Jabari Parker’s presence creates debates and confusion.
The no. 2 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft joined the Wizards following the Feb. 6 trade with the Bulls that sent Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago. That lofty draft status combined with potent scoring skills in the body of a 23-year-old power forward leads to tantalizing thoughts about a future in Washington.
Instead, spend that time planning a summer trip or contemplating the Wizards’ upcoming five-game homestand starting with Monday’s meeting with the Kings.
Regardless of what the former Duke standout accomplished in his first 12 games with Washington or over the final 16, Parker will not play for the Wizards next season on his current contract.
The Wizards are declining his team option for $20 million. This is not a sourced fact, but something of an open secret and mostly a logical conclusion.
Stating such details bluntly is not intended as a slight or any kind of assessment on Parker’s performance in Washington. In fact, there are numerous positives with the 6-foot-8 forward’s play since the trade.
Now a full year removed from his return following a second ACL tear since entering the league, Parker is averaging 13.2 points in 26 minutes per game. He is shooting a robust 54.6 percent from the field and 65.5 percent over the last five games. His 7.0 rebounds rank second on the team to the other player Washington acquired in the trade deadline deal, Bobby Portis.
Parker also uncorks highlight passes and uses his athleticism to attack the rim.
Jabari Parker certainly got bounce pic.twitter.com/h7LVoW39z8— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) March 7, 2019
“I knew when we got him that we needed to make him an attack player,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after last week’s game against the Mavericks.
Parker had 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the home win.
“The thing I didn't know is that he loves to pass the ball,” Brooks continued, “so I've been telling him to continue to do that but you got to see the basket. The basket's there for you, you're attacking. By attacking, he's explosive. He's as athletic as anybody his size in a long time."
“It's almost like [Charles] Barkley-ish the way [Jabari] can rebound the ball and take it (the) length of the court in his explosion to the basket.”
Before those daydreams return, understand none of this is to suggest the Wizards won the deal with the Bulls from a player perspective. That was unlikely from the jump, but most importantly, not the point of the trade.
The Wizards did not ship out a better player in Porter and his $26 million salary to take on Parker’s big number.
Washington needed cap space to field a competitive team next season after John Wall’s Achilles tear left the roster understaffed. The team used the remaining two-plus seasons of Porter’s four-year, $106 million contract to then create that space. Keeping Parker for $20 million wrecks such plans.
With Brooks primarily using Portis at center, Washington doesn’t currently have a single forward under contract next season. If the Wizards determine that the roster needs a fall-out-of-bed scorer, Parker could stay for a short-term deal with an annual salary far below $20 million. Should Washington decide to retool with a nod toward efficiency and steadiness, it may look elsewhere.
While Porter rarely committed turnovers, Parker loses possession with regularity.
He is tied with Bradley Beal for a team-high 3.1 turnovers despite playing 13 fewer minutes per game and handling the ball less frequently than then the two-time All-Star guard. Parker had five in Saturday’s loss at Minnesota including a crucial miscue in overtime.
According to NBA.com, Parker’s turnover ratio* of 18.0 since the trade is the NBA’s worst. He is fifth worst in the NBA this season at 13.7 among players averaging at least 25 minutes in a minimum 50 games.
While the passing gets wonky at times, the primary issue is on the bounce. In 1,042 minutes with Bulls, Parker lost the ball 19 times according to Basketball-Reference compared to 11 in 315 minutes with the Wizards.
(*TO Ratio is the number of turnovers a player or team averages per 100 possessions.)
Yet even within the turnover stat there’s reason to like what Parker’s doing with the Wizards.
Among the bottom 10 players in turnover ratio, a group including Ben Simmons and Draymond Green, only Parker’s net rating is positive (+3.1). His often ridiculed defense appears a tick more defensible than expected since joining the Wizards. He can certainly create points.
Maybe Parker drives the lane and delivers dimes next season for the Wizards. It just won’t be on his current contract, which means he’ll become a free agent over the summer. There’s no debating this even as we wrap our heads over the heights of Parker’s potential.
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