As the first week of NBA free agency wraps up, NBA fans are yet again left in awe at the dramatic rearrangement of the league. The Bucks struck early in free agency, locking up former Buck Ersan Ilyasova to a 3 year $21 Million deal using their Mid-Level Exception. A week later the Bucks then signed Brook Lopez to a one year $3.3 million contract in an attempt to bolster their lackluster center situation. With no cap space to spend, the rest of the Bucks summer boils down to the decision to re-sign Jabari Parker.
In what has turned out to be an extremely team-friendly free agency, many players have opted to sign short-term deals with hopes of getting more money in the 2019 or 2020 free agency periods. As of July 10th, only 5 teams have the ability to bid more than the $8.6 million per year that is the Mid-Level Exception: the Hawks ($22M in cap space), the Kings ($19.5M), the Bulls ($15.3M), the Mavericks ($13.8M) and potentially the Brooklyn Nets who figure to have around $11 million to spend after the Dwight Howard buyout.
Of those teams, it is safe to say the Bulls are out of the Jabari running after rolling the dice on an injury prone player in Zach Lavine. Additionally, there have been rumors floating around that the Kings are targeting Marcus Smart with their remaining cap space, potentially removing Sacramento from contention for Jabari.
Amazingly, not one substantial rumor has been leaked of a team showing interest in Jabari; in a league where social media leaks are the norm, that lack of social media buzz surrounding Jabari could very well mean there is very little interest league-wide in the 23-year-old power forward.
Also, the tone of the Bucks front office seems to have changed over the past year as there seems to be some realization on Jabari’s suboptimal fit next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Once considered an integral part of Milwaukee’s core, Jabari has struggled to prove his value when sharing the court with Giannis. It is very unlikely that Jabari would ever be able to slot into a starting lineup featuring Giannis, which makes it hard for the Milwaukee front office to commit significant money to him.
While some teams like the Orlando Magic, who offered Aaron Gordon a 4 year $78 million deal on the very first day of free agency, want to maintain a positive relationship with their restricted free agents, Milwaukee seems disinterested in any feelings of Jabari Parker. It was a relatively turbulent year which saw Jabari openly vent his frustration over his failed contract extension just prior to the playoffs, and complain about his minutes in the playoffs.
As Parker’s free agency has rolled on, several social media detectives have claimed that Jabari Parker unfollowed Giannis and the Bucks on Instagram, but considering Jabari said toward the end of the year “I’m not a social media guy. I don’t tweet, I don’t bash people on twitter, I’m not bitter when it comes to that. I’m old school.” It seems more likely that it was a headline that Bucks Twitter ran with a little too far.
From the Milwaukee Bucks side of things there has been little evidence to suggest the sides are close to reaching an agreement. GM Jon Horst joined the Bucks Summer League broadcast and when asked about how things were progressing with contract negotiations he replied, “We are talking to Jabari Parker’s camp everyday”. That response is in line with how the Bucks have been playing Jabari’s situation since his contract negotiations began last summer. By all accounts it appears that Jabari’s camp and the Bucks front office have differing opinions on how much Jabari is worth.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Jabari’s contract situation, it might be in the Bucks best interest to let the market dictate Jabari’s contract. There are now only 5 teams left in free agency that have a substantial amount of space to offer Jabari.
In an interview on the Milwaukee Basketball Hour, Jabari stated he does not expect a max contract, but wants to have some sort of security in terms of length of contract. As the market continues to get tighter, Jabari and company may start to realize the hopes of obtaining a four-year contract may be an impossible ask for a player coming off two ACL injuries.
Jabari is not the only restricted free agent that finds himself in this precarious situation; Julius Randle had to settle for a two-year $18 million deal as a restricted free agent. When asked about Jabari’s free agency RealGM contributor Keith Smith said, “Maybe Atlanta or Sacramento can get involved, but I don’t think they will. He may be one of the biggest losers of the summer for expected vs actual contract.”
If his market is as bad as some are saying, don’t be surprised if Jabari decides to roll the dice and accept his $4.3 million qualifying offer in an attempt to boost his value for next years free agency where he would enter as an unrestricted free agent.
All in all, the decision revolving around Jabari Parker remains one of the biggest mysteries in this year’s free agency and will have Bucks fans on the edge of their seats for the remainder of the summer.
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