Jabari Parker is Hurting the Milwaukee Bucks, And That’s Okay

Jabari Parker is currently hurting the Milwaukee Bucks defense, which is a normal part of the process for any rookie–even a potential superstar.

Jabari Parker shows flashes of greatness all the time. His pure explosiveness is incredible, and he’s been able to showcase that more and more frequently as his career has progressed. It’s been a joy to watch Parker play offense.

It has not been a joy to watch him play defense, however. Parker has been bad defensively for his entire career thus far, and unfortunately his defensive rebounding is also terrible at this point. Among forwards that have played at least 20 games this season, Parker ranks a solid 142nd in defensive rebounding percentage.

That’s clearly not ideal. Greg Monroe, who’s an average defensive rebounder himself, pairs with Parker in making Milwaukee the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA. That plays into Milwaukee’s spot as the third-worst defensive team in the NBA as well.

So aside from playing bad on-ball defense and horrific help defense, Jabari Parker also allows more offensive rebounds than most NBA forwards per game. That means opposing teams get more second chances when Parker is out there, which means more chances at points as well.

Parker is a double-negative on the Bucks defense–if he isn’t giving up a score himself, he’s giving up a rebound that will momentarily turn into a score.

Does that mean Parker should be benched? No. Notice the bold typeface there. It would be stupid to bench Parker for being a net negative for the Milwaukee Bucks, because almost all rookies are. That’s kind of how being a rookie works.

There are exactly two rookies that serve as starters and have played at least 20 games this season that have a positive net rating: Raul Neto and Kristaps Porzingis. The other four rookies to meet those criteria and all have negative net ratings were all top-six picks in the 2015 NBA Draft: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Both Parker’s offensive and defensive rating fit in the exact middle of those six players. He’s not technically considered a rookie because he did play last season, but considering he’s had just 52 NBA games under his belt he essentially is. It’s perfectly normal for him to be bad at a lot of stuff.

Even future superstars often struggle when coming into the NBA. Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and LeBron James all entered the NBA as full-time starters, and all three of them posted negative net ratings in their first year.

Nobody comes into the Association as a complete player–it just doesn’t happen. Parker needs to learn how to be a better defender and rebounder, that much is obviously true.

But the best way for him to do that is by playing more. Now if the Bucks brought in a guy like Kevin McHale, a legendary big man who could teach Parker fundamentals, that would probably help even more.

But even without something like that happening, benching Parker is a dumb idea for this team. Mostly because Parker’s growth as a player is infinity times more important to the Milwaukee Bucks than winning this season is, but also because there’s nobody on the bench who would help the team that much as a starter.

Jerryd Bayless has played good basketball, but would a Bayless / Michael Carter-Williams / Khris Middleton / Giannis Antetokounmpo / Greg Monroe lineup really be much better than the Bucks current starting five? Maybe they finish a few games ahead, but it’s not like those five are suddenly going to be a team contending for the title.

The same is true about simply slotting in a better rebounder like Johnny O’Bryant ahead of Parker. O’Bryant may very well end up an important bench cog for this team in the long run, but he’s never going to be a full-time starter on a championship team.

Parker has the potential to not only start on a contending team, but to be the star on one. That needs to be remembered when talking about his role this season. If Jabari Parker is still hurting his team like this in his third or fourth year, it will be an actual problem.

But for now, this is merely a bump on the road for Parker. He should continue to start for the Milwaukee Bucks, not only for his own good but for the good of the franchise moving forward.