Mike Krzyzewski has learned a lot from his time as the national team coach, as you can see that in how Duke plays. The Blue Devils are constructed along the same lines as Team USA, spreading the floor with 4-5 shooters and lacking a traditional low-post presence. Because of that, Jabari Parker, instead of playing as a combo forward, is often used as a small-ball center.
Right now, though, Jabari more closely resembles Carmelo Anthony, a combo forward. At 6'8 and 240 pounds with a 7'0 wingspan, he is an elite shooter and ball-handler, a combination that makes him nearly impossible to defend. Like Carmelo, Jabari is far too quick to be guarded by bigger defenders and far too strong to be guarded by smaller ones. When his outside shot is falling, he can essentially score at will at the college level. He is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds on 46 percent this season.
If there is a concern about Jabari, it's the other statistical categories. He averages 1.3 assists on 2.1 turnovers a game, which tells you that he isn't making a lot of plays for his teammates. It's not that he can't read the floor, it's that he's mostly worried about getting buckets. Just because he can score over double and triple teams doesn't necessarily mean it's a great idea. Sometimes, the hardest thing for a great scorer to do is give up the ball.
What Jabari has to learn is that it's not always about his offense. If Duke makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it won't be because he will score a lot of points. It will be because Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon are scoring points too. Cook, the Blue Devils' point guard, is their only player averaging more than two assists a game. While he can distribute the ball, he will never draw as much defensive attention as Jabari.
To take the next step as an offensive player, Parker has to be able to get everyone else on his team easy points too. That's what makes LeBron James' teams so dangerous -- if one of his teammates is going through a slump, LeBron can get them a wide-open shot at any time. Even if Carmelo or Kevin Durant or Paul George go bucket-to-bucket with him, LeBron is also getting shots for Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Shane Battier and all the rest.
In all likelihood, Jabari is never going to be the playmaker or defensive menace that LeBron is. However, the better he can be at moving the ball and playing both ends, the better his teammates will be on both sides of the ball. A guy like Marshall Plumlee, whose been pressed into service as the starting center, can't score on his own. He has to have opportunities generated for him, either in transition, pick-and-rolls or the offensive glass. If Jabari comes into the game thinking I'm going to get Plumdog a few open dunks, I'm going to get Hood a few open 3's and I'm going to get Sulaimon some run-outs, Duke will be very hard to beat.
More on Jabari Parker
More on Jabari Parker
That will be the story for the rest of Jabari's career. Combo forwards are one of the hardest positions to project to the next level because you are never sure which position they'll play in the pros. Still, it's hard to see his game not translating immediately. As a 19-year old rookie in 2003, Carmelo averaged 21 points and six rebounds on 43 percent shooting. However, if you look over the course of Melo's career, you see that his assist averages have remained stagnant. That's why the selfish tag has followed him around.
To be sure, there's nothing wrong with being Carmelo Anthony. Despite what some of his harsher critics might tell you, he is one of the best players in the NBA and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Carmelo is 29 and he has already made six All-Star teams, six All-NBA teams and scored 19,000 points. He has a career PER of 21 and he has never played on a losing team in his 10-year career, though this year might break that trend. However, without sustained playoff success, his reputation isn't all that great.
I'm pretty confident that Jabari will walk into the NBA, score a bunch of points and win some games. He's a lock to be a Top-3 pick, and whoever drafts him will run offense through him right away. At the same time, until he starts passing the ball and playing defense, I'm not sure his teams will win a lot in the postseason, which is what separates stars from superstars.
That's the burden for anyone blessed with great talent. To whom much is given, much is expected.