There was a time when Jabari Parker would have scoffed at a $6.5 million player option. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft was on a fast track to stardom and expectations were high.
While his career trajectory hasn’t gone as planned, Parker, 25, will be back for another tour of duty with the Kings, at least in theory. NBC Sports California has confirmed through a league source that Parker is opting into the final year of his contract with Sacramento. Shams Charania of The Athletic was first with the news.
Acquired at the trade deadline last season from the Atlanta Hawks, along with center Alex Len, Parker played a total of 80 minutes over six games with the Kings. He was coming off a shoulder injury when he arrived in Sacramento and needed time to work himself back into shape. He also contracted the coronavirus leading up to the Orlando restart and arrived at the bubble late.
Whether Parker is part of the plan for this season or not is unknown. After an up and down season, Parker took the safe route in picking up his option, but that doesn’t mean he will suit up for Sacramento when training camp opens in early December.
Just like Parker, the Kings still have some choices to make. His decision has an impact on the team’s offseason plans, although in the grand scheme of things, his contract is manageable and one of the lesser worries for the team. GM Monte McNair now has less cap space to work with, but there are still options for Sacramento’s new exec.
Option 1: Keep Parker on the roster
Coach Luke Walton used Parker at the five for stretches in the bubble. He can still score in bunches and has the potential to be a strong post option, although he’s undersized for the position.
He isn’t a conventional rim runner and he averages just 5.7 rebounds per game over his career. You could find better options at the five, but very few that can put up points as he can. In a season that looks like a transition year for Sacramento, Parker would be a budget-conscious big that already knows the terminology.
Option 2: Package Parker in a trade
Parker doesn’t have the draw that he once had, which is why he’s playing for $6.5 million this season versus the $20 million he made during the 2018-19 season. That doesn’t mean that he has no value as a potential scorer off the bench for a team looking for help.
In a larger trade, Parker has value as an expiring contract at a reasonable rate. As a stand-alone player, it would likely cost the Kings a second-round selection to move him, which they have plenty of both this season and in the future.
McNair has already pulled off one substantial trade when he reportedly shipped Bogdan Bogdanovic in a deal to the Bucks. Parker’s contract is definitely moveable and could be added to a larger deal to balance the books.
Option 3: Waive Parker
Built into the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is what is called the stretch provision. Teams are allowed to waive a player and stretch his contract over twice the amount of years, plus an additional season.
In this case, the Kings could take Parker’s $6.5 million and break it up into three chunks of $2.17 million that would be paid out over the next three seasons. The immediate savings would be around $4.33 million this season in cap space, which might be enough to retain one of their own free agents or potentially hit the market with a little extra money to spend.
Nothing is off the table when it comes to Parker. He wasn’t a great fit in Sacramento last season and Walton had a stack of additional bigs to work with. That might not be the case this season with Alex Len and Harry Giles hitting the open market.
The Kings are going to be extremely active over the coming days. It’s very possible that Parker gets swept up and moved in a potential deal. If he is still on the Kings early next week, the team will have a decision to make. If they believe there is a better fit or they need the money for a different free agent, eating the cost of Parker’s contract and stretching might be the best solution.