A report surfaced this week that the Brooklyn Nets were seriously considering a pursuit of free agent forward Jabari Parker. Not doing so was the right call.
Parker came into the offseason a restricted free agent, but his situation changed Saturday when the Milwaukee Bucks withdrew their qualifying offer to the former No. 2 overall pick and then renounced his rights.
"The Kings, apparently, were in there. And I’m pretty sure that as the Nets cleared space … before they went ahead with taking on Denver’s money, I do think they kicked the Jabari tires. And I think the price was too high for them and they moved on."
Parker wound up signing a two-year, $40 million deal with the Bulls that includes a team option for 2019-20.
Parker was one of the top prospects coming out of Duke after his freshman season in 2014 and wound up going to the Bucks at No. 2 overall, behind Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, who was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds and at least some shooting range, Parker was thought to be a potential running mate in the frontcourt with 2013 first-round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was still learning the NBA game.
Parker’s career took a detour 10 days before Christmas in 2014 when he tore his left ACL in a game against the Phoenix Suns and was done for the season.
He had shown some promise in 25 starts to that point, averaging 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 29.5 minutes per game on .490/4-for-16/.697 shooting.
Parker recovered in time to return in early November 2015 and wound up starting 72 of his 76 games played, averaging 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 31.7 minutes a game on a slash line of .493/.257/.768.
Heading into his third season, his outside shot dramatically improved and for the first time in his career, Parker was a consistent weapon on the offensive end for Milwaukee, even as his defense could still be hesitant and slow.
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He averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.9 minutes per game while shooting .490/.365/.743 through 51 games, 50 of them starts.
But on Feb. 8, 2017, against the Miami Heat, Parker’s left knee buckled again and his surgically repaired left ACL was once again blown out.
It was an absolutely brutal blow for the third-year forward as it meant another year or so of rehabilitation, more question marks being raised about his ability to return from a second knee reconstruction and, worse, it took a rookie-scale extension off the table as he would be nowhere near ready to return before the extension deadline in October 2017.
After the first injury, Parker was in training camp less than 10 months later and back in an NBA game in less than 11 months.
Parker was assigned to the G-League’s Wisconsin Herd four times in December and January, though he never appeared in a game for the Oshkosh-based club and returned to the court for the Bucks just shy of a year after his second knee injury, Feb. 2.
He wound up playing in 31 games, starting three, and was on a minutes restriction that was lifted in April. Parker averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game while shooting .482/.383/.741.
In a seven-game loss to the Boston Celtics in his first taste of postseason basketball, Parker came off the bench in all seven games, with his playing time ranging widely from 10 minutes in Game 2 to 32 minutes in Game 5.
Blue Man Hoop
For the series, he averaged 10.0 points — scoring 17 in both Game 3 and Game 5 — 6.1 rebounds, including 11 in Game 6, and 1.0 steals in 23.9 minutes per game while shooting .452/6-for-19/8-for-13.
Three contributors at Nothin’ But Nets were bullish on the need for Brooklyn to pursue Parker as a restricted free agent. Omri Bemani wrote way back in March that Parker, along with Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic, should be on the Nets’ radar.
When the Nets opted not to pursue Parker, they instead acquired Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur along with a top-12 protected 2019 first-round pick and a 2020 second-round selection from the Denver Nuggets, sending back the non-guaranteed contract of point guard Isaiah Whitehead in return.
That chewed up most of the remaining cap space the Nets had and it appears that, unlike previously acquired Dwight Howard, Brooklyn has plans for Faried on the court in 2018-19.
Faried was a salary dump by the Nuggets, a player thought to be a rising star when he signed a four-year, $50 million rookie-scale extension in October 2014.
But the rapidly changing style of the NBA made Faried something of an anacronism, a throwback-type player, as a classic power forward without much shooting range beyond about 10 feet.
He was a 1980s-1990s motion offense kinda guy stuck in a pace-and-space world and he might as well have had his picture on a milk carton last season as far as Nuggets coach Michael Malone was concerned.
Faried played in just 32 games, none after the All-Star break, and registered career lows of 5.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game, shooting .514/0-for-1/.706.
That is a long way from the 2013-14 season when the Manimal averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in 27.2 minutes a night, playing 80 games and starting 77 with a slash line of .545/0-for-3/.650.
The Newark, N.J., native who played collegiately at Morehead State University in Kentucky, earning a rare All-America selection from a mid-major, plays his game and knows his limitations.
He’s been in the top 10 in field-goal percentage three times, most recently in 2015-16. He finished in the top 10 in offensive rebounding four straight seasons, 2012-13 through 2015-16.
Faried was an All-Rookie first teamer in 2011-12 and won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award the following year.
Faried is 6-foot-8 and 228 pounds and will be 29 in November, whereas Parker just turned 23 in March.
But Faried’s $13.8 million salary is an expiring deal and contributes to opening some cap space, should Brooklyn choose to renounce the $20.6 million cap hold next summer if Faried doesn’t find a contract quickly as an unrestricted free agent (a more-than-likely scenario given he’s not a shooter).
Parker gave the Bulls a team option for 2019-20, but Chicago is also his hometown team. There’s no guarantee he would have given Brooklyn the same consideration, which would have made Parker another guaranteed money line on the 2019-20 salary cap sheet.
Parker may be end up being great, but the track record for young bigs who blow out a knee once early in their career is spotty, much less a bulky combo forward who’s done it twice within his first three seasons.
Interestingly, had the Nets signed Parker, he would have been the fifth player in the last year to join the Nets that was taken in the first round in either 2014 or 2015, along with current Net D’Angelo Russell and three guys who got looks in Brooklyn last season — Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and Rashad Vaughn. according to HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky.
General manager Sean Marks is playing the long game, looking to the future more intently now that he has actually assets and cap flexibility to work with moving forward.
In that scenario, taking on the final year of Faried’s deal (and Arthur’s as well) made more sense than rolling the dice on a young forward in Parker who has already lost most of two seasons to serious knee problems.
The decision to pass on Parker was the right call, taking the long view for the franchise.