His rookie season was basically a bust, but the return of Jabari Paker this season made many a Milwaukee Bucks fan feel extra confident coming into the year. For good reason, too. The Bucks played very well last year under new head coach Jason Kidd. They did so, mind you, without presumed franchise cornerstone Jabari Parker for every game but 25 of those to start the season.
It wasn’t as though Parker was setting the world on fire in that small sample size last season, either. It was that he flashed enough brilliance to understand why people thought so highly of him when he was coming out of Duke. Then, unfortunately, the injury — which spawned off rehab commercials — happened.
Many wondered how Parker would come back. Heck, to be honest, many were still pondering if he was going to be a very good pro anyway. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary coming out of college, Parker had naysayers. Ones that questioned his athleticism, and whatnot. Those folks weren’t — and likely still aren’t — convinced Parker is a sure thing.
Regardless, out of sight Parker resulted in his being out of the mind of many. With the 2015-16 season in full swing now, though, he’s starting to creep back inside our craniums like those bugs shoved inside Chekhov’s ear in the old Star Trek:
Now is where we need to drop a little disclaimer: Jabari Parker hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination. However, this is essentially his rookie season — one which he is coming into after having a devastating injury. The Jabari Parker reclamation project, however it unfolds when finished, is nowhere near being complete.
Really, a form of patience needs to be had for when he struggles. Honestly, even when he does incredible things:
Okay. Okay! It’s going to be hard to not want to go bonkers after seeing that on Saturday. It looks as if his lift is completely back, and an ability to destroy the souls of others is as apparent as ever. To be honest, too, remember when we all questioned his athleticism when he was coming out of college? About that…this is the supposed non-athletic Parker AFTER missing most of last season because his leg exploded.
Oh yeah. Back to being patient and not overreacting one way or another.
We’re incredibly early into the season. When you couple that with the Bucks seemingly working him back into being a full-time player a tad bit slower (re: safer), it makes sense that his numbers aren’t going to scream man-beast or soul-eater. It’s one of those things franchises tend to do when the future of their franchise is hinging on one player’s health. It’s smart.
Through the five games he’s played this season, Parker is averaging 7.0 points and 3.6 boards in only 22 minutes of action per game. Obviously, when compared to last year, all his numbers are down. But, again, the sample size is small, he’s playing seven minutes less per game, and Parker is likely closer to still rehabilitating than he is a finished or even 80 percent himself product.
It’s also worth noting, while still not fantastic, Parker’s per-100 possessions stats are far more favorable, as 17.0 points and 8.0 boards simply look fancier. While not definitive, it’s probably safer to assume Parker is more like the guy you see in the per-100 stats than he is when you just boil it down to just 22 minutes per game. Either way, it’s only five games into the season and there’s a billion different ways we can twist these numbers.
Finally, you can look at the success of the team as a whole. But to be fair, we wouldn’t really be viewing Parker in the vacuum which is needed for this discussion. Considering he’s still very much getting used to his role on this team, along with players getting used to playing with him, it’s safer to expect his being on the court as a deterrence from winning in the short term.
Regardless of the stats, as it’s unfair to paint the picture of a guy who’s still developing and adjusting himself from an injury to define Parker by numbers, he seems to be coming back from a wash of a rookie season well enough. Decent enough, that we can start to expect him to be a player of relative consequence by the All-Star break and — barring injuries — a possible player of impact for the Bucks a short time after that.
Despite saying all of that, everyone needs to remain patient regarding his comeback. There are likely to be more setbacks, iffy games and disappointments along his journey than moments like there was of him Saturday destroying individual members of the human species.
Did I mention that he’s only 20 years old? I feel like that’s worth mentioning. Like, a lot. Because whatever he ends up being this season, Jabari Parker is years away from being a completely finished product. So I guess it isn’t only patience everyone needs to have, but optimism as well.
Fear the Dear…when healthy?