The Milwaukee Bucks took Jabari Parker second overall and the Utah Jazz drafted Rodney Hood at number 23. Both players should get significant minutes and make an immediate impact this season. However, there are a few areas of improvement that will allow both Parker and Hood to excel.
Parker was in the discussion to be the number one overall pick throughout the 2013-14 season, and for good reason. He has the most NBA ready offensive game of any rookie, and he averaged more than 15 points and eight rebounds in five Summer League games.
(Let’s take everything from the Summer League with a grain of salt. It’s not going to determine career success, but it’s the pro experience these guys have right now.)
He has the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor, and he is particularly deadly with his midrange game. Although he does not possess exceptional speed, he can work with or without the ball to create space for open shots. He can find his spots and pull up off the dribble, similar to the style of Paul Pierce.
Despite Parker’s exceptional offensive skills, he can also get himself into trouble attacking the basket. He falls into the trap of forcing his way into the paint with no plan, leading to turnovers. Parker averaged five turnovers per game in Summer League action, and he led Duke with 2.3 turnovers per game last season.
When Parker faces a defender with enough length or quickness to stay in front of him, he can still drive, but he should look for opportunities to hit open teammates on the perimeter rather than put up a contested shot.
One area of the floor where Parker could excel is in the post. At 6’8 and 235 pounds, he can power his way to points against skinnier small forwards. This is a possession putting Parker against number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins (6’8, 194 pounds) when Duke and Kansas faced off in November. Here Parker establishes good post position, but settles for a fadeaway jumper.
Fast forward to the Summer League. Parker uses his size to his advantage against Wiggins, pinning him underneath the basket and neutralizing Wiggins’ length and athleticism.
Parker should develop an already impressive offensive game with more NBA experience, and he is going to be getting plenty of touches on a Bucks roster where scoring options are limited.
Defensively, Parker will probably go through the typical rookie struggles. He needs to improve his play versus the pick and roll. He can get caught standing up out of a stance, unprepared to stop the ball handler coming off the screen. A lot of NBA teams will have the big man drop with the roller rather than hedge out high to the guard with the ball, but Parker often finds himself stuck in between.
Rodney Hood took advantage on one of those pick and roll plays, so let’s transition to him. Hood averaged 13.4 points and a little more than four rebounds per game in the Summer League. While he stands at 6’8 like Parker, he plays more shooting guard, reminding some of Jalen Rose. Hood shot 42 percent from three-point range last year for the Blue Devils, and when he gets hot, look out.
Being a constant threat from deep enables Hood to attack defenders off the dribble. He does not have great finishing ability near the rim yet and will often go with a jumper or lefty floater instead of getting all the way to the hoop, but he has shown he knows how to find his teammates for easy looks after drawing in the defense.
On the defensive end, Hood needs to be more engaged and show more intensity. There are too many possessions where he does not close out on shooters or simply stands flatfooted, allowing the man he is guarding to blow by him.
Hood can improve defensively immediately with a little more effort and attention to detail (staying with his man off the ball, sprinting out to shooters, staying in a stance, etc.). He does not possess a long wingspan to make up for mistakes, so his positioning and concentration becomes even more important.
Hood is likely to get minutes off the bench for the Jazz behind a starting five of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors. Hood can give the Jazz a nice scoring boost off the bench, and he may be the difference in a few games when he finds that three-point stroke.
Parker should step in as a starter for the Bucks alongside Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Larry Sanders. Head coach Jason Kidd has already said he is comfortable with Parker as a stretch four, and that strategy may also protect Parker from having to guard more athletic small forwards.
Both players will be expected to produce early for teams unlikely to make the NBA playoffs. That should not stop them from making improvements with these aspects of their games in year one.