If Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins decide to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, they will most likely be the first and second overall pick. They will both become the first two college players to shake the hand of newly minted commissioner Adam Silver, sign comfortable multimillion dollar contracts and receive some lucrative sneaker deals. Wait, Andrew Wiggins declared today. Now everybody's waiting for Jabari to announce his decision. And guess what? The third super freshman that everyone overlooks, Julius Randle, is headed to the Final Four.
But here's why the two most talked about freshmen in recent memory should wait another year. From a strict basketball perspective, they aren't fully prepared to take that step to the next level. When you look at their overall stats, Wiggins (17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game) and Parker (19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) performed as well as people probably would've expected going into the start of the 2013-14 collegiate season. However, both guys had moments where they proved that their respective games could use more seasoning. Regardless of whether they declare as a freshman or sophomore, pro teams are going to jump at the opportunity to draft them because of their potential impact on a franchise for years to come. So, why rush the inevitable and take your lumps in college while improving into the best possible player in the meantime?
With a 6'9", 235-pound frame, Parker presents a unique blend of size and quickness that is going to make him a terror in the NBA. Just not yet. In his first seven games at Duke, Parker played remarkably well, which probably had many lowly NBA teams already thinking about tanking the season. But those games were against schools like Davidson, Florida Atlantic, UNC Asheville, East Carolina and Vermont. Were those teams in this year's Tournament? Nope. Were they even considered a bubble team? No. However, a couple of games later, the Blue Devils took on Arizona and Parker scored a respectable 19 points but on 7/21 shooting with only three rebounds in 38 minutes.
Jabari battled it out with Matt Korcheck and Zach Peters, who have a very similar build to the Duke freshman. As a result, Parker's stat line was underwhelming. The NBA will, in a way, present a similar problem matchup-wise for Parker. Night in and night out, Parker will go toe-to-toe with guys who would be more willing to battle on a physical level. The play in the paint that came easy for him with Duke would be met with greater difficulty which will force him to rely on his perimeter skills to compensate. The problem is, Parker has shown that his midrange game can be erratic at times, especially when he's already struggling from the field.
With a 6'9", 235-pound frame, Parker presents a unique blend of size and quickness that is going to make him a terror in the NBA. Just not yet.
In that game where he went 7/21 from the field against 'Zona, Parker was 0/5 from behind-the-arc. In his 2/10 shooting game versus Notre Dame, Jabari was 1/5 from three-point range. When Duke played Miami in late January, Parker went 5/12 overall and shot 0/3 from deep. You get the picture. What these numbers represent is that Parker's struggles are mental. When Parker begins to lose his touch, he starts to force things. If he stays for his sophomore year, Parker will be able to go through another round of high pressure matchups in the Carrier Dome, the Dean Dome and especially at the NCAA Tournament.
As a result, Parker will become more confident and comfortable with hostile environments, learn to handle certain situations that would initially frustrate him and become a more well-rounded player, thanks to one more year playing under Coach K in the tough ACC.
With Wiggins, it's a little more clear where he needs to improve. The Kansas freshman can be a chucker which would bring back some very bittersweet memories of Allen Iverson if he were to land in Philly this year. As we pointed out earlier, those season stats were solid but underneath all that is a shooting percentage of 44.8. On any given night, Wiggins can be one of three different players. He can be the type of player who takes over a game like he did against West Virginia in early March, scoring 41 points and grabbing eight boards. He can be the guy who begins to struggle and starts forcing up shots in an attempt to regain his stroke. For the most part, this type of player turns a 2/12 or 4/13 performance, like he did against Texas and Baylor, respectively. Then, there's the player who simply disappears. In the last game of his collegiate career in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Wiggins did just that, posting four points on 1/6 shooting.
Whichever team Wiggins joins will rely on him to be that same type of franchise player who can be fed the ball with the game on the line. He will be expected to succeed more times than not. At this point, Wiggins isn't there.
In the early part of his career, LeBron James battled against naysayers who questioned his killer instinct in those pivotal moments of a game. Whichever team Wiggins joins will rely on him to be that same type of franchise player who can be fed the ball with the game on the line. He will be expected to succeed more times than not. At this point, Wiggins isn't there. And forcing those types of expectations onto him once he enters the league could be detrimental to his growth as a player. Wiggins needs another year to work on becoming a team leader because while he has the talent of a top pick, he needs to improve some nuances to his game, like being the guy who can carry a team on his back.
For Wiggins and Parker, the potential to become the next generation of incredibly talented ballers in the NBA is there. They're good. But so were guys like Stromile Swift, Donte Greene, Dontonio Wingfield and Rodney White, who came out of their respective schools feeling as though they were ready to take that next step in their career only to be faced with the harsh reality that they should've stayed for their sophomore year.
So, if the money can wait, don't just be good and declare for the draft when you have this opportunity to become undeniably great and thoroughly prepared for anything and everything. They're almost at that point. They just need one more year. But Andrew didn't feel the same way, and it's hard to argue against a pay day especially with the way the NCAA goes about their business. Wiggins is off the L, but there's still a chance Parker tries to redeem Duke's disappointing finish.