The Milwaukee Bucks have a chance to change their course for the next few years based on decisions which will be made in the next month or so with the NBA Draft on Thursday, and the decision of resigning Jabari Parker moving forward. Due to the poor decision making in contracts for Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson, the Bucks are extremely limited in making additions that will push them to the next tier in a potentially open Eastern Conference. The Bucks are in a spot where they have to decide whether to play it safe or spend a little more money. Will the Bucks selection at pick number 17 tip their hat to what their plans for Parker will be this offseason?
I believe it will.
Milwaukee will have an interesting crop of talent to select from right after the lottery portion of the draft. There are two categories of players that they could select from, and there is reason to believe based on which category they do pick, that this will indicate what their intentions are for this season.
Win Now=NBA Ready-(ish) Prospects
Khyri Thomas G (Creighton)
Aaron Holliday G (UCLA)
Donte DiVincenzo G (Villanova)
Keita Bates-Diop F (Ohio State)
Jerome Robinson G (Boston College)
If GM Jon Horst believes that the talent on the Bucks was simply being misguided by the previous coaching regime and needs another usable asset, look for the Bucks to select a guy from the Win Now category listed above. These players can offer an instant addition in major categories for the Bucks and will help them win immediately. While their ceilings may not be as high, they can help the Bucks form a quality supporting cast around Giannis Antetokounmpo. If they decide to go this route, I can see the Bucks ponying up the money to either sign or match Parker moving forward in an effort to win now under the new direction of Mike Budenholzer.
Parker has struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor and has seemed somewhat out of it at times, lacking concentration that has split Bucks fans on whether he is a good fit for this team going forward. The question is: why did Parker struggle so much defensively? Was it because he doesn’t want to play hard or within their system, or could it be that he was at odds with the Jason Kidd coaching regime? A report surfaced last season, post J-Kidd fire, that Parker and Kidd hadn’t spoken in months and their terms were rocky to say the least. So, is it possible that Jabari just didn’t mesh with Kidd and it led to a lack of interest defensively.
I believe so.
I find it hard to believe that Milwaukee is in the position to part ways with a guy as talented as Parker. We have barely seen the trio of Giannis, Middleton, and Parker together, and I think that under the direction of Mike Budenholzer, it will be worth the risk to give that trio and Parker’s defensive abilities a fair shake with a coach that Parker can mesh with.
Jabari has looked amazing after his second ACL tear, losing a considerable amount of weight and seemingly having more bounce than he did when he entered the league. With the weight drop, it is plausible that Parker will move better defensively and will make him playable no matter what the score is in the game.
If they do resign him barring any injury, the Bucks would have four quality players in their starting lineup, and with the potential Thon Maker showed in the playoffs there is optimism that his production could increase significantly next season. The combination of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Parker, and Bledsoe in the starting lineup, along with Malcolm Brogdon, Sterling Brown, Tony Snell, John Henson, and their first round pick coming off the bench, gives them the depth and top-end talent to contend in the Eastern Conference. This combination could potentially make some noise in the East with LeBron James’ pending free agency moving him West.
Adjustment Year= Project Picks
Lonnie Walker G (Miami)
Zhaire Smith G (Texas Tech)
Troy Brown F (Oregon)
Mitchell Robinson C (Chalmette HS)
Robert Williams C (Texas A&M)
There are reasons to believe that the Bucks will select a project pick and will let Parker walk in an effort to get Budenholzer’s guys into the fold for the coming future. If they don’t believe that this roster is capable of making a push in the next two years, look for them to take this route. Going this direction would allow the team to get acclimated with Budenholzer’s system and allow management to find the right pieces without taking a risk on a large contract to Parker. It could be that the Bucks are weary to dish out the cash to Parker with his glaring injury history and that might not be the worst move. The aforementioned contracts for Delly and Henson will be off the books in the next two years and could give the Bucks some flexibility in coming free agent seasons.
It would also be beneficial to figure out what you truly have in Eric Bledsoe as a third member of the Bucks trio. Doing this would shed light on what to do with him, and Khris Middleton, when they are on the open market after the conclusion of the upcoming season. Freeing up that cap from Parker could make the Bucks a player to resign Middleton and potentially sign another free agent hand-picked by their new coach.
Allowing Parker to walk would also free up minutes in order to figure out what they have with former first round picks DJ Wilson and Thon Maker. They would have more consistent and prominent roles, while under cheap rookie contracts.
Now don’t worry Bucks fans, if they don’t resign Parker that doesn’t mean they won’t be winning basketball games. It will just be a sign that the team believes that the progression of their young guys will be able to fill out the bench and that they expect Bledsoe can consistently produce as the third star on the Bucks roster.
What would you do and who would you pick?
While I’m no cap expert, I can see how signing Parker could hinder flexibility moving forward, but I do see benefit to signing him for the right price. I think that teams all around the NBA will be weary of inking him to a long term deal so I can see a three-year deal in his future. If that price is around the $14-17 million dollar range, I can see the Bucks taking a risk with their new arena being built and wanting to show fans that they are trying to win now. Parker in my eyes can be a building block for this franchise and he is showing you that he has tried to prevent any injury moving forward by slimming down and working on his lower body strength and flexibility.
Offensively I think Budenholzer can find easier shots for Parker and subsequently create more space for Antetokounmpo to attack down hill from the wing or in the high post. Parker’s jump shot looks great and he has an explosive first step that can really be effective in Budenholzer’s system off of dribble handoffs..
Defense will always be a concern, but I think that a new coaching staff and scheme can really help Parker on that end of the floor. After the first round of the NBA playoffs, Parker finished third in the round in defensive field goal percentage at 35%. The ability is there, but it’ll be up to Budenholzer to unlock the consistency.
I believe based on talent Lonnie Walker if he’s there at #17 will be the option, but I don’t think he will make it that far. If Walker is taken, Khryi Thomas from Creighton would be the most realistic “win now” option for the Bucks. Thomas not only gives you a productive scorer off the bench, but you could insert him in the game to pest the opposition’s best guard, giving Khris Middleton energy to focus on the offensive end of the floor. Thomas has a 6’10 wingspan that can let him close out on shooters and play the passing lane. Oh, and might I add, he his the back-to-back Big East Defensive Player of the Year?
It’s hard for me to worry about the future of the Bucks when we have been waiting on the future for a few years now. The Bucks don’t have the luxury of attracting superstar free agents and sometimes you need to take risks in a small market to make a lot of noise. I think that Jon Horst can make a statement by resigning Parker and I think if he does, it will be one he won’t regret.