LeBron James was the last player to turn a team around single-handedly when he was drafted by Cleveland in 2003. He turned a 17-win Cavalier team into a 35-win team the following season. Within two seasons he led the Cavaliers to a winning record, and within three seasons he led them to the second round of the playoffs in the East.
James averaged 20.9 PPG just his rookie season with Cleveland. By his third season he averaged 31.4 PPG, 7 RPG, and 6.6 APG. He was able to take the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his fourth season with a weak supporting cast. In fact, only three other players averaged double digit points on the team, and Larry Hughes was the second highest scorer, averaging 14.9 PPG.
Now to the point: What does LeBron James have to do with Jabari Parker?
Well, Parker is in a very similar situation that James was in when he was first drafted.
The Cavaliers decided to pass on Jabari Parker with the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, leaving him available for the Bucks to draft with the second selection.
The Milwaukee Bucks won 15 games in the 2013-2014 regular season. They lost almost five times as many games as they won. Brandon Knight led the Bucks in scoring with 17.9 PPG, as the team went on to be the third worst scoring team in the league, and the sixth worst defensive team. Clearly, the Bucks need some help, and help right away.
Parker will take on a lot of responsibility his rookie season. He will come onto a Bucks team that has no star, hardly any proven starters and no other hope for success any time soon except for him and maybe their first-round pick in last year’s draft, Giannis Antetokounmpo. But if any player in this draft will be able to make an immediate impact on a team and turn them into a playoff contender right away, it will be Parker.
At 6’8” and 235 pounds, Parker brings an NBA ready frame to the Bucks from day one. His body will allow him to be a physical scoring threat at the small forward position as he will be able to body up less physical small forwards. If Parker needs to play the power forward position, he will be able to use his quickness to beat defenders off the dribble. Parker may not find a lot of success scoring on the block in his first few years, but he can still draw defenders towards him and make smart passes.
Not only is his body NBA-ready, but his all-around game and mindset should make his transition into the league fairly easy. Duke’s offense revolved around Parker, so he’s used to being the go-to guy, and his situation in Milwaukee will be very similar to his position at Duke. Parker has proven he can score and do so in a variety of ways. He averaged 19.1 PPG at Duke last season and shot 47.3% from the field. Not only was he a great mid-range and post player at Duke, but he also shot 35.8% from the three-point line. All of Parker’s scoring abilities will be able to transition into the NBA. He has above-average athleticism, an ability to score in a wide variety of ways, and great basketball IQ.
In addition, he has great rebounding skills for a small forward. He averaged 8.7 RPG at Duke. His size will allow him to take advantage of other small forwards who lack the physicality and size he has to get rebounds.
But will all this be enough to turn the Bucks franchise from disaster to a playoff contender?
Within a few years, the Bucks will be a playoff team with Parker leading the helm. Although Parker may not have a lot more potential to improve off of, he has already proven he can be a versatile and effective scorer in the league. Parker will need to take on the responsibility of leading the team in order for the Bucks to be successful. The Bucks have role players that can contribute and help Parker. Brandon Knight led the team in scoring and assists last season, and having a star to play alongside him might increase his productivity and efficiently. Although O.J. Mayo has had difficulty fitting into a team in the league and producing effectively, there is talent there, and he could be a good wing player to play alongside Parker. Larry Sanders did not have a great season in 2014, but again, the talent and potential is there, and playing down low with a player like Parker might leave more space on the block for him to maneuver and produce. The same goes for 23-year-old John Henson, who is a developing center and could mature into a productive starter alongside Parker. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 19-year-old shooting guard/small forward with incredible athletic ability. He could grow into a star side-kick for Parker as both players develop alongside each other in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a group of young, developing players. The biggest piece missing from this team is a leader who can be a go-to guy and carry the team when needed. Parker should be able to be that guy, and as he develops so will the young players surrounding him. Neither Antetokounmpo, Henson nor Knight can be the face of this franchise and lead the team to the playoffs. Parker needs to be the star. If Parker is able to average 25 points or more by his second or third season and improve his on-ball defense, the Bucks will be a playoff team, and maybe even a championship contender if Parker really runs up the stat sheet.