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The Ultimate Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker Comparison: Who Comes Out on Top?

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The Ultimate Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker Comparison: Who Comes Out on Top?
Rex Arbogast/AP Images

It's a debate going on in every gym, cafeteria, laundromat and NBA draft room.

Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker—a toss-up that could ultimately impact the next five, 10—maybe even the next 20 years for an NBA franchise if it turns out one of them really blows up.

And through roughly three months of college basketball, there isn't an obvious answer as to who the better option will be on draft night.

So far, they've each had their "holy smokes" moments—like Parker taking a rebound coast-to-coast for a slam, or Wiggins skying high above the rim for backdoor alley-oop. 

And though both players' upsides have been flashed, so have their weaknesses and flaws. 

Let's compare what they've done so far and where they stand as NBA prospects.

 

How They Fit

Though Parker and Wiggins play similar positions, they both take on vastly different roles for their respective teams. 

Parker is the go-to guy for Duke. He gets touches on practically every possession, with the offense often running through him on the wing or in the post. 

That's not the case for Wiggins at Kansas, where the ball is shared more evenly among the five guys on the floor. 

Take a look at how much Parker is involved in his offense compared to Wiggins in his:

Usage in Offense
Usage Rate Percentage of Shots Taken Field-goal attempts per game
Parker 31.7 (No. 25 in nation) 33.1 (No. 26 in nation) 14.2
Wiggins 24.6 (No. 414 in nation) 26.0 (No. 347 in nation) 11.5

Kenpom

"Percentage of shots taken" measures the percentage of a team’s shots a player has taken while on the court. Parker's 33.1 percent ranks No. 26 in the country, meaning when he's on the floor, odds are the ball is going to him. 

On the other hand, Wiggins plays more of an opportunistic role in Kansas. He isn't featured or put in isolation, and as someone who thrives on rhythm and confidence, the system he's in hasn't fully allowed him to flourish. 

Parker and Wiggins' roles on their teams factor into each players' ability to consistently produce. Early on, it's been Wiggins who's struggled with inconsistency—and while part of the blame falls on his passive shoulders, sometimes, the ball just doesn't always find him in the offense. 

 

Generating Offense

Parker and Wiggins have both erupted at times as scorers already this season. 

Parker kicked off the year by dropping at least 21 points in each of his first seven games. He went for 27 against Wiggins' Jayhawks, 27 against Alabama and 29 against Boston College.

Wiggins has caught fire a couple of times as well, including a 26-point outburst against Florida, a 27-point game against TCU and a 29-point game against Iowa State.

But at this point, it's Parker who's been more potent and efficient as a scorer. He's hit the 20-point mark 14 times, compared to just seven times for Wiggins, while his effective field-goal percentage (effective field-goal percentage takes extra value of a made three-pointer into account) is a few points higher. 

Scoring/Offense
Offensive Rating Points per game Offensive Wins Shared Effective field-goal percentage
Parker 116.8 19.2 2.6 .523
Wiggins 114.7 16.0 2.0 .487

Basketball-Reference.com

As a scorer, Parker has been able to make a bigger and more consistent impact than Wiggins. His 2.6 offensive win shares is an estimate of how many of Duke's wins can be attributed to Parker's offense.

Wiggins isn't quite there yet in terms of being able to take the initiative as a go-to guy. He's forced to lean on his athleticism to make plays as a finisher off the ball—16.7 percent of his made baskets at the rim have actually come on putbacks off offensive bounds (9.3 percent for Parker), per Hoop-Math. 

Wiggins has relied heavily on his quickness and leaping ability to score, as opposed to his basketball skills, which is what Parker ultimately taps into for the majority of his offense. 

 

Perimeter Offense

Though Wiggins has flashed signs of progress and promise, Parker entered the season with a more advanced perimeter-scoring arsenal. 

He's shown the ability to create and make his own shot as a shooter from practically any position on the floor. And it could very well be Parker's money-maker when he peaks as an NBA pro.

Parker has a number of tricks for separating into balanced looks, whether he's stepping back and pulling up:


via ESPN

Or he's using a jab step to separate into an open jumper:


via ESPN

As of late, Wiggins has actually shown he has some shot-creating skill of his own, only he hasn't been able to knock them down with as much consistency as Parker. 

You can attribute that to a shaky handle that prevents him from separating into a clean, smooth delivery. Generally, the more dribbles Wiggins seems to take before a jumper, the less chance it has of going in:


via ESPN

Still, when Wiggins' confidence is up, he's a very capable shot-maker. He's just not at Parker's level yet in terms of being able to consistently create high-percentage looks for himself on the perimeter. 

As pure shooters, Parker gets the slight edge, although based on the numbers, they're not too far apart. 

Parker has been more reliable in the mid-range and from downtown, while they're both shooting roughly 74 percent from the line. 

