NBA Draft Busts Series: Jabari Parker

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Perhaps it’s a little unfair to include Jabari Parker amongst the biggest NBA’s draft busts. His story is multi-layered and centered around great misfortune. Decimated by the injury bug, Parker’s shortcomings are largely by no fault of his own. Though his career still never came close to reaching the heights once anticipated.

NBA Draft Busts Series: Jabari Parker

 Great Expectations

It wasn’t meant to be like this for Parker. He graced the covers of Sports Illustrated and Slam magazine before he even stepped foot on an NBA court.

Parker’s high-school career was a showcase of complete and utter domination. There was initially a no freshman to start rule at his high school, Simeon Career Academy. This soon changed when Parker’s special talents grew exceedingly more obvious.

Parker is amongst high school basketball’s most decorated players ever; he led Simeon Career Academy to four straight state championships and was named the 2012 National High School Player of the Year by Gatorade in the process. Becoming only the fourth Junior after LeBron James, Greg Oden, and Brandon Knight to take home the award.

Parker’s college career followed the same trajectory. At Duke, Parker was a player capable of stretching the floor and knocking down threes. He also possessed a remarkable ability to slash assertively to the rim. Averaging 19.1 points, Parker set the Duke record for freshman scoring and became the first freshman to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding.

As a result, Parker was voted ACC Freshman of the year and declared for the 2014 NBA Draft after just one year in college. He was touted as a future star of the league and was selected with the second overall pick in the Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee’s Saviour and Early Injury Trouble

A series of cruel twists means that today, Parker’s star shines far dimmer than it once did. He was drafted to a Milwaukee franchise desperate for a saviour. Coming off a 15-win season, and only four playoff appearances in 13 years, the Bucks were desperate for a star player to breathe life and excitement into a middling team.

Parker’s rookie season began smoothly enough, as he captured the Eastern Conference Rookie of the month for both October and November. However, 25 games into the season disaster struck when Parker tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.

He returned from his ACL injury early in the 2015-16 season, and though he struggled initially, appearing slower than usual; Parker still managed to showcase flashes of his potential throughout the year.

 

Parker’s Bad Luck Continues

The 2016-17 season was the best year of Parker’s career. Rather than worrying about rehab, Parker finally had a full offseason to hone his game. The work put in reaped its rewards as the 6’8″ forward averaged 22.4 points and six rebounds on 54% shooting through the month of December.

Talk surrounding Parker as a potential superstar had somewhat cooled off. However, he was coming into his own as a secondary option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unfortunately, injury struck again in February 2017 when Parker tore his left ACL for the second time in three years.

After another long year of rehab, Parker returned to the court in February 2018. Quickly it was clear that Parker no longer possessed the same first step to get by opponents and was now coming off the bench for Milwaukee.

As Parker’s playing time went down and his skills diminished; next to him, Antetokounmpo grew into the superstar player many believed Parker would become only four years earlier. Ultimately, in the summer of 2018, the Bucks declined to match a two-year contract offered by the Chicago Bulls for Parker’s services, and his time in Milwaukee came to an end.

Parker was drafted to a Milwaukee franchise desperate for a saviour. It didn’t work out in the way many hoped. Though Milwaukee did still manage to find a saviour of their own in the form of Antetokounmpo. Rather than the high school prodigy, it was instead the little-known commodity from Greece that ended the drought and delivered Milwaukee their first championship since 1971.

 

2014 Draft Class

Parker will forever be the man picked right before Joel Embiid in the 2014 draft. Similarly, to Parker, Embiid’s early years in the league were also riddled with injuries.

Embiid missed the entire 2014-15 and 2015-16 season with foot issues but finished second in MVP voting this year. For some, injuries become a blip on the radar in what turns out to be a remarkable career. Others aren’t as lucky.

You can’t help but feel a decent slice of sympathy for a man whose career was blighted by injury, not just a failure to deliver on potential. Parker has been dealt a series of bad hands ever since he stepped foot into the league. Through the lens of what he was supposed to be, Parker rightly falls into the category of being a bust. In terms of the ceiling many thought he could reach, Parker never really got off the ground.

However, he’s battled injuries, the weight of expectations, and has come out the other side still in the NBA today. He finished last season averaging 6.4 points off the bench for the Boston Celtics and appears to have a place on the team for next season. His career is also a triumph in its own way.

 

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