Every player in the 2014 NBA draft has some area he needs to improve on in order to reach his "potential" (and also injuries he has to avoid). This of course includes Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, two players being considered for the top pick (and the Sixer's draft choice). With the first pick, NBA teams look to get a player whose potential is that of a "franchise player", someone capable of being a number one or two scoring option, and contributing in other areas as well. Again, every draft prospect is bound to have some flaw, which makes it that much more important a player is willing and capable of improving upon his weaknesses. Wiggins and Parker are young, flawed, and have that much more room to grow as basketball players.
It seems most media and Sixers fans would rather draft Wiggins due to his "higher ceiling" and "elite athleticism." These players shouldn't be compared. It is more realistic to ask what the chances Wiggins and Parker each have at becoming a franchise player. The following questions will show why Jabari Parker is easily the better draft selection.
Both Wiggins and Parker have weaknesses which could keep them from being all-stars. There are three major questions teams should be asking. 1. What are these weaknesses? 2. How easy are they to improve? 3. Do these players want to improve?
Let's start with Parker's weaknesses. He is not a good defender, and that calls his position in the NBA into question. Is he a three or four? His offensive abilities would allow him to excel almost immediately at both positions. His foot speed, however, hurts his ability to guard the perimeter, and his strength and size may not allow him to guard bigger power forwards. This may be Parker's only glaring weakness. He projects as a primary scoring option in the NBA. As an 18 year old, his shot is smooth, he can score inside and out, in a variety of different ways. Some question his athleticism, but anyone who can do THIS, will be just fine athletically.
For all of Wiggins' talent, he needs to improve in a bunch of different areas. The hype surrounding Wiggins is that his athleticism will allow him to dominate in the NBA, which means offensively, he will need to use his athleticism to get to the basket. He couldn't do this in college though because his handles are weak, and besides the one spin move he uses all the time, he is mostly ineffective off the dribble. To become a franchise player he must learn to break any defender down off the dribble, and he is a long ways from that. His athleticism seems to be primarily vertical athleticism rather than lateral. From what I've watched, his first step and lateral cuts are only above average for a college player. Some of this may not have been on display as much due to his lack of ball handling ability, but this does not bode well for Wiggins in the NBA. Scouts should make sure to work him out without the ball to see if his lateral quickness is at the same level as his jumping ability. Additionally Wiggins struggles to change his shot and finish at the basket, despite how high he gets. This is worrisome, because many of the top scorers in the NBA could finish at the rim in college, and it only gets harder to do so in the NBA. Finally his shot creation needs more creativity. His step back midrange jump shot is decent, but he needs more variety to function as a primary scoring option in the NBA.
Can Parker improve his defense? I think so. When it comes to speed and quickness, I think it is much easier to go from below average to average, than from good to elite. For Parker's game to succeed in the NBA, he needs to just get quick enough to stay with the average NBA wing player. His game does not depend on having elite athleticism, it depends on his Melo-like smoothness, and ability to score from anywhere. I've seen kids spend a summer doing speed and agility training and improve drastically (I can only assume a season or two with NBA speed and agility coaches would help him). This would allow Jabari to fix his one glaring weakness, defense, and allow him to carry a team offensively. He is only 18, and those elite offensive skills he showcased in college can only get better. If he shows improvement there, he will be a scary player.
Wiggins' task is a little more daunting. He has to first improve his handle and dribble moves. I am not sure how difficult this is, but it will take significant work. If Wiggins can fix his handle, then he has to hope he can use his athleticism to get by defenders and to create his shot, something he did not show in college. It is also possible Wiggins just isn't an elite athlete laterally despite his jumping ability. Since Wiggins' game is based on his athleticism, if this athleticism is not as effective as people think, he will never reach the potential people see in him. Think about Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson's lateral quickness and explosiveness. I don't think Wiggins will ever show that type of athleticism, despite how high he can jump. This leaves Wiggins' as a good NBA player, but not a primary scoring option. Lebron came into the league able to get to the basket at will and finish through contact, something Wiggins hasn't shown. His basketball IQ needs work, in one article he mentioned how the college game was too fast for him coming out of high school, and that he had trouble adjusting. Wiggins needs to add more than a step back jumper, and also improve his jump shooting. His defense is also overrated, because of his perceived athleticism. He is a decent shot blocker, but still fails to stay in front of his man at times.
I can't speak to either player's work ethic, but I assume they will both work hard at improving. However the chance that Wiggins fixes all of his weaknesses is very unlikely, and if he is able to reach his potential, it will not be for at least 5-7 years. I don't think Wiggins will ever have a good enough handle to break down good NBA defenders, nor will he ever show elite lateral quickness. He doesn't have the natural ability to adjust his shot at the rim, and I don't think he will ever excel at this. Wiggins may prove to be similar to Harrison Barnes, but a better dunker (not worth the number 1 pick). I cannot see an offense ever running through him.
Parker can absolutely improve his foot speed to stay with an average NBA wing. He is not Doug Mcdermott, who may not have the athleticism to cover NBA players. There is also the option of pairing someone like Aaron Gordon with Parker, and between the 3 and the 4, let Parker cover the easier assignment, and offensively play whichever position he prefers. OKC does something similar with Durant and Sefolosha, between the 2 and 3. Parker will be, at the very least, a number two scoring option on a championship team, and an average defender. Coaches can easily design a defense that will expose Parker less than he is utilized on offense, making him a net positive to his team. I cannot see Wiggins being any better than Iguodala, and he would have to improve a lot just to get to that point.