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Who Would You Draft: Andrew Wiggins Or Jabari Parker?

Earlier today, to the surprise of no one, Andrew Wiggins declared for the draft. He’s locked up a top-three spot and will surely factor into discussions of the No. 1 pick. Yet all season long, people have argued whether he’s even the best swingman in this class. Jabari Parker may or may not come out this year–GMs are starting to get worried that he’ll stick around Duke for his sophomore season–but the Blue Devil stud has been consistently productive from the very first game.

We’re still a few months away from the 2014 NBA Draft, but it’s never too early to speculate. Today, we’re debating which player GMs will draft first: Andrew Wiggins… or Jabari Parker? We argue. You decide.

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ANDREW WIGGINS
There are too many people who are trying to channel Flava Flav circa ’88 in their assessment of Andrew Wiggins.

The wave Kansas’ 19-year-old forward rode into Lawrence would have derailed even a Paul Bunyan-sized legend. When people are comparing you in stature to LeBron James coming out of high school, being rational gets thrown out the window.

Wiggins started slow and left the door open for Jabari Parker to steal the headlines that had been reserved for him. Even after defeating Parker’s Blue Devils in ESPN’s Tip-Off event, the scoring prowess of his peer dominated the early headlines. Parker was the more skilled, “NBA ready” prospect, or so the story goes.

A funny thing happened along the way: Wiggins came close to matching him in the vast majority of statistical categories. In the scoring department, Wiggins scored 17.1 points on 44.8 percent shooting, while Parker scored 19.1 on 47.2 percent shooting. Both shot in the mid-30s from three-point land, with Parker edging out the Canadian product by a score of 35.8 to 34.1 percent.

This is despite playing in systems that adversely affected their play. Coach K largely had his team play through Parker on the offensive end, taking advantage of his diverse skills. His field goal percentage can be at least partially attributed to playing more around the basket, often at the pivot for Duke.

Conversely, Wiggins was stationed around the perimeter for much of his time under Bill Self, forced to wait for a lacking group of point guards to get him the ball. Too often, this turned him into a bystander within his offense, as seen in a forgettable final game against Stanford. This led to the formation of a trope that claimed Wiggins was not aggressive enough, and that he lacked the “killer instinct” of a player like Parker.

Conveniently, Parker got a first-hand look of what Wiggins’ aggression looks like.

The numbers don’t support the idea either. It’s hard to say that he should have used more of his team’s possessions; Wiggins took 21.8 percent of his team’s shots, even sharing the load with two other preseason lottery hopefuls, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid. Without forcing his shot, Wiggins was still able to generate offense without disrupting the team’s flow. Free throw attempts are a fair measure of a player’s willingness to charge into the paint, and Wiggins registered 6.5 per game in comparison to Parker’s 6.1.

For someone allegedly not as aggressive and skilled as Parker, Wiggins has more than held his own. But it’s his athleticism and defensive chops that give him the nod over Parker, and stirred the preseason chatter that got us all going to begin with.

On nights that the shots aren’t falling or simply aren’t there, Wiggins still brings intensity to the other side of the court. If he’s not as aggressive as expected on offense, it’s probably because he cares just as much about getting stops as scoring buckets.

As Rustin Dodd reported for The Kansas City Star earlier this year, he relishes the challenge of defending an opposing team’s best player, and even pleaded to defend Parker down the stretch in their early-season showdown. Wiggins is able to leverage his insane athleticism into harassing opposing players, and does so with great passion.

Parker, on the other hand, boasts no such credentials. Versatile on offense, Parker lacks the lateral quickness to guard wings and the brute strength to bang in the post. He was often a liability, culminating in his coach taking him out for defensive possessions against the likes of Mercer. The level of athleticism in the NBA will only exacerbate this, and drafting a player you need to hide on one end isn’t an ideal outcome from a top-five pick.

