It’s amazing how a single play can flip the outlook of a player’s career and halt an entire franchise. Chicago fans are numb to it at this point with the calamity that’s struck Derrick Rose time and time again, but he’s not the only Chicago-bred player to have his career change in an instant.
Parker continues to recover from the injury without a timetable, missing a Bucks’ playoff series and the entire Summer League in the process.
At this time last year, I had Parker atop my big board, and the questions he faced weren’t about injuries, but about whether he had the athleticism and speed to thrive at the NBA level.
Before getting hurt, he answered some of those questions early in the season. We don’t have a big sample size to analyze, but Parker showed enough last season to keep Bucks fans intrigued and hopeful. Let’s ignore his ACL tear for a second and how long his recovery to full form might be (if ever), and see how his shortened rookie season played out.
Parker received some premature and off-based Carmelo Anthony comps coming into the league, and with a couple dozen games under his belt, it’s fair to say we can put that comp to rest. That’s not to say he doesn’t thrive at some of the same aspects of the game as Melo, like his savvy post game, and inside-outside threat as a stretch 4, but he’s still only 20 and has ways to go.
The Bucks are a young, up-and-coming team, but it’s not due to their offense. Milwaukee was only 25th in offensive efficiency, and Parked played alongside Brandon Knight, who only averaged 5.4 assists before being traded to the Suns. The point is, Parker wasn’t exactly a hand-in-glove fit, especially playing alongside another non-shooter in Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as the now former NBA player, Larry Sanders. He also didn’t get many minutes alongside Khris Middleton and his sweet shooting renaissance, which will be fun to watch once Parker is back and healthy.
Parker went from playing under Coach K in one of the most smooth, functional offensive systems in the world to, well, Jason Kidd and the Bucks. Still, offense is why they drafted him, and he showed his potential there.
Parker wasn’t close to his 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in college, but he averaged a respectable 12.3 and 5.5, which according to Basketball-Reference, made him only the fifth teenager ever to put up those numbers, alongside Cliff Robinson, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Of course, Parker averaged that playing at least 39 less games than the others on the list, but that’s impressive company nonetheless.
Like I said earlier, Parker isn’t the best athlete or the quickest player, but he’s a natural scorer and knows how to get to the bucket and finish.
He also shot 70.7 percent inside the restricted area, per NBA.com.
Playing most of his minutes as an undersized power forward, it was comforting to see Parker get to the lane and find ways to navigate past bigs who can’t check him off the dribble.
He has excellent ball-handling skills for his size, using a variety of Eurosteps and hopsteps to score in the lane. The problem is, he’s only 6’8,” so he struggles to finish over length and had a bad habit of getting stuffed and stuck in no man’s land when he couldn’t get all the way to the rim. He shot a putrid 7-41 in the paint outside the restricted area. He also only drew 2.6 free throws per game, so he wasn’t getting bailed out by the refs.
His shooting was also a reason for concern, shooting just 4-16 on threes and 69.7 percent from the line, after making 38 threes and shooting 35.8 percent at Duke. His poor shooting and lack of mobility are basically locking him in as a full-time power forward, but he can’t be a stretch 4 without the shooting.
He wasn’t known for his defense coming into the league, and he definitely didn’t do anything last season to change that. He finished 78th out of 81 small forwards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, and 92nd out of 97 power forwards (if ESPN slotted him there). He’s strong, but he lacks the speed to keep up with small forwards and doesn’t have length or size to stop opposing big men. He also had only five blocks, but did rack up 1.2 steals per game.
Even with his defensive issues and struggles as being a bit of a tweener, Parker is only 20 and still probably the second-most promising player in his rookie class other than Andrew Wiggins. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll have to miss time this season, and with his injury, it’s likely he won’t be as good as he would’ve been otherwise.
Once he’s back, he’ll give the Bucks a much-needed offensive presence and have every bit of a chance to average 18 and 8 one day.