Most of the dust has settled in free agency, yet 23-year old forward Jabari Parker is still awaiting an offer.
Entering his fifth season, Parker has many factors that make it possible he won’t pan out, the biggest being injury concerns. He has torn the ACL in his left knee twice in three seasons, a truly rare happening. But in his return to action, he showed off a skill set that- in theory -could work in Chicago.
Parker played in 31 games last season for the Bucks. And while it is true that his primary position is power forward, the thought that he can’t play small forward full-time is more founded in the idea that he will never become a sufficient 3-point shooter. Which, if last year is any indication, is not necessarily true.
In his 31 games last season, Parker shot 38.3 percent from the 3-point line on 2.6 attempts per game. And he played 40 percent of his minutes at small forward and 60 percent at power forward. His 3-point percentage has increased every season in his career, and if that upwards trajectory continues he will be one of the more effortless scorers in the league.
Of course he would have to be given ample opportunity to prove himself. Because last season he showed flashes of what he can become.
In Chicago, the presence of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn gives the team two capable ball-handlers in the starting lineup. And Denzel Valentine and Cam Payne allow the second unit to have similar dual ball-handler capabilities, but Parker has some playmaking skill of his own that would allow the Bulls to truly buy-in to head coach Fred Hoiberg’s quick-hitting offense.
The last two seasons Parker’s assist percentage has been between 13 and 14 percent, a figure that would make him one of the best passing forwards on the Bulls. And perhaps the biggest asset he would bring to the Bulls is the fact that he is quite proficient at grabbing the rebound and pushing the ball up the floor himself. So in a world where Parker does not become a better floor-spacer, the issue would be mitigated by making him the primary playmaker off the bench.
Last season Parker scored one-point per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler, a mark that put him in the 89th percentile of pick-and-roll scorers. Interestingly enough, Milwaukee only allowed Parker to be the ball handler in pick-and-rolls 13.9 percent of their possessions, compared to the enormous over 40 percent share that both LaVine and Dunn received last season. Even Valentine was give a chance to shine in the pick-and-roll with the Bulls, acting as the PnR ball-handler just over 27 percent of the time.
The idea is, with developing stretch fours like Bobby Portis and Markkanen- both above 36 percent from 3-point range - Parker could actually play an important role in Chicago. And with all due respect to Portis, Sixth Man of the Year could be in Parker’s grasp if he could get in a full season of basketball.
Even coming off of injury, his 55 percent true shooting percentage last year would've made him one of the top-five scorers efficiency-wise on the Bulls. Parker also took 34.9 percent of his shots zero-to-three feet from the basket, a higher share of inside shots than any of the Bulls starters. His 62 percent shooting in the zero-to-three foot range was not as high as Markkanen (67.6 percent) or Lopez (72.9 percent), but he got their at a much higher rate.
Parker’s lack of free throw attempts don’t do much to help a Bulls team that was 26th in the league in that category. But being aggressive in getting to the rim is the first step to a higher free throw rate, and Parker has at least shown the ability to do that.
Some Bulls fans were upset at the idea of matching LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer, not exactly understanding the value of “asset retention”. And that same subsection of Bulls fans would be in hysterics should the team sign Parker, the former No. 2 overall pick with a well-documented injury history. But the idea is the same as matching LaVine’s offer from Sacramento.
No one is arguing that LaVine will have to prove that he is worth the four-year commitment from the Bulls. And no one is saying that Parker would be a perfect fit on the Bulls, as clearly the team would have to cater some aspects of the offense to him to maximize his potential. But the idea of nabbing a player who put up 20.1 points per game on a 56 percent true shooting percentage just two seasons ago should be an enticing one for a franchise trying to make real progress through their rebuilding years.