Jabari Parker is Starting to Come Into His Own

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Jabari Parker is still developing, but he’s getting closer and closer to truly coming into his own.

Not much has gone right for the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season. However, one bright spot is beginning to emerge and it may play a significant role in determining where their season goes: the play of Jabari Parker.

After getting off to a quiet start, Parker is starting to come into his own in recent games. Over his past five, Parker has posted 12.4 points and 5.8 boards on 46.9% shooting, despite a 1-7 outing against the San Antonio Spurs last week. Those numbers are a major improvement over his early season stats and nearly identical to what Parker posted in 25 games last season.

The numbers, however, do not tell the full story. Parker is beginning to have a substantial impact on both ends of the floor:

First, his positioning and general understanding of the offense is getting better with each passing game. His anticipation of when to cut to the basket has improved, and it’s led to quite a few highlight reel dunks.

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Even when he’s not getting the ball, Parker is putting himself in the best positions to score and help the offense. Whether it’s setting himself up in the mid-range for an open shot, or driving into the lane to assist the ball-handler, Parker is showing the high basketball IQ that made him the second overall pick almost two years ago.

Parker’s also began to take on an increasingly larger role in the offense, especially with the demotion of Michael Carter-Williams to the second unit. The Bucks point guard play has been sub-par. This has forced Jason Kidd to give Giannis Antetokounmpo and Parker more ball-handling responsibilities than they’ve had all season.

The changes, thus far, have had a positive effect. Both are making plays and setting up their teammates. They’re also beginning to develop wonderful chemistry between themselves, something that was on full display against the New York Knicks this past Saturday:

Both are capable of contributing even more to the offense than we’ve seen so far. Parker, given his wide range of skills, could easily develop into a 20 point a night scorer. In fact, he should be one of the center pieces, if the not the center piece of the Bucks offense moving forward.

He has fantastic ball control, enabling him to drive, kick, or step back and hit a shot. He has explosive athleticism, enabling him to get to the basket and make plays. He may not have three-point range for now, but he’s capable of a hitting a shot in any number of ways inside the three-point line. It’s this unique ability to create shots which makes him such a dangerous player. No other player on the Bucks roster is capable of affecting a game in so many different ways.

Parker’s contributions, however, have not been limited to offense. He’s also beginning to have a positive effect on the defense end.

Dec 4, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) takes a shot over Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

In recent games Parker’s stepped up, blocking shots and becoming a general nuisance on the defensive end. His anticipation and improved reading of the game have enabled him to make more impactful plays on the defensive end than we saw out of him last season. He’s beginning to look more and more like a capable NBA defender.

His defensive impact is also seen in the advanced stats. In four December games so far, the Bucks have posted a 89.6 defensive rating with Parker on the floor. This isn’t solely Parker’s contribution. However, it shows that the Bucks can play strong team defense with him on the floor.

The key to this team improving, and getting back into playoff contention will be the play of Parker. As he’s shown in recent games, he’s capable of having a much bigger impact on this team than we’ve seen so far.

This means the Bucks must give him a larger share of the offensive workload. Parker’s health is definitely a concern, and is certainly a big reason why Parker hasn’t been featured as the first or second scoring option on the team so far. However, if he’s up to it, Kidd must let him take on a bigger role. The team has looked its best when the ball ends up in the hands of Parker and Antetokounmpo.

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The Bucks also have nothing to lose by increasing his role. If the team is truly about “Owning the Future”, Kidd and the organization must fully embrace it and give Parker and Antetokounmpo more responsibility. Both players possess extremely high ceilings, perhaps as high as any other young duo in the NBA.

One of them already looks like a potential All-Star this year. The other is just starting to come into his own after an ACL injury derailed his rookie season. This is why so many people around the NBA think the Bucks could develop into a legitimate title contender in the next 3-5 years.

If this team is going to become a title contender, it will be because Parker and Antetokounmpo became superstars. They are the “Future” of this Bucks team.

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And given the high level of play we’re beginning to see out of them, no time is better than now to embrace the future and let these guys develop.