The Milwaukee Bucks plan on making the Eastern Conference playoffs for the second season in a row, and that task will be much easier if a healthy Jabari Parker takes the floor with his talented teammates, which is expected to happen when Milwaukee opens camp Sept. 29.
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Bucks to Exercise Caution with Parker
Tuesday, Sept. 22
Parker tore his ACL in December and only played 25 games in 2014, but the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) noted the former Duke star “is expected on the court” when the Bucks begin camp in Madison.
The report made it clear the team plans on proceeding with caution with the former No. 2 overall draft pick, especially since it is “unclear what Parker can do or how much contact he might face.”
Coach Jason Kidd reiterated that plan, per the Associated Press: “We’re not going to rush him back. This is a bigger picture.”
Parker averaged 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his rookie season before the injury. He also played 29.5 minutes a night, a number that will likely be reduced in the early going this year if general manager John Hammond’s comments are any indication: “If we think he can play 30 minutes, we’ll probably play him 15. Wherever he might be, we’re always going to be cautious with him.”
The caution makes sense given Parker’s age (20) and the fact Milwaukee made the playoffs last season without him for most of the campaign. The Bucks have the pieces to compete in the Eastern Conference even if Parker isn’t fully ready to go by opening night.
Between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe up front and Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton in the backcourt, talent is not an issue in Milwaukee. This group challenged the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs last season without free-agent addition Monroe (15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season for the Detroit Pistons) or Parker and can remain in the playoff hunt until the forward returns.
Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated believes Parker is one of the 10 most important comebacks of the 2015-16 season largely because of his potential to take the Bucks to another level:
The 2014 No. 2 overall pick looked like a strong Rookie of the Year candidate, and he has the ability to accelerate Milwaukee’s entire roster-building process. If Parker establishes himself as a legit No. 1 scoring option, the Bucks suddenly have a core group (Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe) that looks like it would be ready to make serious postseason noise as soon as 2016–17.
With that core, it is more important that the 20-year-old Parker is on the floor for years to come than in November of this season.