Jabari Parker, Most improved?
Jabari Parker, Most improved?
by James Schofield
One of the early stories to emerge in this latest NBA season, thus far, has been the emergence, and rise, of talents from the NBA’s 2014 Draft. Of course, the main story from this draft has been Joel Embiid who, after two years working on his game and rehabbing injuries (as well as flaunting his great Twitter game), has finally hit the NBA court with a bang.
Thus far, the seven footer Embiid has 17.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG and is shooting 66.7% from the three point line in only 21 minutes per game. But while Embiid might be making the biggest headlines, he is hardly the only talent from the 2014 NBA Draft to be making waves already in season 2016/17. Names such as Julius Randle, Zach LaVine, TJ Warren, Jusuf Nurkić, Nikola Jokić, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood (not to mention undrafted names from the same year such as Brooklyn’s Sean Kilpatrick and New Orleans’ Tim Frazier) have all turned up to play for their respective teams this season, so far, and are churning out some of the more respectable numbers for the same. Yet, one name in particular (besides Embiid, of course) has stood out perhaps most of all.
While the number one pick Andrew Wiggins (famously moved from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade for Kevin Love) may have ended up being awarded Rookie of the Year for the draft season of 2014/15, it may not have been the case had one Jabari Parker not torn his Anterior Cruciate Ligament after 25 games. Averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.2 SPG over this period, Parker was the clear standout of the rookie year before his injury, and looked set to cruise to ROY before he went down. Now, however, the young Milwaukee Bucks star looks to be fully recovered from his injury, as he is averaging 17.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 48.5% from the floor, and has been the spark plug for a Bucks team that currently sits at sixth in the Eastern Conference. Take, for example, his performance in the Bucks win over Indiana, in which he shot 4-6 from three, 11-17 from the field overall, and picked up eight rebounds to go along with his 27 points. While he may have been quieter, statistically, on the defensive end than he normally is, Parker’s offensive performance was a showcase for how far his game has come since his tragically shortened rookie season.
Two days later, Parker showed up in the Bucks win over Demarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings with his best defensive game for the season, so far, racking up four steals and a block to go along with his six rebounds and 19 points. While the stats may not, necessarily, jump off the box score, it was Parker’s presence on both ends of the floor that truly showed the progress in his game, and his star potential for Milwaukee going forward. Case in point, the below play, beginning with Parker stripping Demarcus Cousins on the defensive end and turning it in to an athletic dunk on offence. While it may not be picked out by Shaquille O’Neal for his ‘Diesel Dunks’ segment as one of the dunks of the week, it nonetheless shows the growing influence of Jabari Parker on the game of Milwaukee – who themselves are threatening to become a serious force in the Eastern Conference.
Most recently, Parker turned in his best game of the season in a loss against New Orleans, scoring a season high 33 points to go along with 9 rebounds, and almost turned the game on its head by being the livewire for the Milwaukee offence. With the game on the line, Jabari Parker stood up for the Bucks, drawing multiple New Orleans defenders to open up the floor and open up opportunities for his teammates to snatch the game away from the then winless Pelicans. Though the shots didn’t fall, it quickly became clear how great an influence Parker has on Milwaukee’s game in this new season. With their offence having lacked long range shooting in previous years, and with the injury to Khris Middleton before the season began, Milwaukee were screaming out, before the season began, for an offensive force (besides the electric Giannis Antetokounmpo) and a threat from long range. Despite trading for three point threats such as Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic in the offseason, it has been Jabari Parker to step up to the task and offer himself up as one of Milwaukee’s main threats from deep. This may be no more evident in this most recent game, where Parker shot 3 for 6 from the three point line, while the remaining Bucks shot a combined 3 for 12. On paper that seems telling enough, but watching the game come to a close was a far more obvious statement in Parker’s favour, despite the loss.
All in all, while Jabari Parker’s box score stats may not scream enough attention for Most Improved Player consideration (so far) beside headline grabbing players like Phoenix’s TJ Warren, Brooklyn’s Sean Kilpatrick, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes or the entire Charlotte Hornets team, there is certainly an argument to be made that Parker might well be one of the single most improved players in the NBA this season. And with the 2014 NBA Draft glaringly outshining the 2016 NBA Draft (seriously rookies, where are you?), the time is right to pay closer attention to the growing game of Jabari Parker in Milwaukee.