In 2014, the Milwaukee Bucks picked Jabari Parker with the number two overall pick in the draft. He was seen as the future cornerstone of the franchise, sharing the mantel with up-and-coming Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Things have changed. Antetokounmpo has blossomed into a no doubt, top-five NBA talent and the heir to LeBron James’ throne in the East.
Two ACL tears have brought into question Parker’s long-term durability and his ceiling as an All-Star level NBA player. The team has learned to cope with Parker not being on the floor, through no fault of his own, surrounding Antetokounmpo with the pieces he needs to flourish.
That strategy has led to an offensive rating ranking as the league’s ninth best.
Even the teams defense has slightly improved, to being a top 20 defense in the league.
Adding Parker to the mix again, whether it be a prominent role off the bench or into the starting lineup, only drags those rankings down and fans witnessed that in Sunday’s Game One matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Let’s just start by stating the obvious. Antetokounmpo is the key to any success the Bucks will or will not have. The coaching staff and supporting cast have to cater to his game, not the other way around. On Sunday, however, Parker did not do this for Antetokounmpo.
When the two were together on the court (about eight minutes), the team had an abysmal net rating of -89.0. Sure, a small sample size of minutes, but the disturbingly low offensive rating of 41.6 should have fans concerned.
When Parker was not on the court and Antetokounmpo was (37 minutes), the team had a net rating of +15.4. The offensive rating climbed to a pretty 114.1.
The difference is when Parker is off the court, someone like Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell or even Jason Terry is on the court. All of these players have logged ample time with Antetokounmpo and know they have to be hyper aware of spacing.
Now to Parker’s problem defensively. He doesn’t even pass the eye test here. There were multiple occasions in which he missed a jumper and refused to hustle back on defense.
Instead he jogs back, taking a back seat to anything closely related to transition defense. He also consistently fails to secure rebounds, letting them bounce out of his hands or at his feet.
The defensive rating with both Parker and Antetokounmpo on the court is a disgusting 130.6, while when it is just Antetokounmpo and others on the court, the rating becomes a stellar 98.7.
It is not all Parker’s fault, no. If Bledsoe plays like his normal self, the Bucks probably win. If Snell shows up like he did to start the season, the Bucks probably win.
But the stats did not lie in game one. Parker and Antetokounmpo could not coexist on the floor together. And sadly for Parker, Antetokounmpo is the future of the Bucks and the NBA.
Head coach Joe Prunty will have to ride or die with Antetokounmpo and that is going to mean seeing less of Parker in game two, if the Bucks hope to steal a home game away from the Celtics.