At five games above .500, the Milwaukee Bucks have more or less underperformed thus far, especially after a strong end to the 2016-17 season highlighted by an abundance of youth. With the acquisition of point guard Eric Bledsoe, it felt like Milwaukee was starting to acquire adequate playmakers to compliment Antetokounmpo’s otherworldly talent, but Bledsoe hasn’t allowed them to make that crucial jump. Similarly, Thon Maker, the physical anomaly assumed to make Milwaukee even more imposing, has disappointed over halfway through the season. Khris Middleton returning from injury meant three-point shooting could become a serviceable weapon in Milwaukee’s arsenal, but Milwaukee still ranks 20th in three-point percentage and 28th in three-pointers made per game. All these points for optimism, including Brogdon coming off a Rookie of the Year season, made this season feel special, but Milwaukee is still missing that intangible spark. Enter Jabari Parker.

Despite Milwaukee’s tremendous size, rebounding and frontcourt depth have been glaring issues this year, no one rebounds less than the Milwaukee Bucks per game. Even with giants in Antetokounmpo, Henson and Maker, failure to properly rebound defensively and offensively have objectively lost games for Milwaukee. What’s more, as far as superstar potential is concerned, we basically know the players Middleton and Bledsoe can be for the remainder of their careers. They’re both fantastic players, but to win championships in this league, it takes more than being solid, you need a plethora of superstars.

Since draft night 2014, the hype surrounding Parker has been undeniable, considered to be the most pro-ready player in that year’s draft. His production before injury bolstered this claim, his footwork is elite, he runs the floor with the best of them and seems to be everywhere at once.

His high pace of play and definitive energy makes him that potential missing piece in the Bucks’ pursuit of elite status. Simply put, Parker has plenty left to prove in his career, and his cost-free addition to this contending team is a luxury most teams cannot identify with. His potential is still relatively untapped due to his unfortunate and limiting injury history, but the silver lining in that history is that the potential and drive still stirs within him.

What’s more, with Jason Kidd out of the picture, the timing of Parker’s return could not be more opportune. This is a team which has undergone substantial and consistent roster changes all season, and reintroduction of one of their franchise cornerstones also reintroduces a sense of cohesion and solidity. Parker was meant to be here from the start, so now the much-improved Bucks can continue to grow with the player who should have joined them on this journey the entire way.

Parker’s return has the potential to turn this season around, it feels like the squad is inches from breaking through, and who more appropriate to author that shift than Jabari.