Jabari Parker Must Learn How to Distribute the Ball to Become an Elite NBA Pro

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIFebruary 1, 2014

Duke's Jabari Parker, center, drives between UCLA's Travis Wear, left, and Norman Powell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Jabari Parker is an elite scorer, but he is not an elite player—not yet. He needs to become a better teammate on the court before that can happen.

That's not to say that Parker is a bad person. In fact, there's nothing indicating that Parker is a clubhouse cancer or something like that. But, on the court, he looks to shoot before he looks to pass. Every. Single. Time.

Parker has all the chops to be an elite playmaker in the NBA. With Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski uses Parker in several different ways. He's often used as a combo-forward (similar to Carmelo Anthony), but Coach K also uses Parker as a super athletic, undersized center.

When in this role, Parker has the speed, jumping ability and overall athleticism to beat defenders despite his relative lack of size.

Parker takes double-teams and triple-teams and finds the smallest of holes to work through. There has yet to be a combination of defenders that has consistently given Parker problems. He's just too good with the ball in his hands.

On the year, Parker is averaging 18.8 points per night on 46.5 percent shooting overall and 38.2 percent shooting from long range. The 6'8" freshman is nearly a lock to go within the top-three picks in the NBA draft. The team getting Parker will be getting a player that can change the way an offense runs.

Whether or not that is for the better, though, remains to be seen.

Parker is not a good distributor. In fact, he's a liability to his teammates on the court. His 1.3 assists and 2.1 turnovers per game suggest that he is not at all good at setting up his teammates for success—something that the game's top superstars do with frequency.

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Shooting is his strong suit, but it's not like he's converting at a 50 percent clip. His current mark of 46.5 is respectable, but he isn't automatic. He needs to be looking down court to find his teammates in transition. Watching for cutters or players in the corner would also be ideal.

When Parker is drawing multiple defenders, that means he has teammates open—somewhere. The problem is, Parker neglects those open teammates more than he dishes the ball out.

Why he does this is up in the air. It could be an issue with awareness, or it could be that he feels as if he must drop nearly 20 points a night in order to get drafted within the top three selections. If that's the case, then he's dead wrong.

NBA teams already know what Parker can bring to the table. He can score with the best of them—the absolute best.

But take a look at superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. This season, the two superstars have averaged 6.4 and 5.2 assists per game, respectively. Both are also averaging upwards of 26 points per game. Durant is even upwards of 30 points per game.

Setting up teammates is the best way for a superstar to get recognized if he already has the playmaking ability to score by himself. Making other players better is the true testament of an elite professional.

Players like Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood are already talented, and both are important to Duke's run at a national title this season. Duke cannot win if Parker doesn't start distributing the ball, though. If he can start setting up Cook, Hood and his other teammates, Duke's offense will be even more efficient and dynamic.

Parker has nothing to lose by working with his teammates. Actually, Parker stands to improve his draft stock if he can prove to teams that he can be both a scorer and playmaker for his teammates.

NBA clubs value unselfish players that can do it all. Parker just isn't there yet.