A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Why I wouldn’t take Jabari Parker top 10 in the 2014 draft

with 2 comments

Duke’s Jabari Parker is widely considered a favorite to be picked top 3 in 2014, if not 1st overall. Through his high school to college career, he’s been one of the most productive players of his age group and a star name.

However, I would not take him top 10 in 2014.

Why?

First, let’s give Jabari credit for his strength. His feel for the game is exceptional, showing great fluidity, craftiness and ability to adjust mid drive or post-up. He’s been credited for elite instincts for years and it’s deserved.

But even though I talk about feel for the game the most, even I only rate it as 1/3 of basketball talent. I have major concerns with Jabari in the other 2/3.

Everyone knows Jabari is not a great athlete, in fact I would call his speed and explosiveness legitimately subpar for a SF or PF. Adding to this is that I am not impressed by Jabari’s ballhandling. That he does not make many plays based off the dribble, is perhaps why he is averaging a surprisingly low 1.3 assists per game despite his great feel and point forward history in high school. It is hard for a player to average the assists of a point forward when they are not handling like one. When added to his athleticism, I have huge concerns about whether Jabari will attack the rim off the dribble consistently, despite having the strength to finish at the basket well.

If not a dynamic “slasher”, Jabari will just have to be an elite perimeter/finesse scorer. But in this area I also have concerns. Jabari is hitting 36.7% from 3pt on 3.3 attempts a game, which is fine but unspectacular. Worryingly, of his 29 for 79 3 point shots/attempts this season, he went 11 for 16 in his first 3 games of the season, meaning he’s gone 18 for 63 (28.6%) in the 21 games since. Jabari has been frankly bad as a 3 point shooter after his hot start. His free throw percentage of 74.1% is respectable, but I typically like to see players over 80% before calling them locks to be 3 point threats in the NBA. In comparison to Parker, Andrew Wiggins who has the reputation of a less skilled player is hitting 36.7% from 3 on 3.4 attempts a game and 77.1% from the FT line, shooting marks better across the board than Parker’s.

To use a comparison, Xavier Henry was drafted specifically to hit 3s after hitting 41.8% from 3 on 4.6 attempts a game as a freshman, but with only a 78.3% FT. After his shooting went in the wrong direction in the NBA, without a slashing game he simply didn’t have anything to lean on offensively, at least until a mini-resurgence this year. Wes Johnson and Adam Morrison are two other prospects drafted for shooting with FT% in the 70s who went on to struggle more than expected in the area in the NBA. While very early Otto Porter’s inability to shoot from range in the NBA despite a 3P% over 42% last year, also makes him a candidate to go down the path of Henry, Johnson and Morrison.

If Jabari became a disappointment/bust, I would see him following the pathway of Henry. Despite a strong feel for the game, Henry’s athleticism/ballhandling combo or “slashing” tools were weak enough that when his 3 point shot didn’t translate, he didn’t have a fallback and simply got lost offensively in the shuffle. Likewise, my ‘worst case’ scenario for Jabari offensively is having him neither a consistent outside shooter, or one who can make plays off the dribble. In addition to expected defensive concerns as neither being a fit against SFs or PFs on that end, struggling offensively would make it really hard for him to contribute. On the other hand if he become an elite shooter at SF or PF when added to his feel for the game, it would be enough to be a starter and “blue chipper”, but attacking the basket concerns would still make me rate him less of a star.

Or in short, my position on Parker is this: I feel the media is mixing up his feel for the game with an elite skill level. Parker is not an exceptional shooter, ballhandler, passer for a SF and while competent in the post, is not jumping off the screen in the area. If grading his skill level as underwhelming in this way, when adding it to his athletic concerns – well it leaves him with a lot more holes as a prospect than his reputation suggests.

Here is my talent grades for Parker, grading him at PF where I most expect him to play

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Jabari Parker

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

This is not a bad grade, simply not enough to rank in my top 10. As for player comparisons, 3 recent prospects Jabari reminds me of are Tobias Harris and Marcus and Markieff Morris. Like them they are between SF and PF in size, have a strong feel for the game and have good, but not elite outside shots yet. But at PF perimeter jumpshots are relatively rare enough for me to rank them above average in the category. They should mark out nice, long careers in the NBA but if taking Jabari top 3 in a heralded 2014 draft, teams have to be expecting so much more than that.

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Written by jr.

February 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t know, I’m a big believer in your system but a 3 grade in Physical seems way too low to me. I’ve watched his DX scouting video and plenty of his highlights on Youtube and there are numerous examples of him being able to drive to the rim from the perimeter. A 3 grade implies someone who’s largely a non-creator off the dribble and I can’t see Jabari being that. His percentage of at-rim attempts (per hoop-math.com) is much higher than players you gave a similar grade in the 2013 draft, like Otto Porter or KCP. Personally, I’d grade him as a 6 minimum.

    jmethven1

    February 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

    • Thank you for the response methven1. If judging Parker just on athleticism+ballhandling I would grade around 4 or 5 but I take a little off for size/length at PF for the overall grade. But it’s possible I’m undercutting him. Admittedly stretch bigs are probably the hardest players for me to grade. There are some bigs like Derrick Williams and Patrick Patterson and Jeff Green who have the athleticism to impose themselves more but just don’t. Hard to tell whether there’s an element of “once a perimeter orientated palyer, always a perimeter orientated player” even when they are athletic. Overall I am leaning strongly towards Jabari being a 4 who lives on the perimeter

      julienrodger

      February 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm


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