Jabari Parker quickly established himself as the most skilled freshman in the country after scoring at least 21 points in each of his first seven games.
And he remained consistent throughout the season despite it ending prematurely following Duke's NCAA tournament upset at the hands of Mercer in the round of 64.
With a pro-ready body and game, Parker should be able to step right in and make an immediate offensive impact. There might be a few other prospects who offer more potential reward, but there isn't a safer bet in the field coming out of college.
Parker has a terrific build for a forward at close to 6'9" with a 7'0" wingspan and a 235-pound body built for contact. He's got the shake, mobility and ball skills to play the 3 with the physical tools for a power forward.
An excellent athlete for a guy his size, Parker can take a defensive rebound coast to coast for a slam or throw down a one-handed alley-oop above the rim. He has a really strong frame.
However, he does struggle in terms of his lateral movement, as he just isn't as light on his feet as some of the smaller wings.
Refined, Versatile Offensive Game
His game is polished. Instead of relying on athleticism for easy buckets, Parker has calculated moves to go to from every spot on the floor. He has the handle, shot-creating ability and range to score from any angle, whether he's fading away in the post or pulling up the wing.
Not only is Parker physically ready to compete, but he's as NBA-ready fundamentally as any prospect in the country.
Parker has an advanced perimeter scoring arsenal, which he uses to create good shots for himself away from the rim. He can separate into a jumper with the pull-up, step-back or jab step, and he's got a nice, clean, balanced release.
His shooting cooled off as the season progressed, but Parker has a good-looking outside stroke that should only improve. He nailed 38 three-pointers at a 35.8 percent clip and hit 39.2 percent of his two-point jumpers during his freshman year, per Hoop-Math.
Parker can also get to the rack from the perimeter if given space to work one-on-one. He has to look to take better advantage of his ability to put it on the floor, but when he's in attack mode and the opportunity is right, Parker can make strong, decisive line drives and score on the move.
Parker is a difficult matchup in the post, where he can separate for high-percentage shots in any one-on-one situation. With his back to the rim, he has fadeaway jumpers and spin moves in the arsenal. When squared up, he's fairly shifty for a guy his size. And though his first step isn't the quickest, Parker has a good feel for using angles and his body to shield his defender.
He's also strong enough to play bully ball on that low block. Parker can initiate, absorb and finish after contact, as well as carve out space and position in the post.
Parker took over at times in the post this year, whether he was scoring or drawing the double-team and finding the open man. His ability to score inside as well as out is what ultimately plays to his versatility and offensive upside.
Parker averaged 8.7 boards per game, having consistently dominated the glass by rebounding in and out of his area. He's aggressive on loose balls and doesn't hesitate to go after them.
His nose for the ball and willingness to bang down low should allow him to hold down the power forward position against more traditional 4s.
The big hole in Parker's profile comes on defense, where he struggles to contain dribble penetration on the perimeter. He has trouble closing out or staying in front of his man when he puts it on the floor.
And the NBA's perimeter is quicker and more explosive than college's.
Down low, Parker has the size and strength to compete, though his defensive awareness and technique could use some legitimate fine-tuning.
His season ended on a sour note in the NCAA tournament when he was benched down the stretch in a loss to Mercer on defensive possessions.
Offensively, his shot selection can suffer. Parker settles for too many heat checks on the perimeter, and as a 3, his first step doesn't always allow him to get all the way to the rim.
He's going to pose as a go-to option for an offense the second he steps on the floor in 2014-15. Parker should be considered the favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year.
Grant Hill, a former No. 3 overall pick and hoops star, told Sean Deveney of Sporting News, "But he is as close to being an NBA prospect right now as you’re going to find in college. He is the real deal."
There are two or three prospects with a higher ceiling than Parker, whose inability to excel at both ends of the floor limits his two-way upside. However, top-shelf offense always outweighs mediocre-to-average defense. Plenty of the game's top players are only so-so defenders.
As long as he improves in the areas he's got room to grow—shooting consistency, shot selection, defensive awareness—Parker should evolve into one of the game's toughest frontcourt covers. I'd peg him as the safest pick in the draft and an All-Star by 2019-20.