The Jabari Parker experiment took a big step in the right direction on Tuesday night. Whether or not the experiment ends in Chicago is beside the point right now. The Bulls and Parker have had a rocky relationship to say the least, but at the moment we can all be happy for Parker, due to his recent stretch of play showing that he still has plenty left in the tank.
Parker has taken a considerable amount of blame—both fair and unfair—for the Bulls lackluster defense, especially when it comes to getting back in transition. But basketball is a team sport and everyone on the roster has played a small part in the Bulls defensive dysfunction, so as fans and critics alike start to accept that little-to-nothing will change this year’s defense, they are more people accepting the fact that Parker needs to be a part of the rotations as long as he is on the roster.
In 23 minutes of play on Tuesday night, Parker showed exactly why he can still be a great fit for this team. On a night where Lauri Markkanen’s shot wasn’t falling at an extremely high rate (6/15 from the field), Parker helped out usual offensive workhorse Zach LaVine.
Jabari Parker pic.twitter.com/miiWOQ3gSB— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) January 30, 2019
The Bulls rough offensive issues start with the fact that outside of LaVine, there doesn’t appear to be another player who wants to take tough shots when the offense has stagnated. Parker certainly does not lack confidence on the offensive end, possessing the aggressiveness that the front-office would no doubt like to see from Markkanen moving forward.
Jabari goin nuts pic.twitter.com/eOunnVLU6Y— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 30, 2019
Jabari Parker Slam pic.twitter.com/5lGvnZ6IJl— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) January 30, 2019
Parker has been excellent from the 3-point line in the month of January, encouraging considering that 3-point shooting is the one part of his game that has consistently improved over the years. He is knocking down a paltry 32.5 percent of his 3-pointers this year, but is up to a hyper-efficient 45.5 percent on 3-pointers through 9 games this month.
And as nice as Parker’s perimeter shooting has been, his activity in the paint has been the driving force for his great month. As of late he has made sure to keep moving when he is off the ball, an issue for much of the Bulls young roster. When Parker relocates to the baseline, he still has enough bounce to finish over the top of length in the paint.
His shot selection is starting to creep back to his pre-injury norms, which is to say he is getting to the rim more and per Cleaning the Glass (which filters out garbage time) is shooting a solid 65 percent at the rim. With his shooting percentage at the rim nearing his career high (70 percent), Parker simply needs to be empowered more to see his overall numbers increase as well.
And that is why Jim Boylen giving Parker playing time (for the most part) over the last month is a big step in the right direction for the Parker, Boylen and the organization as a whole.
Boylen said he needed to see an increased effort level and attention to detail on defense from Parker, and he has responded well to the challenge.
Jabari Parker Block pic.twitter.com/NGWz0xeunF— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) January 30, 2019
With 31 games left in the season and a little over a week until the NBA trade deadline, now is the perfect time for Parker to be showing off his skills with all-around stat lines. He is putting up 14.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 APG on 47.5 percent shooting through 38 games. And in January alone, he is shooting a very efficient 57.9 percent from the field.
So whether or not people want to admit it, Parker can clearly help a Bulls team so bad at offense that we are shocked when they score over 100 points in a game. And Boylen can clearly help Parker, seeing as he is a specialist in the weakest part of Parker’s game (his defense). But the two-year, $40 million contract (with a team option in the second year) that both sides agreed upon heading into the 2018-19 season complicates things.
All signs point to Parker being traded before the trade deadline and if he isn’t, it is unlikely the Bulls would buy out his (technically) expiring contract, but you never know. Either way, the only certainty we currently have in the Parker-Bulls situation is that no one is certain how it will end.
But we can say with confidence—this far into the season—that Parker has shown that he can still be a legit NBA scorer when given the opportunity. Now that rookies Chandler Hutchison and Wendell Carter are going to miss considerable time, these last 31 games of the NBA season will provide the chance to see if Parker can become much more.