Was Jabari Parker Exposed During 2014 NBA Summer League?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 22, 2014

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There was one major knock on Jabari Parker coming out of Duke, and it had nothing to do with his skill level.

Parker consistently showed off an offensive repertoire consisting of razor-sharp NBA moves, from step-back jumpers and pull-up threes to fadeaways in the post.

He established himself as a guy who could get his team a bucket when the game slowed down.

But Parker isn't powered by the same electric current that seemingly runs through a guy like Andrew Wiggins' body. And his lack of top-shelf athleticism has put a thin cloud over his NBA outlook from a number of angles.

Despite earning the reputation of being the most NBA-ready prospect, Parker struggled at times in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he shot 41.9 percent and averaged five turnovers per game.

Summer League Stats versus Duke Stats
Summer League (five games)Duke 2013-14
NBA.com, NCAA.com

Parker's summer league debut was reminiscent of Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke's from a year ago. Burke was a polished point guard coming out of Michigan and arguably the most skilled prospect from that class.

Questions as to how Burke could slip to No. 9 in the draft were quickly answered during the 2013 summer league, when he shot just 24.1 percent and was athletically exposed.

That high skill level was ultimately neutralized by his inability to separate or blow by defenders. Parker just experienced those same issues in Las Vegas.

The fear with Parker is that he won't be able to get off the same high-percentage shots in Milwaukee as he did at Duke. That fear stems from his average first step and somewhat underwhelming last one.

When Parker is playing poorly, he's settling for jumpers on the perimeter, and usually, he settles because he's not the quickest off the bounce.

Below, it looks like Parker has a step on Wiggins with a lane in front of him to explode through. But without that burst, he can't turn the corner and ends up pulling back and taking an off-balance fadeaway instead of a layup.



Following Parker's 4-of-15 showing against the Phoenix Suns, Fox Sports' Dane Young noted how his game that day was predicated on jump shots. This is nothing new—when Parker struggled at Duke, it was a result of questionable shot selection on the perimeter, which ultimately stemmed from his inability to blow past his man.

Parker is likely to draw some awfully tough defensive wings over the next few years. If he wants to operate as a small forward, where he'll get the ball around 20-25 feet from the rim, he could have trouble getting to the basket and creating high-percentage scoring opportunities.

Though it was just five summer league games, you couldn't help but notice how hard Parker had to work on offense. The easy buckets just weren't there—the ones Wiggins can get with his eyes closed when there's open floor in front of him.

Check out Parker in transition, where he's got Matthew Dellavedova isolated in space while backing up on his heels. For Parker, this has to be a trip to the foul line at the very least:


But his lackluster jets keep him from blowing by a vulnerable Dellavedova, who beats Parker to the spot and forces an ugly transition turnover:


He's just not as light on his feet as the traditional wings in the pros. This can affect his ability to separate, whether it's off the dribble or in the air.

Check out how Wiggins gets up for a clean block on Parker on what looked like a routine catch-and-fire:

There's no questioning Parker's game, but rather his ability to execute with efficiency against NBA-caliber defenders.

During summer league, it was the hurdles that Parker will face as a scorer that were exposed more than anything. It doesn't mean he won't be able to overcome them—his two best-case NBA comparisons, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony, have both succeeded by relying on tough shot-making ability without that extra burst or athleticism.

However, it reduces their margin for error. Considering they don't run on the same fuel that propels guys like Wiggins past defenders and above the rim, guys like Parker, Pierce and Melo have to be more precise and accurate, both with their footwork and touch.

Summer league isn't the greatest indicator of future success, but it can highlight the bumps one might face when transitioning from one level to the next. The bumps on Parker's path reflect the difficulty he could have in consistently creating good shots for himself, whether it's against quicker 3s or bigger 4s.

"I don't really know where I'm going to play yet on the floor, so we're looking at different areas where I can be more effective," Parker told Fox Sports' Young.

NBA Summer League showed us how Parker's lack of elusiveness and bounce could weigh on him as a rookie. But the main concern is that it keeps him from dramatically improving in the long term, which is why he went No. 2 behind Wiggins despite possessing the more refined game.

A prospect like Wiggins can always add polish to his handle and jumper. For Parker, it's a little harder to add the quickness and explosiveness one ultimately needs to maximize the effectiveness of the handle and jumper that he already has.