Coming into the Duke-Kansas game, I had not seen much of either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. Like everyone else, I was really looking forward to my first glimpse of two guys who, at various times, had been billed as "the best high school prospect since LeBron James."
However, after everything that happened with Shabazz Muhammad, I've become a little more skeptical of the heavily hyped high school stars. Last year, a lot of these same folks were telling us that an unathletic 6'6 small forward was a sure-fire Top 5 pick.
The story of the first half was Parker, who came out in his hometown looking to make a point. Right away, it was obvious that his athleticism had been undersold. He may not have the raw explosiveness of Wiggins, but he moves pretty well for being 6'8 and 235 pounds:
Parker is a fairly complete player offensively. With a 6'11 wingspan, he can shoot over the top of the defense easily. When a 6'8 guy can rise and fire this quickly, you just hope he misses:
With his size, shooting and ball-handling ability, Parker can get buckets basically at will. He finished the night with 27 points on 9-18 from the field and 5-7 from 3. If he shoots this well all season, forget it.
However, in my mind, his most impressive play was his only assist of the night:
They ran him off the three-point line, so he got into the lane, drew the defense and found the open man in the strong-side corner. Parker just has a good feel for the game; that's a high-level basketball play.
In terms of GIFable moments, Parker was way ahead of Wiggins:
What can you even say about that last one? That's just ridiculous.
Of course, you knew Wiggins would have his moments in the open floor too:
But when it came to creating offense in half-court situation, Wiggins didn't seem nearly as advanced as Parker. While the Duke offense was basically predicated around Parker, Wiggins got a lot of his points on run-outs, cutting without the ball and posting up Tyler Thornton, generously listed at 6'2 and 190 pounds.
At 6'8 and 200 pounds with a 7'0 wingspan, Wiggins can shoot over the top of any guard. The difference was that he didn't have nearly as much confidence in his jumper as Parker. He attempted only one 3-pointer in the game:
He can get that shot whenever he wants, but can he knock it down?
Don't let his nice stat line (22 points on 9-15 shooting) fool you. If a team can keep Wiggins in front of them and out of transition, he may struggle to create his own shot. Of course, that's easier said than done at this level.
One thing you can be sure of: everyone is going to be sitting on that spin move. If Wiggins keeps spinning as much as he did on Tuesday, I see a lot of his offensive fouls in his future.
Defense is where he may excel right away. Wiggins is long, he moves his feet and he gets up off the ground fast. In that respect, he more than lives up to the hype.
In the second half, Wiggins ended up matched up on Parker for a few possessions. The first time, Parker tried to post him up, even though he doesn't seem as comfortable playing with his back to the basket. You certainly aren't going to be able to score over the top of Wiggins too often:
The second time, Parker faced up Wiggins and got into the triple threat position, where he is most dangerous. At that point, he just bullied Wiggins into the foul:
The part where Parker uses his shoulder to move Wiggins 2-3 feet back? That's where Wiggins needs to acquaint himself with the weight room.
It won't matter much at the college level, but strength could be an issue for Wiggins going forward. He's a wiry 200 pounds and doesn't have the frame or shoulders of a guy like Parker. On the next level, he may have to make a living on the perimeter.
There's a reason we don't have any GIFs of Parker playing defense, though. Duke gave up 94 points, which is about what you would expect for a team playing Parker as a center. No one is going to ask him to be a primary rim protector in the NBA. That could be the unanswered question on Parker all season: what position does he guard at the next level? Does he have the quickness to be move his feet and take on small forwards on the perimeter, or is he more of a smaller power forward?
You don't want to take too much away from one game, especially one so early in the season. By the time conference play starts, both Duke and Kansas could look like totally different teams. That said, I didn't see enough from Wiggins to say that he's the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick in 2014. He's got incredible talent, but I doubt he's going to have a freshman season better than Kevin Durant.
Wiggins vs. Parker? At this point, that's an open question.