The world got a chance to see the top two NBA prospects early last week when freshmen Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Duke’s Jabari Parker headlined a Duke-Kansas matchup, a game that Kansas ended up winning.
With the top two likely choices in next spring’s NBA draft squaring off in a head-to-head tilt, scouts and college basketball fans got a first look at what should be a deep and prosperous draft. Parker dropped 27 points and nine rebounds for Duke while Wiggins countered with 22 points and eight rebounds, giving his Kansas team the edge in a 93-84 showcase. While both were impressive and lived up to the preseason hype, only one will go first in the draft. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate which of these young stars will hear his name called first.
Riley: The things Parker brings to the table are a collection of skills that basketball browsers haven't seen since the days of Carmelo Anthony. A lethal scorer who can attack from several angles, Parker was outstanding in his duel with Wiggins. We saw a complete A-game, from deep, from intermediate and when attacking the rim. There was literally nothing that Duke’s Parker couldn’t or didn’t do in front of thousands at Chicago’s United Center. Wiggins is athletic, no doubt, but he doesn't have the floor game that Parker has, and he never will. Parker is much more advanced offensively than Wiggins will ever be. You can’t teach scoring, which Parker has, and you can’t coach the intangibles that he brings.
Green: The NBA is all about the floor game—getting out on the break, cutting and hustling—and no one does it better on the collegiate level than Wiggins. Sure, Parker’s offensive repertoire is impressive, but he doesn’t have Wiggins’ legs. It’s the same debate we had when LeBron James and Anthony were coming out. James was clearly the physical phenom, but Anthony was perhaps the best scorer to come out in quite some time. NBA teams care about speed, athleticism and hustle, and no 2014 draftee brings all those qualities to the table except Kansas’ Wiggins.
Riley: Everyone has different styles, and opinions swing left and right in our industry, but athleticism can only take you so far in the NBA. Parker’s game is tailor-made to win now. He might not be as springy as Wiggins but he’s got some hop in his step. His one-handed alley-oop throw down against Kansas was evidence enough, but the acrobatic circus shot he made against three defenders even got Dick Vitale out of his seat. When you add in the rebounding, range and leadership, if I have the top pick in the 2014 draft, I'm running my card up to the podium and taking Parker as quickly as I can.
Green: You probably couldn't go wrong with either pick, but the upside is definitely there when you see Wiggins play. Parker seems more like a finished product to me, but you can dissect Wiggins’ game and realize he has a lot more to offer as he grows and gets more diverse. He has the NBA game, no question. Can he shoot it like Parker at this stage? No. But I see the makings of a lockdown defender and furious floor-runner. Those two traits will serve him well as he gets his offense together. Once he does that, look out. Again, look at the Carmelo/LeBron debate from 10 years ago. LeBron couldn’t score like Melo initially, but look who turned out to be the greater player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see déjà vu all over again.