With the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Jabari Parker, a 6'8" forward from Duke University. Parker played one season with the Blue Devils, averaging 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 47.2% from the floor and 35.8% from behind the arc. Parker was a Consensus First-Team All-American and runner-up for the John R. Wooden Player of the Year Award. The 19 year old from Chicago was widely regarded as a certain top-two pick in the wake of Joel Embiid's foot surgery, and Milwaukee was more than happy to draft him after the Cleveland Cavaliers made Andrew Wiggins the top overall selection.
A former National High School Player of the Year, Parker rode a wave of hype into his freshman year of college and got off to a blazing start. He scored over 20 points in ten of his first twelve games, including his first seven straight. Parker's advanced offensive skills were evident from the very beginning of his college career.
Parker's overall skill level is absurd for his size: He's huge (6'8, 240 lbs, 7' wingspan), but he handles the ball like a guard. He can beat slow-footed power forwards from the perimeter with a mix of advanced dribble moves, but he's strong enough to bully thinner forwards on the block. Parker can drive with his left or right hand and finish through traffic with either. He also has deep range, shooting 36 percent from behind the arc in his freshman season.
Milwaukee's offense was 5th-worst in the NBA last season, due in large part to a general inability to create good, high-efficiency shots. Parker has shown an ability (and eagerness) to create and make shots in high-pressure situations, and the hope is that further development could make him a truly elite offensive centerpiece. He'll be given every chance to play and earn big minutes in his first season, and will be one of the favorites for 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year.
Parker still has lots of work to do before he can claim a spot among the NBA's best players, though. He needs to improve his playmaking, which will allow him to take advantage of his versatility to create good shots for teammates as well. And his defense needs plenty of work, having been called everything from "terrible" to "disinterested." Parker is big, strong, and has solid length, but his instincts aren't always great and his lateral quickness is a bit suspect. He seems less willing to throw his weight around on defense which can allow opponents to establish deep post position, an issue that could be problematic if he finds himself playing primarily at the 4. However, the Bucks do have the ability to flank Parker with strong defenders in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders, which should help cover up his deficiencies.
Parker's selection raises a few new roster questions. His ability to play next to Antetokounmpo, regardless of position, will be critical as the Bucks evaluate the early returns on their new "core." But the futures of John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova seem very much up in the air. Ilyasova in particular now looks much more expendable, which combined with his $7.9M salary likely means "gone." But that's dependent on finding a buyer, something made more difficult after the rough season he just endured. Henson split time between the 4 and 5 last season but could also see his minutes squeezed if Sanders returns to form and Parker earns a big role. Thankfully these are good problems to have for a rebuilding team, and Henson surely has some trade value around the league as a young big who can rebound and block shots.
The good news is that the Bucks now have time and, presumably, freedom to explore all their options in remaking the roster, without making immediate improvement a priority. Parker may be an "instant impact" type of player, but he won't turn the Bucks around in one offseason. He doesn't have to. For now, the Bucks are happy to add a player with All-Star potential and see where things go from here.
Further Reading on Jabari Parker: