The NBA is a league driven by its stars and more often than not, it takes more than one star to lead a whole generation. In the past, we’ve seen rivalries like Russell vs. Chamberlain and Magic vs. Bird define their respective eras. The current league driver is LeBron vs Durant, the two players who’ve battled each other in four out of the last six NBA MVP ballots. And while that rivalry will be the face of the NBA in the next few years, a consensus vote of experts conclude that the next one has already arrived: Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker.
Going One and Two
The 2014 NBA draft class was seen as one of the deepest in recent years with the top three picks considered as legitimate future franchise players in the NBA. When one of those three players, Big Man Joel Embiid got injured, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were left to slug it out for the right to be the number one overall pick. Wiggins’ upside won over Parkers’ maturity as he was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Parker came in second, taken by the Bucks and after Wiggins was subsequently traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for superstar Kevin Love, the stage was set for the NBA’s newest rivalry.
After their first month in the NBA, both Wiggins and Parker have had their share of personal success. However, their numbers have not been as advertised and it seems both young stars are still trying to find their corner of the NBA sky. Last Wednesday, the world got a first glimpse at Wiggins and Parker going at each other in a regular NBA game when the Bucks visited Target Center. Both had near identical numbers with Wiggins getting the slight edge in points (14 vs 11), rebounds (8 vs 7), assists (4 vs 3) and blocked shots (2 vs 1). But Parker had zero turnovers against Wiggins’ six. More importantly, the former Duke standout and his Milwaukee Bucks won the game 103-86 to improve to 9-7 this season. Wiggins and the Wolves fell to 3-10.
Who Had the Better Start?
Before the season started, the gambling gods at Veags installed Parker as a 5/2 odds-on-favorite to win Rookie of the Year over Wiggins who was at 15/4. But was this correct after the first month of the season? Let’s take a look at their first month NBA stats on a per game basis:
Wiggins has been the better scorer so far but it’s not by much. The reason why he’s had more points than Parker is because he’s doing exceptionally well from three point distance (10-20 or 50%) while Parker has been struggling there at 25% (4-16). But if you look at the other facets of the game, it’s been all Jabari Parker. Before the draft, Parker was considered as the most NBA ready among his batch-mates and it’s showing up in the stat sheets. If we take a look at advanced stats, Parker’s 14.25 PER is better than Wiggins’ 10.83 which means that Parker has had the better overall game so far.
The NBA hands out two Rookie of the Month winners: one from the East and another from the West. So because the Bucks and the Wolves play for different conferences, we could be seeing Parker and Wiggins winning on each side. But while we’ll only know who’s better at season’s end when the league hands out the Rookie of the Year award, Jabari Parker takes the first month by virtue of a better all-around performance and team success. But the margin of difference is almost negligible, that if in some other discussion table Wiggins comes out the winner, we’d also consider it. Neither man has been as good as advertised, but they’ve gone neck to neck in statistical performance. Now that’s a good ingredient in brewing the next big rivalry.