Bucks Lead

Bucks Lead Season Review #11: Jabari Parker

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After returning from his second ACL injury in four seasons, Jabari Parker remains one of the biggest mysteries for the Milwaukee Bucks organization. Parker is an offensive-minded four with All-Star potential whose career has been riddled with injuries and questionable defense. As a result, he remains unsigned for the 2018-2019 season where he will test free agency with the Bucks having an opportunity to match any offer he receives.

2016-2017: 20.1 PPG (49% FG, 36.5% 3PT, 74.3% FT), 6.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 33.9 MPG (51 Games Played)

2017-2018: 12.6 PPG (48.2% FG, 38.3% 3PT, 74.1% FT), 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 24.0 MPG (31 Games Played)

At first glance it may seem as though Jabari took a significant step back this year as he saw a decrease in production in every statistical category. Yet, the numbers here may not tell the truth about the season Parker had. Returning from his second ACL injury, the team medical staff had him on a minutes restriction following his return to NBA action. He was given a bench role where he provided the Bucks a scoring spark for a second unit that was severely lacking offensive firepower.

There were times during this season where Parker looked like an All-Star caliber player. For instance, on April 1st the Milwaukee Bucks were playing in Denver for the final game of a 4-game road trip. Foul trouble for Giannis and Bledsoe as well as a poor shooting night for Middleton gave Parker his opportunity to shine. Jabari amassed 35 PTS (14-23 FG, 5-8 3PT, 2-2 FT), 10 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL in 39 minutes of play. Although it was an incredible individual performance, Parker missed a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. Essentially, this game showed exactly why so many fans are still very optimistic about Parker’s future following the injuries.

2017-2018 Postseason: 10.0 PPG (45.2% FG, 31.6% 3PT, 61.5% FT), 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 23.9 MPG

This season also offered the Bucks their first opportunity to evaluate Jabari Parker in the postseason. The results were less than any Bucks fan would’ve hoped for. During the seven-game series with the Boston Celtics, Parker posted a pedestrian stat line and at times appeared to be completely unplayable because of his less than stellar effort on the defensive end. Other times, he was locked in and looked like an offensive star and a more than capable defender. In Game 4 Parker posted 16 PTS (5-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-6 FT), 7 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 3 BLK, 0 TO in a two-point win at home to tie the series at 2-2. If anything, Jabari’s performance during the postseason left the Bucks organization more confused about his value heading into this summer’s free agency where Parker remains a restricted free agent.

Jabari Parker’s impending free agency has been one of the biggest underlying storylines of this Bucks season, and perhaps is the biggest question left to answer this offseason following the hiring of Mike Budenholzer. Will the Bucks resign Jabari? If they do, how much will it be for?

To answer these questions, we can look at an ESPN story where Zach Lowe reported the Bucks had offered Jabari Parker a 3-year deal worth around $54 million that he had turned down. During the season, Jabari went on the “Milwaukee Basketball Hour” with Steve Fifer, Bill Michaels and Steve Novak. He was asked about the alleged offer to which he responded, “Shoot, I wish.” Unfortunately, it’s unknown what the actual offer extended to Parker was worth before the rookie scale extension window closed.

Other players from the 2014 NBA Draft, such as Andrew Wiggins (#1 overall pick) and Joel Embiid (#3 overall pick), have signed 5-year max salary extensions worth about $150 million. While another scoring Power Forward, T.J. Warren (#14 overall pick), signed a 4-year $50 million deal. Parker is one of many Power Forwards from the 2014 NBA Draft who will be competing for a contract this summer. Aaron Gordon (#4 overall pick), Julius Randle (#7 overall pick), and Noah Vonleh (#9 overall pick) are all restricted free agents this summer as well. One can’t help but think Parker’s All-Star potential will draw him an offer sheet from a team like the Bulls, Kings, or Mavericks who all have money to spend this summer and young talent they are building around. Yet, injury concerns may keep any potential offers at a price the Bucks are willing to match.

Overall, Jabari met any expectation that Bucks fans could have had entering the season. He came back looking as strong as ever. Still explosive in both half-court and fast break situations and showing that he can still make highlight plays above the rim. Offensively, he made strides. His dangerous mid-range game and touch around the rim have been paired with an above average three-point percentage, a stat he’s been able to improve every year of his career. Defensively, he’s looked like the same Jabari we’ve seen throughout his career. A below-average defender with the physical tools to become an average to above average defender when he’s focused on getting stops.

Through only 183 games played in his first four seasons, Jabari Parker has proven that he can be a starter in this league and that he has the potential to become an All-Star caliber player. Yet, he’s had two major knee injuries. Clearly, he’s a great player to have on the roster, but only if he’s able to stay on the court. If the Milwaukee Bucks can resign Jabari to a reasonable deal, fans should continue to be excited about his development and applaud the front office. If he’s offered a deal the Bucks aren’t willing to match, the front office will have more flexibility in resigning Bledsoe, Brogdon, and Middleton (should he choose to opt out of his current deal) next season.

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