Jabari Parker Is Making Strong Case to Become No. 1 Prospect for 2014 NBA Draft

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

Dec 3, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) reacts after scoring against the Michigan Wolverines at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Jabari Parker was one of several top prospects overshadowed by Andrew Wiggins when the college basketball season got underway. With a month of play now in the books, however, the Duke forward is emerging as the most NBA-ready rising star.

Wiggins has certainly flashed the potential that allowed him to generate so much hype, but he's struggled to assert himself as a dominant force on an every-game basis. For every game in which he's shined, there's been one in which you can wonder why he didn't do more.

Of course, there's plenty of time for him to develop before scouts at the next level make their final assessments. In the meantime, Parker has come out flying at Duke, putting an extremely impressive skill set on display through the first 10 games.

So far, the talented freshman is averaging 22 points and nearly eight rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor. He's also connecting on more than 46 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and contributing in every statistical category across the board.

Just as important is his consistency, one area in which he's gained a clear advantage over Wiggins in the early going. He's scored at least 15 points in every game and has topped the 20-point mark in eight of Duke's 10 contests.

Another thing that stands out is Parker's wide-ranging offensive ability.

Most players arrive proficient in one area. Maybe they are great jump shooters or are capable of fighting for points in the paint. But very few freshmen step up to the collegiate level and immediately showcase terrific versatility on that end of the court.

Parker certainly has, and there's no doubt front offices at the next level are taking note. He's displayed a pure shooting stroke but can also put the ball on the floor to create off the dribble, and he isn't afraid of attacking the paint to force contact.

He's even shown a willingness to post up and create offense that way. It's an area of his game that will need some work moving forward, but the fact that he feels comfortable enough to use that ability in games is a positive sign.

When asked by Brian Rzeppa of The League News what his best skill is on the court, Parker said his ability to get teammates involved is key: "My best attribute is just getting my teammates involved. I think people forget that a lot of attention is going to be on you, so it’s going to create opportunities for others. Hopefully I can keep improving in that field. Just look for people that are open, and not be selfish."

Add his willingness to defend any forward and even some shooting guards, and it's easy to see him coming off the board first come draft time.

Some NBA stars are already starting to take notice, too.

Damian Lillard, who continues to build off his strong rookie campaign in his second season, is one of them:

Kevin Durant is another (via Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports):

By no means is Parker a lock to go No. 1 after 10 games. But it's safe to say he's made the strongest case of any top prospect during the first month of the season.

Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid and Wiggins are among the players who can challenge Parker for the top spot. This debate will probably rage on until draft day unless one of them is completely unstoppable the rest of the way.

Ultimately, it will likely come down to Parker or Wiggins. While the Kansas phenom has an advantage in terms of raw potential, Parker is the more polished player at this point. He looks ready to make a major impact immediately.

So while there's plenty of basketball left, the early edge goes to Parker.