Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker: Who Is the Better Fantasy Basketball Asset?
In June of 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers had the top three picks in the NBA Draft. Unlike most years, when a litany of names are considered, or even the rare times when a clear consensus top pick emerges, the three franchises found themselves in a unique position; there were exactly three names a cut above the others.
All it came down was deciding in which order the names should be placed.
Joel Embiid emerged as a frontrunner for the top pick during the NCAA tournament -- despite the league-wide movement of offense to the perimeter, a potential franchise center is still too tantalizing for most NBA front offices to pass on. However, a back injury (and then foot stress fractures to boot) before the draft relegated Embiid to true third banana status.
So, it became a single question for Cleveland and Milwaukee, along with one fantasy basketball owners have been also asking themselves.
Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker?
We know how things played out next. The Cavaliers took Andrew Wiggins first overall and then shipped him to Minnesota for Kevin Love once LeBron James decided to come home to Northeast Ohio. The Bucks, worried by Embiid's injuries, took Jabari Parker.
Wiggins and Parker were destined to be forever linked by their draft class. However, the 2016-17 season is really the first time we're getting to properly compare them. A knee injury to Parker derailed his rookie campaign and certainly affected much of his sophomore year, as well. Both players have taken a step forward in year three, starting to show what they'll be as both NBA players and fantasy assets.
For fantasy purposes, it's pertinent to look at how each player is performing in the standard nine categories. It's also worth nothing that since being enrolled in Tom Thibodeau school, Wiggins has unsurprisingly shot up to fifth in the NBA by averaging 36.9 minutes per game -- which is always a plus for counting stats.
After averaging 31.7 minutes per night in his first full season last year, Parker has averaged 34.1 minutes so far this year, which is tied for 29th.
Both are getting heavy minutes, but Parker has usurped Wiggins in value -- they're a toss up in three pointers, blocks and free throw percentage, and a very slight edge goes to Wiggins in points. Parker then takes over with clear leads in rebounds, field goal percentage, steals, assists and turnovers. Given that Parker went anywhere from 20 to 25 spots lower in most drafts, his owners have landed a steal.
Parker's nERD currently sits at 2.6, which is tied for 44th best in the NBA. Our metric has been considerably less kind to Wiggins' efforts, as his -2.9 nERD ranks just 432nd out of 451 total players. Much of this comes from his inconsistent effort on defense. While he rates as a middling -0.4 per NBA.com's plus/minus, Basketball Reference gives him a 104 rating on offense and a comparatively ugly 113 on defense.
The fantasy basketball player rankings here at numberFire have Parker currently sitting 57th overall and Wiggins coming in at 125th.
Right now, Jabari Parker is the player you want on your squad.
Potential Growth for the Long-Term
When considering their age and the improvement they've shown over their short NBA careers, both Parker and Wiggins are set to be strong fantasy basketball assets. When considering long-term outlook, Wiggins would've probably been the clear choice as the better player to own as recently as October.
Health? Check. Clear developmental jump from year one to year two? Check. Teammates with a budding superstar? Check.
But if Parker's knee injury is eliminated from the equation -- he's been completely healthy since his return -- he also checks those boxes, and in more interesting fashion.
He plays with emerging supernova in Giannis Antetokounmpo and now rookie Malcolm Brogdon, creators and distributors that allow him to acquire space and play off the ball. Wiggins is often relied upon as a creator himself, and so far, has struggled with that responsibility. While he does have Ricky Rubio, his lack of consistency as an outside shooter somewhat deadens that advantage, and having a gunner like Zach LaVine as his primary wing also doesn't help.
Parker's jump from 2015-16, his real 'rookie' season, to this year has been much more impressive than Wiggins' jump from 2014-15 to 2015-16. A deeper dive into their current numbers reveals clear advantages for Parker, as well.
|3P%||True Shooting %||Assist %||Usage %||Win Shares/48||ORtg||DRtg||Box Plus/Minus|
Parker has made impressive leaps in his second full season in every offensive category listed, while also being clearly superior to Wiggins in these areas. Most notably, he's improved his three point shooting to an elite level and possesses the game of a true stretch big man.
What Does it all Mean?
It's important to remember that both these players are only 21. Wiggins has gone through the first coaching change of his young career, and going from the Sam Mitchell experience to Thibodeau is no joke -- Thibs is known for demanding excellence from his players, and excellence takes time.
Wiggins has also undergone something of a role change. With the offensive emergence of LaVine, Wiggins has played 95% of his minutes at small forward and just 3% at shooting guard. This is a huge uptick given that he played 64% at small forward in each of his first two seasons and spent most of the rest of his time at the two.
This does mean Wiggins is likely to lose shooting guard eligibility next season, which is something to keep in mind.
For Wiggins, who is still listed at just 199 pounds, the physical demands of playing the three on a nightly basis may have contributed to the speed bump in his short-term development as a player, but may ultimately prove fruitful in the long term. It remains to be seen if the Timberwolves consider him a true three, or if they're playing him out of position to accommodate LaVine not being an effective point guard.
Will they consider moving LaVine for a piece that better fits their team? Or will they continue to count on internal growth? Either way, there are more questions with Wiggins than answers.
None of the same questions afflict Parker. He's dialed in with a coach and front office unlikely to change anytime soon, with a franchise player next to him and a backcourt in Brogdon and the eventually-returning Khris Middleton that should form an effective core for the next several years.
It's not something we could have foreseen three months ago, but as of right now, Jabari Parker is a better fantasy asset than Andrew Wiggins, in both the short- and the long-term.