Following Jabari Parker's move to the bench, the biggest fear from Bulls fans was that Parker would become uber-dejected and let his displeasure with coming off the bench affect his play. But after Friday night's bounce-back effort, concerns about Parker playing with the 2nd unit can be shelved....for now.
Actions speak louder than words, and Parker's play against the Nuggets was screaming:
Parker now up to 19 pts on 70 percent shooting from the field to go along with 6 reb and 2 ast https://t.co/8EiWERQhwf— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) October 13, 2018
He would finish the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, on 7-for-11 shooting from the field. Parker's free throw shooting left much to be desired (50 percent), but he shot 50 percent from the 3-point line on six attempts, easily his highest 3-point attempt rate of the preseason.
Parker's role with the second unit—according to Fred Hoiberg—is be a point-forward, capable of pushing the tempo with his ability to grab rebounds and bring the ball up the floor himself. His playmaking wasn't anything to write home about (7 turnovers and 7 assists), but he was a part of an overall group effort to try to pick up the slack on a night in which Kris Dunn struggled mightily.
Moving the ball around is certainly a good sign from Parker. He has had a tendency to let the ball stick, but has made legitimate strides in sharing possessions over the years.
While any playmaking boost from Parker is nice, Hoiberg surely is more concerned with him getting up more 3-pointers and trying to eliminate long 2-point jump shots from his arsenal altogether, more so because he shot a career-high 38.3 percent from deep last season. Parker has started to make these adjustments, and it showed quite a bit.
In Friday's loss, Parker only took two long 2-point shots, making both of them. This is quite remarkable when you consider that long midrange shots have never made up less than 15 percent of his total offense. A simple redistribution of shot attempts (more 3-pointers, less midrange shots) could lead to the most successful offensive season of Parker's career.
If Parker is 100 percent healthy, his offensive rating would likely creep closer to topping 110 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would put him on par with Klay Thompson in terms of scoring efficiency.
This preseason has given Hoiberg a small window to toy with lineups, a practice that will likely continue throughout the first quarter of the season until Lauri Markkanen's return. But Parker has now shown that there is a clear role for him on this team that can be beneficial to winning, and at the very least, development. Take the play below for example, where he times his cut along the baseline up perfectly with Cam Payne's drive:
Great look by Cam to find Jabari cutting through the baseline for the slam! pic.twitter.com/3vh1pipCb3— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 13, 2018
The biggest thing to look out for ahead of next Thursday's regular season opener against the 76ers is if Hoiberg definitively states what his starting lineup will be.
Parker's breakout (preseason) game could be the event that leads to him being re-inserted into the starting five, or it could be exactly what Hoiberg needed to see to cement Parker's status as a key piece of the Bulls second unit.
No matter what the outcome is for Parker in terms of rotation status, the path to a successful marriage between he and the Bulls is now clear. If he keeps playing with the same energy he did against the Nuggets on Friday, he will definitely be a part of the Bulls closing lineup, something that bodes much better for his future in Chicago than whether or not he starts.