If not for the fact that he shares the floor with a lovable 6-foot-11 point squid, Jabari Parker would get a lot more of our affection. Last night he feasted on the Pistons for 31 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists:
With Khris Middleton out, Parker has taken on the scoring load, upping his output to 20.3 points a game on 52 percent shooting. He’s also played sidekick in the league’s most effective two-man assault on the rim: Giannis is first in the league scoring from 5 feet or less, and Parker comes in at fifth. Lots of those buckets come in transition, where the two young Bucks play very nicely together, but Parker’s found plenty of his own ways to get to the rim. Though quick enough to edge out Jimmy Butler in a foot race, he’s still meaty enough to back his man down or bully his way in on a hard-nosed drive. Sometimes he has the handles to simply glide there off the dribble—he nearly parked Otto Porter’s bum on the hardwood with this crossover on Monday:
Better still for their Bucks’ spacing, Parker’s looking a little more like a stretch-four after adding the three ball to his game this season, shooting 38 percent on 3.3 attempts a game. (He took only 35 all last year.) Either he or Giannis eventually had to extend their range for a team that needs room in the middle of the floor to carve up with their speed and athleticism, and it appears Parker was the first to do it.
The NBA is lousy with good and even great young players at the moment, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with all the leaps toward stardom that are being made. Parker still has a ways to go, but the 21-year-old has been cooking lately, and we may soon be talking about his partnership with Giannis as one of the league’s most deadly.