Jabari Parker: Slow and Steady Wins the Race


The Milwaukee Bucks may be taking things slow with Jabari Parker in his return, but that could all pay off in the long run.

The bleak start to the 2015-2016 Milwaukee Bucks campaign got a little brighter this week. First, Jabari Parker returned from a hamstring injury, then the team returned to their winning ways with a thorough beat down of the Detroit Pistons.

Individual victories are nice, especially when the team had been scuffling, but I’m much more encouraged by having Parker in the lineup for a full season. Parker was robbed of his rookie season in 2014-2015 when an ACL tear ended his year after only 25 games.

When he went down, he was locked in a tight battle with Andrew Wiggins in the Rookie of the Year race. Parker averaged 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting last season. He was beginning to assert himself as a highly competent scorer in the league, making his living at the rim and in the midrange.

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The Bucks still managed to win and make the playoffs without him, but losing Parker took a potent offensive weapon out of their lineup. It’s hard to imagine them finishing with such a dreadful offensive rating (26th best in the NBA) if they had Parker in the rotation for a full 82 games.

Now Parker is back and starting to assimilate to life back in the NBA. He’s not throwing up 20 point games and dominating the league, but in his own way, he’s showing progress and starting to look like an important piece of this Bucks puzzle. He’s clearly not completely comfortable yet, or back to the player he was last season, yet Parker’s continually evolving skill-set and willingness to change his game is encouraging.

One aspect of Parker’s game that appears to have improved tremendously is his movement off the ball. In college he was more of an isolation scorer and a creator for the players around him. At Duke, he played go-to scorer and facilitator, he was Duke’s entire offense during the 2013-2014 season. The Blue Devils went as far as Jabari would take them that season. If he struggled, the team struggled.

The ball would stick in Parker’s hands, drawing the attention of the defense. He would then go to work himself or use all that attention to whip a pass to a teammate. Notice how often he scores in isolation or shoots a jump-shot during this game against Kansas.

Very rarely was he cutting to the basket or positioning himself well without the ball to score quick baskets, he had to create his own shot. He doesn’t have the same weight on his shoulders now that he is in the NBA.

In Milwaukee, he is surrounded by play-makers like Michael Carter-Williams and even Greg Monroe. They’ll get him the ball in positions to score as long as his cuts are precise and he finishes strong. He can still score in isolation sets, but plays like this have become the norm this season.


How he and Monroe gel as a high/low post duo remains to be seen, but given high basketball IQ’s of both players that pairing has the potential to be deadly on the offensive end. Parker has played eight games on the young season, and is averaging a modest nine points and 3.1 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting.

He’s only playing 23.9 minutes per game as Jason Kidd slowly integrates him back into the world of NBA basketball. It’s a process and one that could take most of the season to complete. Dare I say….trust the process?

There are still minor issues with the development of his game. Everyone knows about his less than stellar defense and so far this season, Parker’s jump-shot has been missing in action. To make up for that, Parker has made a point of going to work in the paint and, as I stated before, moving without the ball to score easy baskets.

He’s shooting 68.8 percent from less than 3 feet and 44.4 percent from between 3 and 10 feet. Over half of his field goal attempts have come from that 3 feet area around the rim, including this jam in Kevin Love’s face.

His accuracy deep into the paint is making up for his mid-range struggles (he’s shooting 16.7 percent from between 16 feet and the three-point line) and the fact that he hasn’t even attempted a three-pointer.

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Once he gets his legs under him and he gets comfortable playing the majority of his minutes at power forward, I expect he will start the test the long-range waters and turn into the stretch-four many expected him to be coming out of college.

He shot only shot 25 percent from outside during last season’s mini-season, but he shot 35.8 percent as a Blue Devil. Despite the deeper three-point line, Parker should eventually be able to step back and be close to a league average shooter from deep. He’s too skilled not to find a way to add that to his arsenal.

Patience is still required with Parker, he’s essentially still a rookie after missing 57 games last season. There will be instances where that lack of experience shows, but just having him on the floor and healthy is a win for Milwaukee.

He may not be a budding superstar like Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, or Jahlil Okafor, but he’s an important piece in the future of the Bucks organization and in due time will carve out his niche in the NBA.