Perimeter Scoring/Shooting
True Shooting Percentage FG Percentage: Two-point jumpers Three-point percentage
Parker .565 .408 .367
Wiggins .551 34.4 .349

Hoop-Math.com

As of now, it looks like Parker is more comfortable from 25 feet away than Wiggins is. Of course, jump shooting is something that can always improve, but it's nice to enter the league with an outside stroke you can count on. 

Wiggins will ultimately have to become a more consistent shooter, and it wouldn't hurt if he tightened up his handle, which should allow him to create better looks for himself as a perimeter scorer. 

 

Attack Game

While Parker might be smoother on the perimeter, it's Wiggins who's been the more electric attacker. 

This is really where we've seen Wiggins flash that towering upside. He's such an incredibly slick athlete—Wiggins can hit or squeeze through the tiniest of holes and explode to the rack quicker than anyone in the country. 

As for Parker, we've seen him settle at times on the perimeter, as he lacks Wiggins' quick first step off the bounce. 

Parker's shot selection has suffered at times as a result, and if there's any fear from scouts regarding his offensive game, it's that he struggles beating defenders one-on-one all the way to the rack. 

Occasionally, we'll see Parker pass up a chance to hit a driving lane for a lower-percentage jumper:

ESPN
ESPN

According to Hoop-Math, 57 percent of Parker's buckets at the rim are assisted, while just 48.3 percent of Wiggins' buckets at the rim come off an assist. Those numbers illustrate Wiggins' ability to get from the arc (or even from his own arc) to the rim without needing to be set up. 

Wiggins also gets to the line more often, and he sports a significantly higher free-throw rate, which, according to Kenpom, measures a player's ability to get to the line relative to how often he attempts to score:

Getting to the Line
Free-Throw Attempts per Game Free-Throw Rate
Parker 5.8 40.8
Wiggins 6.5 56.2

Kenpom

Since February rolled around, Parker has been doing a better job of recognizing his opportunities to attack. But at the end of the day, getting to the rim will always be a secondary part of Parker's offensive game, while it's likely to be Wiggins' bread and butter from now until he retires. 

With long, fluid strides and a bouncy body that's light on its feet, he's as good as anyone you'll come across on the break. And it translates to easy buckets that few are capable of picking up.

Wiggins ranks third nationally in transition points per play (as of Jan. 31, per ESPN), and his effectiveness in the open floor should play favorably into the NBA's up-tempo pace.


via ESPN

Wiggins' ability to get easy buckets gives him a wider margin for error on offense—despite lacking Parker's polish, you can pencil Wiggins in for a couple of free buckets a game based solely on his ability to play high above the rim. 

 

Versatility 

One of the glowing qualities that drove Parker's appeal coming in was his offensive versatility. At 6'8", 235 pounds, he has the game and physical frame to play both inside and out. 

At 6'8", 200 pounds, Wiggins isn't strong enough to set up shop in the paint, and he lacks the tools Parker possesses to make his presence consistently felt on the interior. 

 

Post Game

For Parker, you can't start the versatility conversation without mentioning his skill set and instincts in the post. It's one of his sweet spots on the floor, and Duke loves to take advantage of it when the matchup calls for them to do so. 

Parker is dangerous with his back to the rim, where he can overwhelm defenders with power or separate over either shoulder into balanced, fadeaway jumpers.


via ESPN

Forwards like Parker who can command double-teams in the post do wonders for offensive spacing. Not only does a post game give Parker another avenue of offense to explore, but the threat he poses creates open shots and opportunities for teammates. 

Check out how much attention Parker is able to draw down there, and notice the open shooters that now surround him:

ESPN

This is a dimension of offense that Wiggins doesn't offer, and if Parker is able to carry it over to the pros,   it should only increase his value to a lineup's frontcourt. 

 

At the Rim

Parker has been able to do a little more damage than Wiggins in the paint, which makes sense, given he operates there for longer stretches of a game. 

Interior Productivity, Efficiency
Shots Made at Rim Field-goal percentage at Rim
Parker 86 60.6
Wiggins 60 58.3

Hoop-Math

Both players have struggled to finish around the rim at times, as Parker has had trouble scoring over length, while Wiggins isn't comfortable finishing through contact. 

But given Parker's size, skill set and aggression on the low block, he actually projects as a forward who should be able to log minutes at the 4 in the NBA, unlike Wiggins, who looks like a hard 3 at 200 pounds.  

We've seen Parker take over games on the interior. In fact, in his last two against Boston College and Wake Forest, he scored 50 total points without making a three-pointer. 

 

 

Rebounding

Parker has won the battle on the boards so far, and that's likely to be the case for the rest of their careers. 

He's really a rock-solid presence on the glass with those broad shoulders and long arms. 

Wiggins is a good out-of-area rebounder—he can come skying in out of nowhere to rip down a board above traffic. He pulled in 19 of them in Kansas' first game against Iowa State, although if you look at his game logs, that number appears to be an outlier, given he's only hit the double-digit mark twice all year. 

