What Does Jabari Parker's Injury Mean for the Milwaukee Bucks' Playoff Aspirations?
Wednesday night was supposed to be a night of optimism for fans of the Milwaukee Bucks and of the NBA in general. And for a while, it was.
After missing the first 50 games of the season with a hamstring tear, Khris Middleton made his long-awaited debut for the Bucks. The Bucks lost, but he played 15 minutes and scored five points without a hitch. Things were looking up, right?
On a drive to the hoop in the third quarter, Jabari Parker approached the rim and gathered himself, but his knee gave out. It wasn't a pretty sight, but the initial report was a sprained knee with no timetable. Today, Milwaukee fans could only hope that was the case.
After further testing, the Bucks found that Parker tore the same ACL as in 2014 and that he'll be on the shelf for 12 months. He'll unquestionably miss the rest of the season and will likely miss the beginning of next season to boot.
ACL injuries are devastating, but this one is especially sad considering the type of season Parker was having.
To this point, the third-year pro was posting career-highs in points (20.1), rebounds (6.1), and assists (2.8) per game. From the field, he hit 49% of his attempts with 1.3 threes on 36.5% from beyond the arc.
As a result of a higher usage rate -- from 20.9% last year to 26.0% this year -- and his sustained shooting efficiency, Parker already surpassed the highest win share total of his career, with 4.2. He was averaging .118 win shares per 48, which trumps his previous high by more than .04 over the length of a full game.
The same goes for many other advanced stats. First and foremost, Parker's 1.6 nERD -- a player ranking that measures a player's total contribution, based on efficiency -- marks the first positive score of his young career and is two points the superior to his rookie season.
Parker's PER of 19.0 is also above league-average (15.0), and his 1.0 VORP (value over replacement player) suggests that he has contributed three points above a replacement-level (-2.0) player.
That's the type of player the Bucks will be without for the last 31 regular season games.
What effect will that have on the team? What is the damage as it pertains to their playoff chances and championship odds?
As might be expected, Parker's usage will have to go somewhere. Eventually, Middleton will take some of that on. For now, expect Antetokounmpo to shoulder more of the load and possibly flirt with a 30% usage rate.
In the lineup, Antetokounmpo will also be asked to slide into the four spot from time to time in his stead. Youngster Thon Maker will also see some more run. But, Milwaukee's recent trade with the Charlotte Hornets should payoff quicker than they thought.
Spencer Hawes, a career 35% three-point shooter, could see some time at power forward because the Bucks will need to replace Parker's ability to stretch the floor. At the very least, he and Monroe could blend well in short stretches.
No matter what coach Jason Kidd decides to do, it will be almost impossible for him to fill the void left by the team's second leading scorer. Our algorithms indicate as much.
Before the injury, the Bucks' playoff odds were at 23.7%. That's not great, but if you take their current position (two games back of the 8 seed) into consideration, it makes sense. After the injury, however, their chances are a little worse, at 20.2% to make the playoffs.
And if Milwaukee's championship odds (0.2% pre-injury) weren't already low enough, they're now as low as they can get for a team with a shot at the playoffs. We give them a diminutive 0.1% likelihood of winning the franchise's first championship in the last 45 years.
Parker's injury is a big blow to all things Bucks, plain and simple.