The lotto balls have been drawn and now we look forward to the 2014 NBA Draft, which is just a couple weeks away on Thursday, June 26th. As we edge our way closer to draft day, Mark Kaplan (@DaTrueGuru) and Michael Pichan (@FantasyNomad) will be matching up two top prospects against each other and breaking down who they believe will be the better fantasy producer, and thus the player you should be targeting over the other in your fantasy basketball dynasty league rookie drafts. The first matchup in this on-going series pits former Dukie Jabari Parker against former Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins.
For a look at how the fellas see the first 14 picks of the upcoming NBA Draft shaking out checkout: Fantasy Basketball: 2014 NBA Draft Lottery Mock
Mark Kaplan's Take
I have faith that Jabari Parker will be the better fantasy asset this year, and beyond, over Andrew Wiggins. One big strike against Wiggins is that he went to Kansas. I don’t say this because I hate the “Fake birds” because of their miraculous win over my Memphis Tigers in the 2008 NCAA Championship. Instead, I say this because the track record of former Bill Self's players producing good NBA players has not met the hype over the last few years. Here is a look as some of the most recent players to come out Kansas since 2010 (all were type rated recruits): Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby, Tyshawn Taylor, the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, and Xavier Henry. The only players to do ANYTHING at the NBA level are the Morris twins and arguably Mario Chalmers, but fantasy wise mainly just Markieff Morris. People can make more excuses than LBJ Loyalists for why recent KU alum have failed to meet expectations at the next level, but the bottom line is that their overall track record has been beyond disappointing.
The 6 feett 8.75 inches tall Andrew Wiggins is entering the 2014 draft after averaging 17 points and six rebounds with a 45 FG% per game in his one season of college ball. Those numbers are good, but are nothing special. On the other side of the ball is Duke product Jabari Parker, who is coming out of a university that churns out quality NBA players more frequently than even the Cleveland Cavaliers win draft lotteries. Add in that Parker's freshman line was slightly better than Wiggins as he finished this year averaging 19 points and 8.7 rebounds with a 47 FG% per game. Flatout, the 6-feet-9 inches tall and 235 pound Parker possesses a much more polished offensive game than Wiggins, not to mention that Parker is a better rebounder and has the offensive skill set to play multiple positions at a higher level than Wiggins. In the end, Wiggins projects to be more of a project in the early stages of his career thus making him more of a long-term talent to dream on as opposed to Parker who should be an immediate fantasy impact player.
Michael Pichan's Take
Andrew Wiggins is the type of player who has that “wow” factor about him, as blatantly obvious in the photo above when he recorded the highest Draft combine vertical leap (running start) at a jaw dropping 44 inches. In addition to his insane leaping ability, Wiggins posses a ton of pure, raw athleticism and appears as if his arms are long enough that he could touch both sides of a gymnasium wall at the same time (seven-foot wingspan to be exact). Not all that surprising when your father is Mitchell Wiggins former NBA first round draft pick and your mother is Marita Payne-Wiggins, a former track and field Olympic silver-medalist. All that said, there have been a multitude of NBA players, past and present, who could jump out of the gym and/or had an enormous wingspan but were lacking in many other areas that limited them from being as productive as expectations would have lead us to believe they would. The laundry list of players who have failed to meet expectations over the years is so long that we need not list specific players. Rather, the point I am getting at is for all the natural ability and physical attributes that Wiggins possesses, there are a number of “what ifs” that exist with this possible number one overall pick in terms of his skill set at the next level leading us to not only question is he really a franchise type player but will he be one of the top two or three future fantasy producers from this draft class, and for this debate, a better fantasy producer than Jabari Parker.
I am in agreement with Kaplan above in that I see Parker as having the overall offensive edge over Wiggins. And for me, I see this overall edge offensively as being very substantially in favor of the former Dukie. Parker can take opponents off the dribble with either hand, something Wiggins does not do nearly as often or with as much tenacity or effectiveness. Unlike Parker, Wiggins is predominantly right-handed off the dribble and not as aggressive of a finisher around the rim. Although Wiggins has the edge in pure-leaping ability, Parker still has plenty of his own hops and uses them more to his advantage in the half court set attempting to finish strong at the rim, often times even trying to flush it on his defenders, whereas Wiggins does not often get into a position where he can do that whether it be due to his ballhandling inefficiencies or lack of physical strength. Parker also has a huge advantage over Wiggins in his ability to function in the post, something that is near non-existent in Wiggins’ game. Parker has the size and strength advantage over Wiggins as he stands and he knows how to use it to get the ball down low or on the wing to set up an isolation opportunity for himself. I would argue that while Parker may or may not be the all-around best player in the draft from a pure-basketball standpoint, Parker’s all around offensive game puts him at the head of this class in terms of the offensive fantasy numbers he will put up both immediately and in the long-run.
I do not want to come across like I see Wiggins becoming a bust. He is too young, naturally talented, and coachable for that to happen. In addition, whatever flaws the former Jayhawk may currently have, which could limit his effectiveness on the offensive end of the court in the early stages of his career, he will likely be too valuable on the defensive end to not be on the floor as much as possible. Wiggins is both willing to play defense and versatile enough to effectively guard at least three different positions (1-3 spots) which should help him secure plenty of consistent minutes right from the get go, regardless of what team drafts him. Often times those players that have the aforementioned similar physical attributes like Wiggins, who end up failing to meet overall exceptions, usually fail to do so in part because they are not adept enough on the defensive end to remain on the court if they can’t seem to get things going offensively. This should not be the case with Wiggins, which is arguably the second biggest advantage he holds over Jabari Parker, next to his raw athleticism. Meaning you will likely not go wrong drafting either Parker or Wiggins, but from a fantasy perspective Parker has a Paul Pierce-like game, mentality, and fantasy floor with his upside being Carmelo Anthony. Wiggins on the other-hand, while many may compare him to Rudy Gay or Tracy McGrady, has neither the selfishness or the half-court offensive skill set as either one of them. Nor does Wiggins seem to have, as one scout bluntly put it, “There is no “fuck you” to him,” (quoted from Ryen Russillo’s NBA Draft Confidential), so I would be more inclined to compare Wiggins’ fantasy potential to that of what we have seen with Kawhi Leonard the last two years. Good defensively, has his moments offensively, but the overall fantasy stat line does not suggest top of his rookie class production. But, like Leonard, for different reasons, the long-term potential is there that as Wiggins matures he could eventually reach elite fantasy earning status, at least compared to this very talented draft class.
For the common fan, and the fantasy owner who can easily be influenced by the “Age of the Highlight” that we are in, it is easy to automatically give the edge here to Wiggins. Honestly, is there one image other than the one above showcasing the Canadian's caliber of athleticism that will have a larger influence on how people in your fantasy basketball league(s) view a player? Probably not. Which will probably guarantee that regardless if Wiggins is drafted later than Parker on June 26th he will be taken ahead of the former Dukie in your fantasy drafts, but hey that’s a plus which should hopefully allow Parker to fall to you if you are lucky enough to be picking near the top of your dynasty league draft. If not, don’t worry, Kaplan and I will be returning with another Fantasy Matchup, between two projected first round selections, to provide you with another player who projects to have the higher fantasy producing earning potential.