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Jabari Parker reminds us he's wise beyond his years, Matthew Dellavedova impresses, Thon Maker makes transition

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping for big things on the court from Jabari Parker this season. He's hoping to accomplish even bigger things off it.

We received a nice reminder of that in Parker's exceptionally candid and thoughtful post at the Players' Tribune , which details the often sobering reality Parker faced growing up in Chicago -- as well as his hopes for doing something about it. That Parker could write eloquently on the topic isn't a surprise, but the timing is particularly poignant given the events of the past week in Milwaukee as well. Everything Jabari writes about the city in which he grew up could apply just as easily to the one where he now plays basketball (and many more cities beyond those). And while it's definitely not a love letter to Chicago, it's not an obituary either. Be sure to read the whole thing, but I thought this part was especially important:

I could go on and on. But doing that, or just screaming, "Stop the violence, stop the gangs!" won't get us anywhere. I know that.

Education is what's going to give these kids a future. It doesn't have to come from new books, or new buildings. We can deal without those. I've seen it. We can use those books until the pages fall out — I did it. But when you close schools and force kids into different neighborhoods, when you cut programs that keep them off of the streets, where are they going to go to escape? Where are they going to find something productive to do after school gets out at 3 p.m., in the hours when juvenile crime is at its highest?

Where do they go to learn that their life matters?

Much has of course been written about the broader challenges facing cities like Milwaukee and Chicago, and I won't pretend that we're going to figure out the answers in this space. But it's encouraging to know that a 21-year-old like Jabari is actually trying to do something about it, whether it's through his youth camps in Chicago or school attendance initiatives in Milwaukee. It's all a sobering reminder about the many things that more important than sports -- and how much more fun sports can be when you're rooting for guys like Jabari.

Ranking Kristaps Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the best international basketball players - NBA
Bradford Doolittle projects which international players will post the highest wins above replacement this season, with Giannis checking in at number five behind Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.

Antetokounmpo is moving up the rankings quickly. Because he is slated to be Milwaukee's primary playmaker from the get-go this season, it would be less than shocking to see him jet to the top of the list. He's a contender to hit that level and stay there for a long time.

It's not hard to imagine an annual argument about whether the Greek Freak or Porzingis is the best international player in the NBA.

D'Amato: Dellavedova has what Bucks need | Journal-Sentinel
Reporting from Rio, Gary D'Amato likes what he's seen so far from Matthew Dellavedova:

"You look at the playoffs two years ago, they were competing on the defensive end and that was one of their strengths," he said. "So I think definitely the potential is there. I know the coaching staff wants to be able to defend hard and get out and run with the length and athleticism and the ability to switch five positions. That’s kind of the way basketball is going right now."

Thon Maker's NBA transition benefiting from perspective |
Speaking of Aussies and youngsters impressing on and off the court...

In the meantime, Maker will head to Milwaukee and get settled. He calls it "relieving" to land there after a positive pre-draft workout. He met some new teammates at Summer League. "They’ve shown we could fit together, we are gonna be together and we’ve gotta find a way to jell early on," he says. Maker’s been FaceTiming with Giannis, once just another extremely tall bundle of what-if himself. We don’t know yet how Maker fits in long-term or how many years away he is from being an impact player. But in the meantime, he just wants to make himself useful, and for what it’s worth, he’s made the getting-to-know-you part seem easy.

Seven NBA teams that could surprise you with breakout seasons in 2016-17 |
Hint: the state of Wisconsin is involved.

2016 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Milwaukee Bucks Team Outlook |
Our friend Chris Towers looks at how the Bucks stack up from a fantasy hoops perspective. You know who stacks up pretty damn well?

He wasn't just a point guard. Antetokounmpo was coming close to leading the team in rebounds, while serving as their primary deterrent at the rim. He was like a Stretch Armstrong version of LeBron James and he did it all without any semblance of a jumper. The question moving forward was whether it was sustainable. Not just whether Antetokounmpo can keep up that kind of production, but whether it was a winning strategy for a team with playoff aspirations. The Bucks offense definitely perked up in the second half, scoring 105.9 points per 100 possessions, up from from 102.8 before the break. That is a good sign, to be sure, and it gives the Bucks room to continue the experiment moving forward.