both could be outstanding but I really think Parker will be special. Way back in time the Sixers took Larry Hughes over a less athletic Paul Pierce - I'd like to not repeat that mistake if given the chance. Parker will be a 12 year plus multiple time all star IMO
College is all we have to go by. This is true. Right now, Parker has the edge in scoring and intangibles. It is hard to argue that. I believe his college stats are about where he will be in the NBA. Wiggins however could pass Parker in all categories, intangibles and clutch play making.