The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely have the ninth pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 26th. Today, we profile Duke forward Jabari Parker. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Jabari Parker
Weight: 241 lbs.
Honors: 2014 All-America 1st Team, USBWA National Freshman of the Year, ACC Freshman of the Year
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 47.2 FG%, 35.8 3PT%, 74.8 FT%
Jabari Parker might be one of the best offensive prospects to come out of the draft in quite some time. A long, powerful forward, Parker is an excellent isolation scorer, and should be able to get 20 points a game for a majority of his NBA career. Defensively, he’s a bit of a project, but this type of talent doesn’t come around often.
Parker is an imposing physical specimen. At 6’8” with a 7-foot wingspan, Parker has the size to slide down to the power forward spot, and he’s quick enough to play small forward without too much of a problem. The length allows him to still have some defensive upside, even if he’s unlikely to cash in on it due to his effort. He’s not an explosive athlete, but he can still make the occasional wow play, and should fair decently at attacking the rim because of his strength. Physically, it appears that Parker will start off as a small forward, then slowly shift to a power forward role as he gets stronger and older.
The strengths here for Parker are obvious and spectacular. Parker has the potential to be able to destroy anyone off the dribble, with a great handle for a guy his size and solid shooting touch. Parker is best attacking off the dribble in transition and in the half court, and can create any shot he wants in this manner, either by getting to the rim or pulling up for a jumper. His pull-up jumper is sublime, and comes out quickly and fluidly. He’s a good catch-and-shoot guy as well, but oddly, his spot-up jumper is slower than if he’s attacking off the dribble. Parker’s also a decent passer, and has excellent court vision, which means he’ll be able to help an offense in more ways than just shooting. His main weaknesses on the offensive end are finishing at the rim, three-point shooting, and shot selection. His three-point shooting should improve as he matures, so it’s not a huge issue. He often took shots early in the shot clock at Duke, and was a little too prone to jack up mid-range jumpers. That could be improved with coaching, however, especially if he lands on an analytics-based team. The bottom line here is that when Jabari has the ball in his hands, good things will happen an overwhelming majority of the time, and that’s what draws teams to him.
Parker has the physical tools to be a quality defender, but the mental aspect of it just isn’t there. Parker has his aforementioned 7-foot wingspan, decent lateral quickness, and the strength to be able to battle people in the post. He’s also decent at creating turnovers, with a respectable block percentage and steal percentage. However, he struggles to give consistent effort in all areas of defense. On the perimeter, Parker gives up too easily, and opponents can shake him with fairly simple moves. He also struggles to use his length effectively, rarely getting into a proper defensive stance. Inside, Parker gives up post position too easily, and neglects to rotate and challenge shots when he needs to.
The one strength Parker brings to a defense is rebounding, where he has great instincts and can out-muscle power forwards for positioning. Proper coaching could help him here, because if he breaks the bad habits, he could be hiddene on weaker offensive opponents. However, there are a lot of bad habits here to break, and the likelihood that he’s ever a good defender in the NBA is slim to none.
Parker has great court vision and seems like he’s an intelligent offensive player. He makes smart plays a majority of the time, and while his shot selection is a little worrisome, there’s probably not much to worry about on the offensive end. However, defensively, almost all of the worry surrounding him is mental. He doesn’t give consistent effort on that end, and he just seems to have no idea what to do off the ball. Parker gets the reputation of someone who could be a ball-hog and poor teammate to share the floor with because of his ball dominance, but I think that is overblown. Parker is a good passer and seems like a great teammate, and getting into an NBA offense with other weapons around him will probably correct some of the ball-dominance that he relied upon at Duke. If Parker gets into a good situation with a strong coach and other quality young prospects, he should be fine.
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is the most common comparison for Jabari, and I don’t think that’s a perfect comparison. Melo has never been as good of a passer as Jabari could become, and Jabari is also not as much of a power rebounder as Anthony. The offensive play styles are close, but defensively and off-the-ball on offense, I think they differ. In order to go against the grain, I think Grant Hill is also an accurate comparison. Hill was an isolation scorer early in his career, and while he didn’t develop his three-point range until late in his career, Hill was always a strong mid-range shooter and one-on-one scorer. Hill is also the type of passer that I think Parker can be at the next level, averaging over five assists per game seven times. Defensively, Hill was a stronger on-ball defender than Parker, but their havoc-creating stats (steals and blocks) are similar, and I think Hill’s defensive performance is best-case scenario for Parker. 20 years apart from each other, these two Duke grads could be very similar NBA players.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Parker is probably the least favorable fit with the Cavs of any of the top-3 prospects. Parker’s ball dominance would clash with Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, and another player that loves the mid-range game isn’t a good fit with the Cavs’ current core. Defensively, that would make the Cavs a bit of a mess on the perimeter as well, at least immediately. Jabari would bring another good scoring touch to the team, and his connection with Kyrie would help the locker room, but there just isn’t a good fit there. I would ultimately argue that potentially, if the Cavs had the third pick and Wiggins and Embiid were gone, the Cavs should look at either Dante Exum or Julius Randle before they take Parker.