It's hard to feel the full impact of an #OwnTheFuture mantra when Jabari Parker is lost for the season due to injury. It isn't about the roster spot or the structure of the rotation; anyone can fill that unoccupied space (hey there, Kenyon Martin). It isn't even about the Rookie of the Year race with Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, and other emerging NBA Draft prospects. We could all see Jabari blossoming into an impressive player in his brief NBA stint.
No, it's more about the added risk and angst that a major injury generates among a fan base and in the mind of a player. The counter-factual of "what might have been, if not for the injury" will forever cast a dingy cloud over analysis of Parker as a prospect. The future can never truly be owned.
A successful surgery and rigorous rehab regimen can help heal Parker's ligament and rebuild his physical strength, but the damage extends beyond the left knee. The development clock in a vital year is now at a standstill. The mental trust and proprioceptive confidence Parker built up over years and years on the court have been violated. It's a long journey to the top, so it's hard to ignore the added risk an ACL injury brings. That's just being honest about the heavy-handed complexity of the situation.
The good news is that Jabari is a grounded young man with an excellent attitude and a proven work ethic. The journey was never going to be easy anyway, and Parker's broad base of skills and surprisingly good athleticism are what gave him a leg up on most of his draft classmates in the first place. Even with the development clock stopped for now, the Bucks should still be excited about (essentially) "re-drafting" a 20-year-old phenom like Parker for next season--even if there's a bit more uncertainty about a key body part.
Here's a question for you: If you could trade Jabari right now (knowing what we know about his injury) for any other member of the 2014 NBA Draft class, is there anyone for whom you'd do that deal? Joel Embiid is still carrying a bigger injury risk than Parker. Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, and Elfrid Payton are all shooting under 40 percent from the field and averaging under seven points per game. Aaron Gordon is also injured. The one name that sticks out is Andrew Wiggins. He's the guy with a clean bill of health, and although his True Shooting is still under 50 percent he's put together a very impressive string of games since Jabari left us. It was never a real choice for the Bucks (Wiggins was off the board), but that doesn't mean we don't feel a bit of angst over Wiggins ascending while Parker is forced to watch from the sidelines.
In the latest podcast, Frank and I discuss the added risk that comes with Jabari's ACL injury and we revisit his NBA Draft class to answer the question I posed above.