Last season saw Jabari Parker transform from an uninspiring player recovering from an ACL injury to a player with all of the offensive potential in the world. What could Parker transform into next season?
There was a time when 36 point games would have seemed improbable for Jabari Parker, but following a strong finish to last season there could be many more games like this coming in Parker’s immediate future.
If Parker has not yet lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him to this point in his career, in the tail end of last season he certainly showed some of the promise that made him the number two pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
After the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks’ youngster broke out. He averaged 18.9 points (on 49.8 percent shooting), 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in 28 games. He was the second youngest player in the league to average 16 points and five rebounds per game behind Karl Anthony-Towns, last season’s Rookie of the Year.
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Jabari was a lot of fun to watch as the season wrapped up but the real question is, what might the 21-year-old do next season?
I decided to attempt to answer that question.
Using a method which I’ll explain in a moment, I project that Jabari will average 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals next season. This will include him shooting 50 percent from the field, 30 percent from three (on two attempts per game), and 80 percent from the free throw line (on 5.5 attempts per game). Finally, his true shooting number will come in at 55 percent.
To come up with these numbers I performed some simple linear regression analysis (for those who are unfamiliar, a brief explainer of this method of analysis can be found here) on Jabari’s in game performances from the pre-injury section of his rookie season and post All-Star break play in this past season. This omits his pre All-Star break performances last season as if we’re trying to project how a healthy Parker will play, there seems to be little point including a period where he was visibly still recovering, physically and mentally, from a devastating ACL injury.
Such statistical analysis is far from fool proof, especially with the small sample size of games played and only two years of data to build a model from. As such, I’ve factored in some assumptions to act as controls too.
Even with the limited sample size, linear regression can be used as one of the simplest forms of statistical forecasting. That’s why I believe there is still some utility in running this analysis and talking about it.
The regression was the foundation and my own personal assumptions, based on where I believe Jabari’s game is going, filled in the rest.
For example, my regression projections assumed Jabari would shoot just under 1.5 threes per game next season. However, I believe that he will be shooting closer to two triples per game. My reasoning goes like this:
- We know that Jabari has been working significantly on his jump shot.
- The Bucks want (and need) him to shoot significantly more threes next season, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Parker will start to share the floor even more often. One of them needs to become a good three-point shooter or both of them have to become solid three-point shooters. Either way, between the pair they need to put up more threes per game to help spread the floor adequately.
- Jabari has shown glimpses of the competency needed for him to be an effective three-point shooter. He established last year that he can hit a multitude of shots just inside the three-point line with regularity. His jumper can be a real thing of beauty and the range he shoots from and his percentages should only improve with time.
Another area where I disagreed with the regression projection was in terms of points per game. The projection said Jabari will average 25.5 points per game next season. I thought that was too generous of an improvement. I still think Parker will improve significantly in the scoring department next season but I do not think he will cross the 25 point threshold.
I have Parker pegged for 23 points per game next season. And that still makes for a really high points total. In fact, I project that Parker will lead the Bucks in scoring this upcoming season. I believe this because:
- As mentioned above, Jabari is likely going to shoot more threes which will stretch the floor for the Bucks. A different result of Jabari shooting more treys that would directly impact his PPG is the fact that the defense would have a harder time defending him. His defender would have to respect his three-point ability, his pull-up midrange game, and the threat of him getting to the hoop.
- I wrote in length here about why I think the Bucks as a whole improved their three-point shooting in free agency. This will improve spacing for all of the Bucks. I expect this will benefit no Buck more than Parker. His ability to attack the hoop and score easily inside with athleticism and touch will strike fear into the hearts of defenses, just like it did after the All-Star break this past season.
- To expand on this: only five players in the entire NBA attempted more shots in the restricted area than Jabari (6.9 attempts per game) after the All-Star break. Of all players who attempted six or more shots in the restricted area only LeBron James and DeAndre Jordan had a better field goal percentage than Jabari.
- The roles on this Bucks team are much more defined now than they were last season, specifically on offense. We know Giannis is the PG. We know Khris Middleton is the main floor spacer. That leaves the role of the number one offensive option up for grabs. With Giannis running, Khris keeping the defense honest and spread out, and Greg Monroe likely on his way out, it is up to Jabari to rack up the scoring numbers.
The rest of my personal thoughts matched up with what is projected by linear regression. I expect Jabari will slightly improve his rebound, assist, and free throw totals.
- He should be stronger this season and will only help him rebound.
- He should be smarter this season and the game will hopefully start to slow down for him. This will help his scoring but, even more so, it will help his passing. I doubt Jabari will ever be an above average assist guy but there is likely some room for improvement.
- Jabari is at his best when he attacks the rim. His athleticism and IQ help him score down low easily and often. This should lead to more and more fouls by the defense. The more dimensions he can add to his game the more FTA per game he will earn.
Next season I think we will see Jabari and Giannis become a dynamic duo, yet neither will be the other’s Robin. Giannis blossomed last year and Parker will do what he can to emulate his teammate.
Parker has what’s required to take a big step towards becoming one of the best offensive weapons in the NBA. Hopefully the Bucks can put him in the right positions to be successful, and accelerate his growth even further.