Jabari Parker is only 24 years old.
Sometimes, when evaluating his career thus far, you have to remind yourself that the Milwaukee Bucks former No.2 overall pick has had anything but a conventional start to his NBA career, yet he’s still younger than superstar talents Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There was never a doubt about his offensive abilities. Averaging more than 15 points per game for his career, Parker was instant offense during his time in Milwaukee. It was the combination of two ACL injuries, defensive shortcomings and a hefty price tag that ultimately led to the Bucks decision to let him walk in free agency.
Short term history would tell you that Parker leaving Milwaukee was right for both parties involved. The Bucks allocated funds to complete a very talented roster, this season and last, plus Parker was able to make a lot of money while starting the next chapter of his career.
Legacy is a funny word. When thinking of Parker’s in Milwaukee, the average fan might jump to “knee” or “injuries” as how they choose to recall his playing time.
Parker, however, will definitely be remembered in the city where he began his NBA career, this legacy might just not be what you’d assume when discussing a basketball player.
Off the court
In 2015 he helped donate Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need. This wasn’t just a one time donation either. It became an annual occurrence.
He also helped launch attendance initiatives for Milwaukee Public School students. Trading game tickets to scholars who reached attendance goals. Parker made appearances to schools to help educate and encourage students on the importance of going to class daily.
Or that time he rented out an entire movie theatre so local kids could see the movie Black Panther.
— Jimmy Carlton (@jimmycarlton88) February 27, 2018
To his credit, the number of grand donations, small acts of kindness or simple inspiration is unquantifiable. These few examples just captured the essence of his commitment to the city, and how important he took his role model status.
On the floor: Here’s how he got there
During the summer of 2018, after Milwaukee removed a qualifying offer on him, Parked signed a two-year, $40 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. The second year of the deal was a ‘team-option’ essentially protecting the Bulls if Parker suffered another devastating injury, or wasn’t playing up to his salary.
For perspective, other players to make $20 million that season included Ryan Anderson (Phoenix Suns), Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers) and Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics).
After just 39 appearances for the Bulls, he was dealt to the Washington Wizards as part of a multi-player deal.
Would he be a good fit?
Fast forward and Parker was a free-agent again this past summer. Ultimately he signed a 2-year, $13 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. An average of $6.5 million per season isn’t that much of a risk in today’s NBA.
For further perspective, players such as Nemanja Bjelica, Jaren Jackson Jr., Darius Miller, and Ersan Ilyasova earn between $6.8 | 7 million.
The question isn’t whether or not the Bucks should have signed Parker this off-season to replace Ilyasova. That wasn’t a real option since he was already on Milwaukee’s books and cutting him would have counted against their salary cap.
Also, how would his defensive limitations fit with head coach Mike Budenholzer? The Bucks’ second-year head coach has been adamant about prowess and execution on that end of the floor.
It is possible he could be the type of role player Milwaukee is looking for in the future? Sure, anything is possible. It’s also possible that Parker, when healthy, continues to prove his elite scoring capabilities and is offered another substantial contract.
And, if you believe in karma, or the old saying “good things happen to good people,” don’t write off Parker anytime soon.