It’s Too Early To Rule Out Anything For Jabari Parker

December 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
December 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite being labeled a bad defender and a poor shooter already in his young career, Jabari Parker could grow past either or both of those limitations.

A disturbingly substantial portion of the Milwaukee Bucks fanbase seems to have given up hope on Jabari Parker already. Just about daily, tweets fly through Bucks Twitter proclaiming Parker can never fit with Giannis Antetokounmpo because neither of the pair can shoot, or that he can’t fit anywhere on a championship team because he’ll never be able to defend.

It’s undeniable that at the moment, Jabari Parker is not a good shooter or defender. Those are fair, and valid, statements. It is also undeniable that Parker is essentially still a rookie with only 68 played games in his career, and that he’s been back for just 43 games since suffering an ACL tear, one of the most debilitating injuries for an athlete to endure.

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While Parker’s defense may not be great right now, it’s actually not bad for a rookie that is a full-time starter. Combining Parker’s two seasons into one gives him a 68 game rookie season. Over those 68 games, he’s added 1.4 wins to the Bucks through his defense according to defensive win shares.

Over the past 10 years some 28 players have started at least as many games as Jabari has in their first NBA season. Out of those 28, Jabari would rank 22nd in wins added via defense–he’s not one of the best, but he’s also not at the very bottom.

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Some notable names below Parker include: Eric Gordon, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Trey Burke, Andrew Wiggins, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. None of those players are currently such abhorrent defenders that they’re seen as unable to be a starter on a championship team, and Kidd-Gilchrist is seen as one of the best defenders in the entire NBA some three years later.

Looking at defensive box plus/minus instead of win shares leaves Jabari in 21st, still ahead of Wiggins, DeRozan, Gordon, Lillard, Burke and now Derrick Rose as well.

The lesson here? Being a full-time starter as a rookie is hard. Even players that are or have been considered some of the best in the NBA at some point often struggle defensively as rookies.

Add in being a full-time starter on a team that runs an unorthodox defensive scheme to the mix, and it’s no wonder Jabari Parker sometimes finds himself lost on that end of the floor.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Parker will likely never find himself in Defensive Player of the Year talks, but boxing him in as an abhorrent defender forever is premature. Saying he’s flawed for not being a shooter probably is too, but it really doesn’t prevent Jabari from being an excellent offensive player anyway.

For all the talk that he’s never been able to shoot, Parker did make just under 36 percent of his three-point attempts at Duke. That’s with a shorter three-point line, but the precedence for Parker being able to make a league-average percentage of his threes is there.

Referencing his NBA three-point percentage is essentially useless, given that Parker has attempted just 22 threes in his career. That’s about a two-game stretch for Stephen Curry and people are using it to determine that Jabari will never be able to shoot efficiently in the NBA.

It seems more than likely that Jason Kidd is training Jabari in the same way that he did Giannis, by asking him to focus on the rest of his game before working on his shot. Jabari’s six attempted threes in 1,200 minutes played this season is evidence enough of that.

Even if Parker never can hit 35 percent from beyond the arc in an NBA season, that doesn’t mean he won’t be the amazing offensive threat he was advertised as coming out of college.

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There are all sorts of examples of dominant offensive players that can’t hit three-pointers. Monta Ellis scored 20 points per game on 53 percent field goal shooting in 2008, and only made 23 percent of his threes. Russell Westbrook led the NBA in scoring last year with some 28 points per game, and he made just under 30 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite Curry doing incredible things with his three-point shot, inside and mid-range scoring is not dead. There’s no one way to be a dominant scorer, or a franchise cornerstone.

Is LeBron James not equipped to lead a team because he’s a sub-par three-point shooter who has only hit 35 percent of his triples in a season five times in his 13 year career?

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Obviously not. LeBron makes up for being a streaky three-point shooter by being excellent at just about everything else. Jabari Parker may not finish his career as one of the best ten players of all time, but it’s far too soon to say what he definitively will or won’t ever be able to do.