Most sports fans have never been able to help themselves from trying to discover the next big thing. It happens in all sports and basketball is certainly no different. Back in 2003 when LeBron James was still in high school, some fans and analysts were already trying to crown him as the next Michael Jordan.
Flash forward 10 years and now there have two prospects, fresh out of high school, who are already being compared to LeBron James.
Both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker had their high school basketball careers followed very closely by the media, NBA scouts and college basketball recruiters. As good as they are both believed to be, Wiggins and Parker have many differences on the court. Neither are perfect prospects, but both have the talent to become huge stars someday.
Parker is very gifted athletically, but it’s his mentality that sets him apart from the competition. He is a student of the game and he has a killer instinct that is only found in elite players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Parker also has amazing ball skills. Whether it’s dribbling the basketball, grabbing a rebound, making a slick steal or a beautiful pass – he can do it with ease.
When it comes to God-given ability, Wiggins has the advantage over Parker. He’s 6-foot-8 and 205lbs with a wingspan of seven feet. But don’t let his size fool you into thinking that he’s not athletic.
His vertical jump has been measured at 44 inches and he looks like a gazelle when running up and down the court.
Even though he’s freakishly talented in his own right, Parker was not blessed with the God-given size or natural talent Wiggins possesses. He’s not quite as fast and he can’t jump quite as high.
Parker also has a small red flag due to a foot injury he suffered during the FIBA U-17 World Championship tournament. Although it wasn’t a serious injury, it did cause him to struggle with his weight.
The biggest weakness scouts mention when talking about Wiggins is his mentality. He seems to lack a killer instinct and at times his passion for the game comes into question.
Wiggins has all of the talent to become a defensive nightmare for any opposing coach to game plan for. Yet, at times, he seems unwilling to participate on the defensive end.
Jabari Parker, Duke Blue Devils:
There couldn’t have been a happier person than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski when Parker announced his intent to play for the Blue Devils. Parker is the perfect player for Coach K’s system because it rarely spotlights one player above the rest of the team.
Distributing the basketball to the open man is one of the things Parker does best. And Coach K will be more than willing to let him take over when things get tight in clutch late-game moments.
With all that said, Parker’s stats in college may not reflect just how great he actually is. Coach K will not let him become a ball-hog and he will be forced to share playing time.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks:
Considering Wiggins will be so much bigger and faster than his college competition, he should be able to shine as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks. Even though the Jayhawks have always had a lot of talent, they have not had a superstar like Wiggins during the Bill Self-era.
Wiggins should have every opportunity to take over games and become the team’s focal point. This should result in stellar stats and could even earn him the Naismith College Player of the Year award.
It’s always hard to predict just how good of a career somebody will have in the NBA without knowing which team they will play for. Since Parker is a complete team player who is capable of racking up assists as well as points, he should have a long professional career if he can stay healthy.
Even if Parker doesn’t develop into an NBA superstar like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, it’s hard to imagine him not having some sort of a role with a team. His ball skills are way too good to go to waste.
Determining Wiggins’ pro career without knowing which team he will end up playing for is much harder than predicting Parker’s future. He has all of the talent to become a superstar, but he has yet to develop the ability to make his teammates better. If he doesn’t land with a team willing to surround him with other talented players, he could struggle when opposing teams key on him.
It’s important to note that the opinions and projections expressed above are based on watching high school game film. Many people are forgetting that what we see an athlete do in high school does not always translate to the college game. Likewise, what we see on college film doesn’t always translate to the NBA.