Number one on the scoreboard and number one in your hearts. Well, at least the hearts of the Duke Blue Devils fanbase. Jabari Parker is all that and a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Saying that now, however, is becoming more redundant than it is to bring up the fact that Skip Bayless really likes a good hot sports take (weekdays, from something to something Eastern).
Even talking about how good Parker is at basketball, though, isn’t enough. We need to talk about how he has responded to a criticism from those looking to nitpick at his game. The “he isn’t that great of a shooter or three-point threat” argument. Which, truth be told, was not a totally unfair critique of his game.
Well, until it was.
It was like Parker was sitting in his dorm, reading blogs and listening to us basketbloggers point to his three-pointless streak. A stretch that lasted three games, where the phenom didn’t hit a three, going 0-7 in total from behind the arc. Then, because magic happens, Parker has responded.
At first, it was just a little flicker of brilliance. Parker went 1-2 from distance against something called Gardner-Webb (I kid, Gardner-Webb fan). Then, in a much bigger, nationally televised game, Parker decided to showcase his long-range shooting by taking eight three pointers, making four of them and finishing the game against the UCLA Bruins with 23 points and 10 manly rebounds.
Without trying to make too big of a deal about just two games, this is an extremely positive chain of events if you are a fan of Duke basketball. Parker was already really good at hoops and helping the Blue Devils win games. Now, however, he has also shown the ability to step up to a — at least a little — form of adversity. Even if it is the kind that doesn’t hold that much merit to begin with.
Parker, who takes 3.6 three-pointers a game, is shooting .475 percent from behind the arc. Yup. That is right. Duke’s 6’8″, who can play every position freshman and turned out to be way more athletic than anyone thought, is shooting nearly .50 percent from distance. Not only is that incredible, but it’s an attribute of his game that is far more polished than it should be at this point for a player his size, supposed skill set and perceived limitations.
The most used cliched thing to do lately has been comparing Parker to Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. Which is kind of fair, in that whole lazy comparison way. The two of them do share some similarities on the offensive side of the ball, although, it’s pretty much in the same way that chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream are both, you know, ice cream. Of course they are a little similar, they come from the same basic food chain — super-talented, versatile, offensive small forwards. That is it, however.
Without breaking down Anthony’s game to the point of nausea, he has been knocked as being a horrible defender and pretty selfish on the offensive side of the ball (also a slew of other things, but none of which really pertain to the comparison). Melo, really, loves isolation offense and little else. Parker on the other hand is a relatively competent defender, who at least makes an honest effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Now, while he is currently being labeled as a two-way player by some experts, Parker does have a long way to go to become an above average defender. Still, to be fair to him, he is guarding multiple positions. Which will sometimes put him on a small, quick guard or a huge, strong man-beast. So, it is really hard to tell how good of a defender Parker actually is, but we can at least acknowledge he tries and does have the ability to attempt to guard different positions.
Being compared to Anthony isn’t a criticism. Well, at least it shouldn’t be. Yet, that is how some is using it to knock Parker’s game — despite everything I just said that points to how they are different. But even if they were the same, is being similar to a top-15 (whatever, it is my “list”) NBA player such a bad thing?
On top of his ability to score in a bunch of ways, be a competent defender and be number one on the scoreboard and our hearts, Parker is also averaging 7.8 boards a game. Which is way higher than it should be. Yes, Parker has the ability to get 10 boards a game, but — again highlighting — he is all over the court on both ends of the floor. Sometimes defending at the top of the key or hoisting a three, all of which takes rebounding opportunities away from him. Really, Parker’s near 8 boards a game is probably higher than it should be.
What does all of this mean? Absolutely nothing. Parker — who is already the most polished college freshman — is going to get better. Like, even more all kinds of swell. So, yeah. We can keep taking potshots at his game and whatnot, but not only does it look like he responds well to us being all jerkface-ish, but he’s nowhere near as good as he is going to end up.