Jabari Parker's Versatility Separates Him from Rest of 2014 NBA Draft Class

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 18, 2014

Feb 22, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to forward Jabari Parker (1) on the sidelines against the Syracuse Orange at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke freshman Jabari Parker is wise to forgo his final three years of eligibility and bolt for this June's 2014 NBA draft.

After all, the 6'8" small forward is a lock to have his name called in the top five and is a potential No. 1 overall pick because of his unparalleled versatility.

In an essay for Sports Illustrated revealing why he decided to enter the 2014 NBA draft, Parker acknowledged he's determined to succeed as a pro:

I realize how much of a privilege and an honor it is to join the ranks of the NBA. I will do everything in my power to help deliver championships to the franchise that drafts me. At the same time, I recognize the obligation to represent the league in an admirable way off the court.

While Andrew Wiggins has scouts drooling over his eye-popping measurables and ability to jump out of the gym, he's far from the perfect prospect and lacks the strength needed to make a consistent impact inside and out at the next level.

And while Parker's overall athleticism pales in comparison to Wiggins', his talent, passing ability, basketball IQ, instincts, rebounding prowess and motor are second to none.

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils drives the baseline against Zak Irvin #21 of the Michigan Wolverines during play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 79-69.  (Photo by Grant
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his one season in college and set a handful of Duke freshman records, including the record for points, rebounds, double-doubles and 20-point games, per ESPN.com.

For a 6'8" forward, Parker's ball-handling skills are remarkable and allow him to create for himself and others from the perimeter. The ability to create your own shot is a critical element to NBA success, and there's no doubt that Parker can make things happen at the next level.

Plus, Parker can take advantage when defenders sag off and dare him to shoot from deep. Although he'll have to improve his range in the NBA, keep in mind that Parker shot nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman with the Blue Devils in 2013-14. He was also a 75 percent free-throw shooter at Duke, meaning he isn't a liability late in close games.

ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford (paid subscription required) has been consistent in praising Parker's offensive prowess:

Parker might be the most skilled offensive freshman in the country. Blessed with a well-rounded game that allows him to score from anywhere on the floor and a high basketball IQ that helps him pick his spots, Parker projects as one of the few players in this draft who could possibly step into the NBA right away and score 20 points per game. He also has proved to be a good rebounder and has high character and leadership abilities.

The bottom line is that Parker can score from anywhere on the floor and doesn't rely on elite athleticism to do so. By adding strength and improving his conditioning as most NBA rookies do, Parker will become even stronger in the post and a more dangerous player in transition. 

It's Parker's versatility that makes arguably the most NBA-ready prospect in this year's draft class and ultimately what separates him from 2014's top available talents. 


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