Rebounding
Def. Rebounds per game Def. Rebound percentage Off. Rebounds per game Off. Rebound percentage
Parker 5.7 .229 2.8 .113
Wiggins 3.8 .123 2.1 .083

Basketball-Reference.com

Through 24 games, Parker has racked up eight double-doubles to Wiggins' two. It won't be a difference-maker during the decision-making process, but it just adds to the versatility Parker offers as an inside-outside forward. 

 

Defense

Regardless of what the stats say, Wiggins' defensive outlook remains brighter than Parker's. When locked in, Wiggins can shadow anyone, and with top-notch foot speed, elite lateral quickness and a 7'0" wingspan, he should be capable of guarding up to three or four positions in the pros. 


via ESPN

Wiggins can sometimes lose focus and defensive intensity, but he has the tools to suffocate opposing ball-handlers, force turnovers and convert them into points the other way.

On the other hand, defense does not project as one of Parker's NBA strengths. He's slow to close out on shooters, he doesn't move well side-to-side and he occasionally allows opposing offensive players to dictate their position down low.

However, while many have docked Parker in the past for lacking Wiggins' effortless athleticism, he's not exactly a stiff out there. He's actually made more defensive plays around the rim than Wiggins has, while owning a higher steal percentage, which estimates the percentage of opponent possessions that result in a steal while that player is on the floor. 

Defensive Playmaking
Steals per game Steal Percentage Blocks per game Blocks percentage Defensive Wins Shared
Parker 1.0 .21 1.2 .4 1.4
Wiggins 1.0 .19 .8 .25 1.2

Basketball-Reference.com

Wiggins will need to improve defensively in terms of his awareness and IQ, but there's no doubt his capabilities far exceed Parker's. And that could very well play a role in a general manager's decision-making process, given the luxury that comes with having a two-way wing who can guard multiple positions.

I wouldn't consider Parker a defensive liability at the next level, but there are going to be matchups that just won't favor him. Looking ahead, Parker could have trouble defending quicker NBA small forwards. It really shouldn't be a surprise to see his NBA coach occasionally match him up with power forwards to hide his weaknesses as a perimeter defender. 

 

Intangibles

There aren't any stats or formulas to properly measure one's intangibles. Simple eyesight has been enough to detect what intangibles each player brings to the table.

And based on what we've seen early on, there isn't much of a debate as to who offers more.

Parker immediately stands out as a leader—you can feel his presence even if he's not lighting up the scoreboard. This is the guy that Duke rallies around despite this being just his first year on the job. 

And you just don't see that in Kansas with Wiggins, who has the tendency to fade into the background. 

Wiggins' intensity level can fluctuate—he's prone to throwing lazy passes, getting caught flat-footed on defense, or simply holding his hips on the wing when he doesn't have the ball. 

It's only been a few months, but you've likely heard it a million times—Wiggins is passive and lacks assertiveness. And regardless of how high his ceiling is, the "it factor" alarm just doesn't sound when watching him play. 

With the ability to take command of a game at will, it's Parker who offers the more valuable intangibles. 

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

 

Parker versus Wiggins

You really can't go wrong with either of these guys in the draft. Both Parker and Wiggins have All-Star ceilings with face-of-the-franchise potential. 

But there is going to be a general manager who will eventually have to pick between the two. And based on scouts' reactions, there really doesn't seem to be a one-sided consensus. 

Still, only one of these guys has been consistently producing like a No. 1 overall pick, and that one guy is going to be awfully tough to pass on. 

Parker versus Wiggins
Parker Wiggins
Perimeter Offense
Attack Offense
Versatility
Defense
Intangibles

Bleacher Report

If the 2014 NBA draft went down tomorrow, I'd select Duke's Jabari Parker knowing I'm getting a safe, high-upside prospect without a serious question or red flag.

"That dude could play right now, [in the NBA] like today," one scout told SNY's Adam Zagoria. Like if he left Duke right now and said 'I'm leaving,' he would be Utah's best player. He would be a lot of teams' best player."

Who ya got?

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I ultimately still have questions about Wiggins—from his skill set to his comfort level riding in the backseat.

His upside remains' intact—if both players max out their potential, it's Wiggins who's likely to develop into the better all-around player. But given where he is compared to Parker in the developmental process, Wiggins' journey to his ceiling looks like it could be a little more challenging. 

I can live with Parker being an average defender. And we've seen plenty of scorers succeed without that video-game athleticism. But what I wouldn't be able to live with is unpredictability from a top-three pick.

Whoever lands Parker and Wiggins will both emerge as winners on draft night. But at this point, I've got more confidence in Parker, considering I've already seen everything from him I'm hoping to one day see out of Wiggins. 

There's a chance that Wiggins does evolve into the better player down the road—I just wouldn't take it with Parker and the certainty he offers on the board. 

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