NEW YORK — Jabari Parker sat stoically at the podium at Madison Square Garden following Duke’s 72-66 loss to Arizona Friday night in the NIT Season Tip-off championship.
Above all else, Parker is a competitor and a winner and he wasn’t happy with this latest loss that dropped Duke to 6-2 on the season, and him to 0-2 against fellow super-frosh Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon.
“I need to get experience against big guys,” said the 6-foot-8 Parker, who faced an Arizona frontline that goes 6-9, 6-8, 7-foot.
Despite the loss, Parker’s stock with NBA personnel continues to soar.
“Jabari could leave Duke now and help any playoff team in the East from the 4th through 8th spots in the playoffs,” one NBA assistant coach told SNY.tv.
The same NBA assistant previously told SNY.tv that Parker would be the best player on the Utah Jazz — right now.
Parker just missed his eighth straight game with 20+ points, finishing with 19. For the season, he’s averaging 23.6 points and 8.7 rebounds.
“Jabari Parker is just a really dynamic offensive player,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “One of the things that’s striking in person is how big he is. He gets the ball in and around the basket. He’s a load, yet he’s so talented away from the goal. And I’m sure as Duke’s cohesiveness starts to come their way, that he’ll make the other players on his team even better than he already does.”
On a night when presumed No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins managed just 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting as No. 2 Kansas lost to Villanova, 63-59, in the Bahamas, the NBA assistant said Parker was the more complete player at this moment.
“Wiggins is good but I watch NBA wings who do not have great range and can’t defend, catch and shoot or pin down action get crushed in this league,” the assistant said. “Everyone always wonders can guys score? They have to be able to defend their position. I’ve already seen Jabari do it vs. [Kevin] Durant [ at the Nike Skills Academy]. I don’t think Wiggins could guard Durant. Jabari did.”
He added: “I take Jabari every time. Ready to play, a winner, great kid, can shoot. He has tremendous upside and has performed when the lights were on.”
Former NBA coach and player John Lucas pointed out that “this is the first time in a year and a half that [Parker] has been healthy” because he battled a foot injury during his senior season at Chicago Simeon.
“His body’s getting back into shape and he can just do so many things and play so many different positions,” Lucas told SNY.tv. “He is a Paul Pierce at times. He’s a Carmelo Anthony at times. He’s a true mismatch player in the league.”
Lucas agreed with the NBA assistant that Parker’s “defense is under-rated, as well as his athleticism.”
“I think both of those things are vastly under-rated,” Lucas said.
The NBA assistant likes the Pierce comparison, too, pointing to the 1998 Draft in which Pierce went No. 10 and Vince Carter No. 5.
“Looking back at the career of each, who would you take now, Vince Carter or Paul Pierce?”
The implication is that Parker is Pierce and Wiggins is Carter.
There’s a lot of basketball left to play and Wiggins may still end up going No. 1 because of his upside going forward and because of the pressure on some NBA GMs to take him first.
“It depends on what’s my biggest need,” Lucas said. “If I just need the best available player I think nobody argues that Parker may be the most complete basketball player but if I need a position need then that may be a reason he doesn’t go No. 1.
“It’s all in whoever gets the pick. but it would be very hard to pass on Parker.”