Jabari Parker remains one of the most enigmatic players in the NBA and the Chicago Bulls are eager to find out one way or the other if he can be something close to a star.
After waiting around as a restricted free agent this summer, Parker was finally snatched up by the Bulls, who handed him a two-year, $40 million deal that wasn’t matched by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Initially, the contract looks a little too rich for a player with Parker’s track record – namely his injury history (145 games missed over four years) and inconsistent play when he’s been on the floor.
However, the second year of Parker’s contract is a team option, meaning there’s very little downside for Chicago, who had cap space to burn this offseason and weren’t filling it with a star anyways. That cap space could have instead been used to soak up undesired contracts from other teams in exchange for draft picks, but it’s possible none of those hypothetical assets could turn out better than Parker.
If Parker blossoms in a new environment, the second year of the deal will be more than worth it. If he struggles or suffers a significant injury again, the Bulls can walk away after a year knowing they at least tried to unearth a gem.
For a team in Chicago’s position – near the bottom of the league and in desperate need for more talent – Parker is exactly the type of player worth taking a gamble on.
He’s only 23, came into the league as a highly-touted prospect and has shown enough flashes over four years to be considered a promising player.
While he’s below average defensively, Parker has all the tools to be an offensive force, as he showed two seasons ago when he averaged 20.1 points on 49.0 per cent shooting. His 3-point efficiency has also improved every year as he shot 38.3 per cent last season.
The problem for the Bulls is Parker should be deployed as a power forward, not a small forward, which is what he’ll likely play a lot of in Chicago’s lineups next to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
Parker isn’t all that quick or rangy as a three, but at the four he can create mismatches on the offensive end. He also struggles to stay in front of athletic wings defensively, which is why having him cover power forwards makes him less of a liability.
If nothing else, Parker has an opportunity to put up stats on a relatively bad team, meaning he could potentially force his way onto the All-Star team in the weaker Eastern Conference.
The upside is he continues to get better and turns into a foundational piece for Chicago, who are also betting on Zach LaVine after giving him a four-year, $78 million deal.
The Bulls aren’t expected to be good just yet, but they’ll surely be interesting.