Jabari Parker is the power forward/small forward prospect for Duke. Of the NCAA freshman, he shows the most developed perimeter skills. He is the one, of Duke’s one-two punch along with Rodney Hood.
Jabari Parker has great size for the small forward position. Listed at 6’8″ (in shoes) with a 7′ wingspan, he compares well to NBA starters at the position. Surprisingly, he compares to LeBron James, also listed at 6’8″ (in shoes) with a 7′.025″ wingspan. The difference is in their body type. While both players are over 240lbs., it’s obvious that LeBron has a great frame tied to his athleticism. Parker, however, looks like he can add more bulk. Parker has a standing reach of 8’8″, while LeBron has a standing reach just over 8’10”.
Athletically, Parker is above average overall. He has a powerful first step off-the-dribble and is able to rise up to finish with a dunk in traffic. He has great coordination as exhibited by his ball-handling in transition, ability to drive left and right equally well, and show guard-like shot creating abilities from the perimeter. Most NCAA players can’t handle his strength in the post, and he tends to out-power them in the paint as well. What is lacking is his lateral quickness. When defending his own, or easier defensive assignments, Parker has trouble staying in front of his opponents. He has yet to learn how to use his strength to bump players attacking the basket. He could refine his strength which would help his cause. A foot injury during his senior year of high school had him on the sidelines, and he added 20lbs. of bulk during that season. He was easily a more explosive player at a lighter weight.
Offensively he has the most refined skills at the NCAA level. Like a taller Paul Pierce, he uses jab steps to create spacing, and is able to hit shots in catch and shoot situations, pull-up jumpers in either direction, and in a limited amount of space. He excels at creating shots within a three-dribble timeframe, which allows him to get a quality shot in limited time. He has a change of direction at the beginning of his drive to shake a defender, and uses his strength, powerful step, and length to finish at the rim. He’s able to do so comfortably with either hand. His post game is more refined than most, as he demonstrates great footwork, develops a rhythm in the paint, and positions himself well for a good angle on the glass. His motor and strength in the post is overwhelming for most NCAA small forwards and he’s been attacking there more often of late. Despite his range of offensive skills, he’s not a selfish player. He moves the ball within the half-court and always hits the open man. Due to his physical tools, he’s an above average rebounder as well.
Defensively, he is excellent at team help, but sub-average on his own assignment. As mentioned earlier, lateral quickness is lacking. He plays defense to avoid foul trouble when being attacked. On team situations or off-the-ball, his physical skills and basketball IQ allow him to block shots at the rim, force turnovers with ball-anticipation, knock out post-entry passes, and flood the passing lanes. Additional strength with allow him to bump post players out of the painted area, and hopefully add some quickness too. He can become a solid defender at the NBA level, but early on, will be a liability in isolation situations. Unlike most players, he fights hard on the defensive boards to make sure the possession ends for the opponent.
Overall, Jabari is the safest pick in the lottery. He has the physical tools, guard-like skills, and good athletic ability to contribute right away. There is a fear that Jabari may be caught in a ‘tweener position between small forward and power forward. Considering his guard-skills and post-skills on offense, he can play either position well. Defense is where he’s a liability. He doesn’t have the lateral speed to hang with small forwards who can slash, but he can easily build up the strength to be an adequate post defender with great IQ against power forwards. At the power forward position, he would be a nightmare. Dirk Nowitzki had the shooting touch, but didn’t really learn post skills until he was eight years into the league. Parker doesn’t have that height, but he has more explosiveness to the rim, better ability to change direction, and better defensive IQ than Nowitzki early on. Coaches would dream of having a good center who can operate in the paint with four guys who can shoot well behind the arc. They would be even more shocked if their best shooter was at the power forward spot. This opportunity gives them an advantage on the offensive end that very few teams actually have.
Under Mike D’Antoni, he would pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop teams to death with Jabari Parker. He can finish in the paint, shoot well from range, and handle isolation plays 20′ from the basket; all the same looks that Amare Stoudemire had. He may not be the explosive finisher that Amare Stoudemire is, but he’s definitely a purer shooter and more refined driver to the basket. Once Mike D’Antoni gets his points guard and puts him next to Parker, Laker fans will see how the pick-and-roll offense unfolds to become unstoppable.