Who Will Step Up for the Bucks With Jabari Parker Out?
Rookie of the Year frontrunner Jabari Parker will be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. At just 19-years-old, Parker was already the second-leading scorer for a playoff-hopeful Bucks squad, shooting 49% and netting 12.3 points per game.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN found that the leader of combined points, rebounds, and assists has won the Rookie of the Year award 26 over the last 27 seasons. Parker was the leader with a total of 19.5 per game, besting second-place Andrew Wiggins by 1.7.
It’s a shame for Parker, who likely would have joined elite company like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Tim Duncan, of guys who have taken home the award in their first season.
With Parker out, who will step up for the Bucks?
Ersan Ilyasova, a stretch four who head coach Jason Kidd has publicly raved about many times, will be back in the lineup Thursday for the Bucks and will likely see a heavy dose of minutes right away. His shooting will be a welcome addition to the Bucks, who currently rank 21st in offensive efficiency and 24th in three-pointers taken.
Ilyasova has a PER (player efficiency rating) of 18.8, which is the best in Milwaukee. He’s also been shooting well, posting a true shooting percentage of 56.9% and taking a good number of threes, with a three-point attempt rate of 30.8%. He has posted a usage rate of 23.0 despite only playing 18.8 minutes a game so far, so his total number of shots will definitely increase.
While second-year player Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t fill into the power forward spot that Parker typically played, he could have an increase in usage rate, up from his current 20.7 mark. Antetokounmpo has really shown flashes of potential superstardom so far in his sophomore campaign, and has increased production and efficiency in almost every category across the board.
His incredible length and ability to slide into any lineup and play multiple positions has been invaluable to the Bucks this year. He has been much more aggressive this year and doesn’t quite look like the young deer in the headlights that he did at times last season. He’s learning to use his strengths as an advantage and seems to understand now that no one can match his physical skills. It’s very entertaining to watch him drive the basketball –- most players will tuck the ball into their body to protect it before shooting, but Antetokounmpo will extend his arm as far as he can, knowing no player can match his arm length and get to the basketball.
He's also learned some crafty moves.
And also just been crazy athletic.
While he has been more aggressive attacking the rim, he’s also stopped taking three-pointers. Last year he took 118 of them and posted a three-point attempt rate of 28.2%. This year, it’s a minuscule 6.5%, and he has only 15 of them all season. He shot well from that area last season (.347), but will need to create a blend of attacking and spacing to help the Bucks get better on offense.
Without Parker, the offense might actually improve. Kidd was giving a lot of time to both Antetokounmpo and Parker, but neither are good long-range shooters yet. Both Ilyasova and forward Khris Middleton have been good three-point shooters this year, and if more minutes go to them alongside Brandon Knight –- shooting an impressive 39.6% from 3-point land this year –- the Bucks' offense might be able to get to a league-average spot.
Their defense will also need to get things back on track. They started off great, posting a top-five defensive rating through the first couple weeks of the season, but now are 12th and getting closer to regressing to being just average. Big man Larry Sanders has battled foul problem issues all year, and John Henson just can’t seem to find the court regardless of what Bucks coach is currently employed. Parker wasn’t a great defender, but slotting in Ilyasova to his spot for more minutes might not make the defense much better.
The Bucks currently stand 13-12, which is good for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. They are clearly in the playoff picture and are well-coached and scrappy enough to keep it that way this season. Their bench isn’t filled with great talent, but it is fairly deep –- or at least deep enough to not really feel Parker’s loss on the court. It’s always sad to lose a promising young player for a year, but things aren’t dire in Milwaukee. They still have pieces for a playoff run this season.