The Rise of Jabari Parker
*Photo via USA Today
2014 NBA top overall pick Andrew Wiggins has not disappointed in his a year and a half into his bright pro career as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The rising star is averaging 20.7 ppg, a four-point improvement from his first year, when he scored 16.9 ppg en route to the rookie-of-the-year award.
Wiggins is living up to the expectations that a first round pick warrants. In addition to Minnesota basketball fans, fans worldwide who have followed the native Canadian from Huntington Prep (West Virginia), and to the University of Kansas will all reap the benefits of watching his ascension to the stars.
But what about Jabari Parker? He was also a lottery pick in 2014, drafted right after Wiggins, 2nd overall to the Milwaukee Bucks. He also shares those expectations with Wiggins to provide the NBA with its next group of superstars and has a wealth of talent and ability just like his 1st overall counterpart.
Unfortunately, Jabari has not enjoyed the start that Wiggins is off to as a sophomore. After his first 25 games, Jabari posted just 11.7 ppg on 47 percent shooting from the field but shot a disappointing 25 percent from three. Then Jabari tore his ACL after 15 minutes of play against the Phoenix Suns and was subjected to the shelf for the rest of his rookie season.
It was a devastating blow to the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks, but the great thing about time is that it heals all wounds. After ten months of rehab, Parker is back on the court for his second year and lately, he’s been balling like only a 2nd overall pick should. Through the first half of the season, Jabari wasn’t any better than his 15-game rookie self with 11.3 ppg and 4.6 rebs.
In February and March, Jabari has seen his points per game average increase by 5+ points, producing 17.1 and 19.9 ppg respectively. March has been his best month so far as he has not scored less than 15 points in a game this month, featuring three 20+ point games against playoff teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder (26 points) and the Miami Heat (23 points). How is he doing it you might ask?
*Photo via USA Today
For starters, Parker is playing more minutes a game. After playing no more than 25.2 mins per contest in the first two months of his rookie year, Parker has seen his minutes increase to 33.5 in January, 37.3 in February and 37.5 in March. Due to the extra time, Parker is putting up more shots.
The ability to knock down threes is not a priority for Parker as his three point attempts per month have not made a significant jump. It’s not what he’s focused on and to be quite honest, he probably doesn’t need it at this point right now. Jabari developing his game working inward from the three-point line is where he’s winning and after putting up just 10 shots a game in January, Jabari is up to 16 currently.
Its simple math. The more shots you attempt the more opportunities you provide for yourself to score and that’s exactly what the Chicago native is doing.
The video above is a clear depiction of how Jabari is eating. Despite the loss to the Thunder, you can see why Jabari is having success and for me, it’s all about positioning. He mostly patrols that space between the foul line and the three-pointer to jumpstart his offense and from there, he’s attacking the rim without any hesitation and with a purpose. He’s draining open mid-range looks, he’s moving without the ball, he’s active. Out of 12 shots made, five were all mid-range jump-shots.
He’s not staying in one place and being passive. He lets the offense come to him and shows his aggressiveness in a good way. Jabari even got out on the break, where he’s definitely a threat, to earn some of his easiest points-aided by his 6’8, 250-pound frame for protection.
Other than positioning, Jabari’s offensive awareness is key. It seems like when he gets the ball, he knows exactly what he wants to do with it. He makes quick decisions which keeps the defense off-balance and as a result-allows Jabari to use that quick first-step to power his way through to the rim, to challenge the bigs.
This is what a 2nd overall pick looks like. Since his HS days at Simeon to Duke University, I always knew Jabari would be a star. He just has it. The injury was just a road-block in the path to greatness. Now all he has to do is continue the pace and work on being consistent. Superstars are made when other teams game-plan for you and they fail to execute their plan. Jabari can enter that space soon but at the moment, there’s some work he needs to accomplish to get to where we all believe he can go.