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Three Bs: Jabari Parker

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2017-18 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations. For this series, we wanted to look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what they do that helps (Boon), what they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).

I had a cool logo featuring a trio of Bs, but got a “cease and desist” notice from a lawyer wearing $200 flip flops. Oh well. Today, we’re looking at one of the most compelling players in recent Bucks history, Jabari Parker.

Season Stats (per 36 minutes – rank at position)

  • Points/36: 18.9 (16th among power forwards)
  • Rebounds/36: 7.3 (47th among power forwards)
  • FG%: 0.482 (28th among power forwards)
  • 3Pt%: 0.383 (17th among power forwards)

Jabari’s Boon: Star-Quality Scoring Talent

There have been many NBA players as big, or as quick, or as talented, or as skilled as Jabari Parker, but few combine all of the qualities the way he does. He has the size of a thick power forward but demonstrates the ball control of a guard, and if you get between him and the rim when he’s in range, you better believe he’ll try and put you on a poster. But his athleticism isn’t what sets him apart, it’s the natural predilection for putting the ball in the rim. Whether from up close, mid range, or long distance, Parker is a scorer, through and through.

Jabari’s Bane: Application of Energy

Anybody asking whether or not Parker can develop into a good defender is asking the wrong question. His growth as a player will be largely influenced by whether he can even become a good enough defender, a much lower bar to clear. We’ve sliced and diced the way that Parker gets exploited on defense, and nobody denies that it’s a problem. At this point, his status as the Bucks’ “weak link on defense” is all but set in stone. But somehow, it’s not even his poor defense that is most worrisome, but his demonstrated lack of applied energy. He doesn’t make the wrong choice on defense, he simply doesn’t choose. He doesn’t cut the wrong way on offensive possessions where he’s not involved, he just doesn’t cut. There is an expected curve for Parker’s reintegration, but some of the body language he has demonstrated shows not just a lack of understanding, but a lack of engagement.

Does Jabari Belong?

Parker, at the peak of his powers, will seem to get you as many points as he gets minutes. He even showed how impactful he could be in the Bucks’ first round series, in Games Three and Four, when he actually tried on defense.

But how much will he give up when he’s not engaged on D? Is it worth scoring 24 if your poor defense is responsible for giving up 28? If you drop 30, but you give up 36, is it worth it? Basketball is a team game, and everybody on the court should be working to help shore up each other’s weaknesses, but there are only so many blown rotations before the system unravels and no amount of thunderous dunks and swished threes can make up for it. And when you’re asked whether you will pay a hefty sum to a player with this many core questions surrounding him...don’t you already have your answer?

The Bucks are, as currently constructed, Giannis’ team. Given what we know about Jabari already, and (more importantly) how much we don’t, I can’t shake the sense that it would be borderline irresponsible to devote such a large percentage of the salary cap to a player with so many significant questions. This is all before considering that Jabari maybe has questions of his own about staying a Buck! Maybe Parker becomes the star his talent indicates, but maybe he doesn’t, and I don’t know if I want him to be in Milwaukee to find out. This summer is an opportunity to hamstring the Bucks’ cap situation for years to come...or to leverage Parker’s untapped talent on the sign-and-trade market (if there is one). Then again, either outcome could come back and bite the Bucks in the end, so what do I know?