Wiggins’ athleticism will be right at home in the league. The son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and Olympic track medalist Marita Payne, his genetics shine through frequently. Watching Wiggins dunk and grab rebounds at the peak of their flight while bigger players are still rooted to the ground is awe-inspiring, like the majesty of a bald eagle snatching its prey.

His game has yet to fully round out, but Andrew Wiggins has already proven to be an effective player even with holes in his game. If you followed his meteoric rise through the high school ranks, the progression of his shot mechanics from “poor” to “very good” is an indication of his dedication to improvement. When he’s able to turn his full attention to basketball, there’s no limit on what he can become.

All due respect to Parker, but Wiggins turned in performances that are unmatched in the last 15 seasons of college hoops. Sign me up for the dynamic two-way player and Canada’s best export since Steve Nash.
-KYLE NEUBECK

Hit page 2 for the argument for Parker…

JABARI PARKER
Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Two of college basketball’s brightest stars and biggest names struggled in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. Neither could lead their team to the Sweet 16, but both players–still teenagers–possess enormous hype, and for good reason.

Their ability on the court and potential talent that has yet to be unleashed has NBA general managers around the league salivating, just waiting, wishing and praying to get their hands on one of them. But which one?

On June 26, both players will hear their names called extremely early in the draft, but it is still up for debate as to who will proudly walk up the podium first–along with Embiid–and pose for pictures with the newly-appointed commissioner, Adam Silver.

Let’s make it easy for those GMs; if Jabari Parker declares for the 2014 NBA Draft, he should be the No. 1 overall pick.

The dynamic Duke Blue Devil emerged as one of the top players in all of college basketball, on his way to earning All-American honors and being named National Freshman of the Year. In 35 games, Parker averaged 19.1 points per game, shooting 47.3 percent from the field while grabbing down 8.7 rebounds and recording over one assist, block and steal per contest.

Despite his rough performance in the NCAA tournament, Parker seemed to thrive as the stage became bigger. On March 8, Parker had the best game of his career against heated-opponent North Carolina. The Chicago native recorded a double-double, dropping 30 points and adding 11 rebounds to lift Duke to the win. He became just the second freshman to score at least 30 points in the Tobacco Road Rivalry.

At 6-8 and 240 pounds, Parker is a versatile wing who has an ideal size for the small forward position. He already has NBA-type shooting range, has the ability to score in the half-court offense and can run in transition. While he isn’t the most explosive athlete, his fluidity brings up fond memories of a young Carmelo Anthony.

Wiggins is an absurd athlete, but has yet to prove to be a reliable scorer in the half-court set. Sure, it’s exciting to watch transition dunks but if he can’t score when the game slows down, there is cause for concern. He appears to rely too much on his pure athleticism to find his way to the rim, as opposed to breaking down his defender and potentially dishing it off to a teammate for a better shot. Of course, at just 19 years of age he has years to develop, but it is certainly an area to keep an eye on.

Parker, too, has areas for improvement. After being pegged as a willing and skilled passer heading into college, his numbers were somewhat low in that department. He averaged just 1.2 assists per game and contributed to just 8.6 percent of his team’s assists while on the floor. Yet, a lot of that has to do with how Duke utilized their budding star. Due to the Blue Devils’ lack of size, Parker was forced to play out of position for much of the season (which, by the way, makes how dominate he was that much more impressive). He spotted up away from the ball and worked around the baseline as a big man. But in the league, Parker will be able to play his true position, where he feels most comfortable and will be able to excel.

Although, he does still make some pretty impressive passes:

Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are two of the most skilled college players of the last decade. Both can have immediate impacts on NBA teams and eventually have extremely successful careers. But Wiggins, once the “can’t-miss next LeBron James”, has been overtaken by Parker. Let’s just hope the GMs realize by June.
-MATT HOCHBERG

Who would you take?

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @NeubeckNBA.

Follow Matt on Twitter at @MatthewHochberg.

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