2013-14 Season Stats:
47% from the field
36% from three
75% from the free-throw line
Weight: 240 Height w/shoes: 6′ 8.5″. Wingspan: 6’11.5″. Max Vert: N/A
Prime Paul Pierce/Carmelo Anthony
A worse version of his ceiling
Jabari Parker has gone from consensus #2 pick, to consensus #1 pick, to maybe consensus #1 pick. Here's the problem: the Cleveland Cavaliers are making that first pick, so whatever happens probably won't make sense. Regardless, Jabari Parker is easily a top-4 prospect in this year's draft, and he has the potential to be the first All-Star among the group. Most people point to his NBA-readiness, but he also has plenty of room to grow.
One of the areas that needs plenty of growth is defense. However, that struggle is quite overstated in college terms. What that means is that Parker failed the eye test on defense, but his statistics actually showed that he was a decent defender. Parker actually led the team in defensive rating. If that's the case, why is it that people always deem him a poor defender? Footwork.
For someone with as great footwork on offense as Parker, it's really head-scratching as to why his footwork on defense is so poor. Parker has horrible lateral quickness, sliding his feet at a sluggish pace. For this reason, he's often placed on the least-threatening wing on defense, a quality that isn't ideal for a team to have in their first overall draft pick. Parker often let smaller, quicker guards easily get past him on defense, á la James Harden. In comparison, fellow forward Aaron Gordon has excellent lateral quickness, allowing him to switch on pick-and-rolls easily. He contains perimeter drives, and that makes him arguably one of the best defenders in the draft. Parker does not have either the ability or developed skill at this point. If he wants to not be hidden on defense at the next level, he needs to improve his lateral quickness.
The other thing: Jabari Parker is not a poor post defender. A lot is made up of his weight issues, but his girth is what helps him in this area. His wide frame and muscle allows him to bang down low with bigger bodies. Entering the NBA as something of a tweener, this will help Parker whether he goes to Milwaukee or Cleveland, for he could be asked to defend NBA power forwards. Since that is the case, it's imperative that he controls his weight as opposed to completely shedding it altogether.
Actually, Parker's weight helps him down low on offense as well. While his body fat is likely higher than it should be, it allows him to finish well in the lane, something that Andrew Wiggins struggles with at times. More often than not, Parker muscled his way to the basket, be it on a perimeter drive or with his back to the basket. Couple that with his excellent offensive footwork, and you have a juggernaut on that side of the court. Jabari Parker can kill you inside, or he can give it to you on the perimeter as well. Anyway you want it, he'll dish it. He's a massive threat on offense because of it, and the only thing holding him back is, well, outside of his tweener status (depending on where he goes), his defense. Even so, his defense isn't as poor as it's made out to be. Easily correctable in the right situation.
Another thing that adds to Parker's appeal is that he has great character. He's a hard-worker, he hustles on defense, even though he isn't great there, and he does everything he can to help his team win. A great display of his effort is in his ability to grab a rebound, run the floor, and make a play on the other end. That also shows his offensive versatility. His handles, passing ability on the fast break, and finishing ability can make people drool at times. Combine that with his effort, and that makes for a great draft prospect. On that front, Parker's work ethic also gives hope that if he works hard on it, he can correct his reputation as a defensive liability.
Another area of concern is in his halfcourt passing. Top center prospect Joel Embiid (1.4) actually averaged more assists than Parker (1.2) did last season. That's odd, considering that Parker had the ball in his hands a lot more. Of course, systems and situations differ greatly, but it's still something to keep an eye on.
People often say that Jabari Parker is not an elite athlete, but the moves that he pulls on offense, his proclivity to run the fast break, his strength down low, and his understated jumping ability all say otherwise
Parker will immediately help whatever team to which he's drafted. He's (as said often) NBA-ready, and his scoring ability alone will win some games for his team. If he wants to improve, he needs to work on his court vision, defense, and conditioning (he's still an elite athlete regardless). In theory, it wouldn't make sense for Cleveland to draft Parker, given the fact that while Parker is better, he is strikingly similar to last year's #1 pick Anthony Bennett. However, Parker will help Cleveland immediately. Jabari Parker has come out saying he wants to be drafted by Milwaukee at #2, and he fits there better than Cleveland. Of course, it's all contingent on how Cleveland feels at the moment because, well, it's Cleveland. No matter what, Parker has All-Star potential, and he will not disappoint whichever team picks him in tonight's Draft.