- Measurables: 6-foot-8,235 pounds, freshman forward from Duke
- Key Stats: 19.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 49 percent and 37 percent from three
- Projected: Top five
Matters to No One But Me …
Although I certainly don’t think it’s anything more than the remotest of possibilities, I do think if the Pistons were to offer Michigan State coach Tom Izzo a nice deal and some influence on the roster, now might be as good a time as any for him to consider making the jump to the NBA. There are a host of reasons I think he’d at least consider — home state team, MSU alum as supportive team owner, potential franchise player in Andre Drummond in place, etc. — but foremost amongthem is simply the grind of college recruiting. Izzo and MSU recruited a lot of prized recruits extremely hard, seemed to get close to a few, and have come up relatively empty (although I do think they picked up some solid under the radar guys both prior to this season and coming in next season). Anyway, the one that hurt the most was probably Jabari Parker:
After being recruited by Spartans coach Tom Izzo since his freshman year at Simeon Career Academy, the 6-foot-8 Parker said the main reason for deciding not to go to East Lansing came down to the presence of star sophomore Branden Dawson.
“Branden Dawson, me and him play the same position, and it’d kind of be a controversy if me and him were on the same floor running into each other,” Parker said Thursday at a press conference following his televised announcement at his high school gym. “So I just wanted to go to a school that was fitting.
“I don’t want to mess up his thing. Me coming in there would be kind of disrespectful. I just want him to do well.”
If that was indeed a key reason for picking Duke over MSU, that’s a very nice gesture by Parker, who very obviously was and is a better player and prospect than Dawson. But perhaps the Pistons luck into top-three selection. Might the opportunity to draft Parker who, by all accounts, developed a strong relationship with Izzo on the recruiting trail, also be another carrot to dangle in front of Izzo if Gores really is interested in making a huge offer to lure him away from the comforts of East Lansing?
Fits with the Pistons because …
First and foremost, he’s a prototypical NBA wing, right? He can hit the three, right? Those two descriptors alone, no matter who they are directed toward, probably qualify you to start and be an upgrade for the Pistons at shooting guard or small forward.
Parker, however, brings more to the table than just his NBA-ready build and shooting ability. He handles the ball reasonably well and has also handled the pressure of stepping in as the primary scorer in the Duke offense well. Credit where it’s due — which may be hard since hating Duke is a pretty common hobby these days — Coach K has assembled a really fun team to watch (Duke and Michigan are my two favorite offenses to watch in the country this season) by finding players who perfectly complement Parker’s skillset. Duke has shooters who open driving lanes for Parker, they have bigs who can move and not clog the lane and Parker essentially has free reign as the focal point of their offense. He’s done well with that responsibility, playing efficiently, pushing the ball at times and playing unselfishly and deferring to teammates rather than forcing his shot. He’s also a good rebounder (although that number is helped by him sometimes playing more of a frontcourt position than a perimeter one depending on Duke’s lineup) and averages more than a block and a steal per game, giving hope that he could develop into a solid defender down the road.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
So … about that defense.
Note the “offensively” qualification above when I wrote about loving to watch Michigan and Duke, because there is really no comparison to those two teams at the other end of the court. Michigan mixes their fun, unselfish, pass-happy offense with a strong defense. Duke … not so much. EDIT: Yeah, so no idea why I thought Michigan was a good defensive team. I think all of the complaining I read yesterday about Caris LeVert and Jordan Morgan getting left off the All-Big Ten Defense team clouded my thinking. Michigan is pretty much the same as Duke — beautiful offense, defenders who struggle to stay in front of people. Maybe I was hypnotized by all of those Nik Stauskas celebratory twirls. The lesson here is to never doubt my own interpretation ever again.
Parker has not yet developed much defensively, although his size, athleticism and intelligence suggest he could. Playing with a shot-blocking center like Andre Drummond (if he can develop better defensive instincts) would help, but as a rookie, it is highly likely that Parker would not do anything to help the Pistons fix their defensive shortcomings.
Parker’s assist total is also relatively low. With talented players around him (Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon), and with Parker’s ability off the dribble, I would expect that he’d find open teammates for buckets a little more regularly. Parker also, despite his strong percentages, went through some shooting droughts throughout the season, so he could be a bit streakier than a shooting-desperate team like the Pistons might like.
And, although this is being nitpicky, his free throw percentage (currently 74 percent) could be a bit higher considering how good a shooter he is overall.
At any rate, Parker is no longer considered the top prospect in this draft, but he’s still clearly a potential All-Star and maybe more if he develops.
From the Experts
The longer the season goes on, the more scouts are switching their allegiances to Parker as their favorite to go No. 1. He’s a scoring machine. He has a high basketball IQ. He can play multiple positions on the floor, and his lack of elite defensive abilities combined with the occasional struggle against long, athletic defenders are the only real knocks on him at the moment.
And perhaps we can use that as a hint as to where Parker’s game is headed. In some ways, he’s similar to Paul Pierce: Parker lacks a lean frame, but has tremendous strength and surprising athleticism. He’s unafraid as a scorer and can bully smaller wings on the block.
If Parker can develop the same sort of craftiness on the defensive end to compensate for his lack of elite quickness, he could pester talented players the same way Pierce has in the NBA. What’s more, Parker willingly competes on both ends and has been a solid help defender and shot-blocker down low.
-Terrific size at 6-9
-Very advanced scoring instincts
-Outstanding shooter with feet set, as well as off the dribble
-Capable of generating good looks in mid-range area with size, high release point and ability to fade and create separation
-High basketball IQ. Plays under control. Makes the extra pass
-Can post up a bit, mostly to shoot a turnaround jumper
-Good anticipation skills for rebounds/blocks. Shows good instincts tracking offensive rebounds coming off the glass
-Has a go-to mentality. Very confident in his abilities
-Allowed himself to get extremely out of shape during injury, gaining a substantial amount of weight
-Body still looks very loose
-Struggles to get all the way to the basket in the half-court
-Doesn’t have the first step needed to turn the corner against better defenders
-Tends to settle for a lot of low percentage shots, contested pull-up jumpers with a high degree of difficulty
-Lacks great lateral quickness. May struggle to contain explosive small forwards off the dribble
-Effort on defense looks questionable at times