Realistic Expectations for Jabari Parker's Rookie Season with Milwaukee Bucks

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Realistic Expectations for Jabari Parker's Rookie Season with Milwaukee Bucks
Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images

We've been attaching that NBA-ready label to Jabari Parker since he put up 27 points on Kansas back in November. 

From day one of the season to March, he pretty much looked like a pro among kids during his one-and-done freshman year. Between the 6'8" size, 235-pound frame and deceptive athleticism, not to mention a perimeter, post and off-the-dribble game, Parker immediately aced the eye test from a physical and fundamental perspective. 

You didn't need an NBA scouting degree to conclude that Parker was polished offensively. And it's that polish that ultimately led to his consistency as a scorer. He finished with at least 15 points or more in 28 of Duke's 35 games this year, an impressive feat for anyone, never mind a 19-year-old with a permanent target on his head in a competitive ACC

“In terms of a basketball player and a human being, I think it’s all first class,” one Eastern Conference scout told The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes. “I think he gets on the court next year and averages between 14-17 points per game, 2-4 assists, 6-8 rebounds. I see this Carmelo Anthony/Grant Hill hybrid."

This comment actually came prior to the draft before anyone knew Parker would be playing in Milwaukee, where the Bucks have been looking for someone to feature in the offense. Cue Parker, who should present coach Jason Kidd with a new go-to option in the half-court. 

Credit that to Parker's ability to generate offense from practically every spot on the floor. He can score with the game slowed down and the defense set—the toughest time for a team to get a bucket. 

Parker offers tremendous versatility and counter-offense. Play him up tight, and he'll take you to the rack. Sag back, and he'll rise and fire for a jumper. Double-team him in the post, and he'll fire a dart to an open teammate.

“But he is as close to being an NBA prospect right now as you’re going to find in college," Grant Hill told Sean Deveney of Sporting News.

Parker averaged 19.1 points on 14.3 shots a game this past season. I wouldn't be surprised if he got 15-16 shots off per game for the Bucks in 2014-15.

And if we're talking about projecting rookie stats, I'm with the scouts who think he can average 17-18 points on those 15-16 shots. 

Why can't he? As a small forward, Parker has the footwork, shooting mechanics and body control to create and make shots away from the rim. He's got the size and length to separate and effortlessly release right over the defense.


ESPN, via Dawk Ins

Parker also presents a problem for defenses as an option in the post, where he's got the strength to gain position, the footwork to separate and the touch and instincts to convert from a variety of different angles. 

ESPN, via Dawk Ins

Another reason why Parker's offensive game should translate right away? His ability to play through contact. 

That has to be one of the biggest adjustments for rookies—going from playing against 19- and 20-year-olds to battling grown men. This hurdle should be smaller for Parker, who's looked comfortable taking and dishing out contact before going up for a shot. And he doesn't shy away from rim protectors or let a bump knock him off track. 


ACC Network

Parker has the game to step in right away and put points on the board. In fact, he's my pick for the 2015 Rookie of the Year. But there's a big difference between being NBA-ready and ready to make an impact.

He's going to put up stats and production—it's just not going to translate to overwhelming team success.

Damian Lillard averaged 19 points a game as a rookie for the Portland Trail Blazers—enough to get them 33 wins and a spot in the lottery. 

Granted, he led Portland to a monster year as a sophomore, but you just don't see many prospects come in and change the direction of a franchise in their first year on the job—regardless of how talented they are. 

Scouts like to compare Parker's game to Carmelo Anthony's—another physical combo forward who can score inside and out as well as rebound.

USA TODAY Sports

But don't expect Parker to make the same level of impact that Melo made as a rookie back in 2003-04.

Anthony, along with the help of Marcus Camby and Andre Miller, helped turn a 17-win roster into a 43-win playoff team during his first year in Denver.

That's just not going to happen in Milwaukee next season, where Brandon Knight (22), Giannis Antetokounmpo (19) and Larry Sanders (25) aren't qualified to pose as key starters for a winning team.

The Bucks won 15 games last year and averaged 95.5 points, good for No. 28 in the league. One individual rookie isn't going to move the needle much.  

Parker isn't going to contribute at the defensive end either. Chances are he'll struggle out of the gates, particularly against explosive wings and small forwards. He just isn't that light on his feet when moving from side to side.

But his short- and long-term strengths both center around one thing: the ability to put the ball in the hole. And he's going to be able to do it right away.

With a point guard to get him the rock and available touches in the offense, along with a body and skill set both suited for next-level play, I'm thinking 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds a game on 45 percent shooting for Parker next season. 

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