Jabari Parker at MSU leaves nothing but what-ifs. But they're one helluva set of what-ifs.
He’s arguably the best player in all of college basketball, and he’s only a freshman.
He’s putting up 20-plus against national heavies, despite having played just 11 games.
Jabari Parker is everything we thought he’d be, yet he’s more. Now considered as the No. 1 prospect of the 2014 NBA draft, the kid can do no wrong.
Which lineup best fits/complements Parker's skill set?
He could be about a month into his career with the Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State Spartans. But he’s not—he’s at Duke, helping lead Mike Krzyzewski’s national-title hungry Blue Devils.
Far from inferior to Coach K’s group, the No. 5-ranked Spartans (10-1) are definitely a complete team—or pretty close to being one—that’s capable of climbing ladders, scissors in hand, to reach nets at the Final Four.
Or Adreian Payne could stand on his tiptoes and do the cutting himself, ladder-free.
Either way works.
Parker fits at Duke. He absolutely made the correct basketball decision, regardless of fans’ wishes. Some would love to see Parker in a green and white uniform, trotting the planks of the court at the Breslin Center, but that’s merely a holiday wish.
But it’s the holiday season, so there’s no harm in wondering just how Parker would have fit into the Spartans’ plans.
Duke or MSU Better with Parker?
Imagine Keith Appling feeding two dynamic scorers instead of one. The Spartans would be unstoppable with Parker and Gary Harris tic-tac-toeing their way through defenses.
Parker would flourish running with Appling, a senior point man. He'd be an absolute in-and-out terror with Harris, one of the top shooting guards in the land.
At 6'8" and 235 pounds, Parker can man just about any position on the floor. Comfortable as a swing man, shooter or post player, Parker's versatility, along with his athleticism, is second to none.
He has plenty of star power around him at Duke; Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon aren't exactly throw-ins. But the Spartans' Big Three of Payne and Appling, both seniors, and Harris can't be denied.
The Blue Devils don't enjoy the luxury of having an athlete such as Payne, who'd be an obvious advantage for Parker at Michigan State, nor do they have an experienced floor general such as Appling.
Other than Andre Dawkins, a redshirt senior, Duke doesn't have a reliable veteran contributor.
Coaching throws this equation into balance. Michigan State has arguably the better talent, but top prize for game-planning goes to Duke, which has the legendary Coach K calling the shots.
|Duke||MSU||MSU||MSU (4-year plan under Izzo)||Duke|
Dawson and Parker
GIF: Michigan State's Denzel Valentine went off-the-backboard for this sick alley-oop to Branden Dawson vs. Texas. http://t.co/6608I3wGYX— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 21, 2013
Parker, a former Chicago Simeon phenom, gave a couple of reasons why he chose Duke over Michigan State, with the No. 1 reason being that he didn't want to clash with Dawson.
According to MLive.com's Diamond Leung, Parker said the following about the very topic about a year ago:
Branden Dawson, me and him play the same position, and it'd kind of be a controversy if me and him were on the same floor running into each other. So I just wanted to go to a school that was fitting.
I don't want to mess up his thing. Me coming in there would be kind of disrespectful. I just want him to do well.
Dawson is developing. But Izzo wouldn't mind having Parker on the floor, too. Parker's statement doesn't make that much sense, actually. Who wouldn't want to run with a 6'6", 225-pound alley-oop machine? Parker can pass the ball with the best of them.
Highlights galore, folks. Highlights galore.
Creating havoc around the rim is becoming Dawson's specialty. He'd clear the way for Parker, who drives with reckless abandon and finishes with grace and power.
What a combination. They'd complement each other, not fuel a controversy. The Spartans would have two of the most athletic and powerful wing combos known to man.
Oh, and they'd be a shoo-in for a national championship. Given the injuries to Harris and Payne, among others, a healthy Parker would have been a reliable counter to misfortune.
Parker's at Duke. He's not going anywhere.
But he's the ultimate could-have-been for Izzo.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.