The Milwaukee Bucks Land Their Man in Jabari Parker
Right there with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker has been talked about as one of the top guys in this draft class since his high school days. Coming out of Chicago, he won four straight city titles, unheard of in the ultra-competitive hoops city, and then took his talents to Duke. He lived up to the hype there, putting up huge numbers for Coach K in Durham. Long hailed as the most complete offensive player in this draft class, Parker will now be running the show in Milwaukee for the forseeable future. He'll get to do so close to home, just about 70 miles from his hometown.
A Full Toolbox
Parker was one of the most dominant freshmen in Duke's storied history. He set a freshman scoring record by averaging 19.1 points per game, and he posted a massive 28.4 player efficiency rating. He flashed a five-tool scoring game, with the ability to get to the rim, score down low, attack off the dribble and hit from mid-range as well as beyond the arc, and he did it efficiently.
That well-rounded offensive game is much needed in Milwaukee, who had no one around last season to create shots. Point guard Brandon Knight had the highest usage rate on the team at 26.8 percent, but posted an offensive rating of 104. He shot the ball decently well, but just isn't equipped to be the lead dog for anyone on offense. When you look at who was manning the wing for the Bucks in 2013, guys like Ersan Ilyasova (-2.9 nERD) and Khris Middleton (-5.2 nERD), Parker presents an immediate upgrade.
From the jump, Parker will get the chance to prove that "NBA-ready" label. He'll almost certainly have free reign to take any shot he sees fit on the offensive end. With a game similar to a guy like Paul Pierce and a body like Carmelo Anthony, Parker will be able to get buckets at this level without a question. With the freedom he's sure to be handed in the Bucks' formerly dismal offense, the Rookie of the Year award should be in his sights.
Concerns Still Stand
While Parker is being hailed as the greatest sure-thing pick in this draft, that mainly refers to the damage he's sure to inflict on the offensive end. The problems lie in other places.
The first: where do you put Parker defensively? He is a bit of a tweener when it comes to size, somewhere between a small forward and a power forward, and at Duke he showed very little aptitude on the defensive end of the court. Part of that comes from some athletic skills that just aren't there. Jabari often didn't have the lateral quickness or foot speed to stay in good defensive position.
He's also a bit on the heavy side for a small forward, weighing in at around 255 pounds, which doesn't help his case at staying in front of the quicker small forwards in the league. Being in an NBA conditioning program will hopefully help him slim down a bit, and he was battling through an injury at the beginning of last season that may have caused him to be a bit out of shape. But reports, especially after his workout with Cleveland, were that Parker was winded during workouts and still was a bit on the doughy side.
Luckily, Parker is landing on a team that (for now) has two very solid defensive players to cover up the mistakes that we know are coming. Giannis Antetokounmpo has the length and skills to take the top perimeter scorers in the Association, but at this point doesn't have the bulk to guard power forwards, which will have to be Parker's duty. Parker's extra heft will likely help him handle the 4s of the league, and he has the experience guarding big men from often having to play center(!) for an undersized Duke squad. He will need that NBA conditioning to be able to play heavy minutes - he averaged just over 30 minutes per game in his one-and-done season - as well as better footspeed to get out to guard the perimeter against the growing number of stretch power forwards around the league.
Assuming he doesn't get sent packing, Larry Sanders will be there behind Parker to clean up any messes he creates. The lanky shot blocker missed the majority of last year with a variety of injuries, including a thumb injury sustained in a fight in a club, as well a suspension for marijuana use, but if he can get his head on straight and stay on the floor he'll be a huge asset for Parker.
Even with those issues standing - and they're very real - there's almost no chance that we see Parker end up as a bust. He can already score the ball at a professional level even though he's just 19 years old, and he's got a reputation as a kid with his head on his shoulders, partially thanks to his Mormon upbringing. Outside of the Greek Freak, the Bucks' war chest was barren before this pick. Now, they've got their man to get buckets to go along with their do-everything terror.