No one should confuse Jabari Parker's 5/17 shooting night against the Washington Wizards on Saturday as a breakout performance--hopefully that's coming sooner rather than later--but the night (13 points and 11 rebounds in a second straight double-double) did offer a reminder of Parker's unique skillset, the challenges he'll face defensively and the potential of what's to come.
Defensively, Parker struggled mightily to contain Nene on the handful of possessions where the Wizards were able to isolate him against the hulking Brazilian, though a) that probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise and b) on second viewing it didn't happen quite as often as it might have seemed. Parker wasn't alone in struggling to contain Nene and Marcin Gortat, though that also raises broader questions about the Bucks' ability to contain big-bodied post scorers such as the Wizards' duo.
Looking ahead, it's no secret that Parker's most challenging nights defensively will come when he's lining up against oversized power forwards; early season tests against the Wizards, Bulls and Pacers would make for a steep learning curve for any rookie power forward, especially one without superior length and more prone to defensive lapses like Jabari. It won't always be pretty, especially given that the Bucks' willingness to front and double the post figures to mean a fair bit of volatility in terms of outcomes--turnovers when things go right, and dunks and open threes when they don't. So far the results haven't been bad in aggregate as Milwaukee ranks a surprising 6th in defensive efficiency, though it's difficult to take much away from a such a small sample, especially when a third of it involves the Sixers.
Over time, the idea will be for Parker to hopefully make up for his defensive shortcomings on the other end. As we saw in Washington, big guys won't have much of a chance to keep up with him when he puts the ball on the floor, a skill we've already seen him flash on a number of occasions going both to his left and right. Very few players boast Parker's combination of strength, quickness, and footwork, and his rapidly expanding NBA highlight reel is already making a mockery of scouting reports that questioned his athleticism. He's not LeBron, but then again who is?
Parker's driving ability should also open up plenty of good looks from distance, too. And while he's still getting the hang of the longer NBA three point line (2/6 threes), we'll hopefully see some of his contested jump shots turn into drives that result in fouls and more shots in the paint. Through three games Parker has converted a healthy 8/12 at the rim but just 1/15 on in-between shots (ie outside the restricted area and inside 16 feet). He's also attempted just six free throws through three games, well off the nearly five free throws per game he averaged in the preseason.