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How Chicago’s Future Hinges On Jabari Parker’s Homecoming

Credit: Bulls Wave

Credit: Bulls Wave

The city of Chicago is synonymous with basketball. The storied run of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen inspired generations of ballers raised within the culture of the game including Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis. For better or worse, Chicago has always taken chances on those raised by their legacy. Now, they’ll add forward Jabari Parker to that list.

Selected second overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Parker hasn’t had the easiest go of it to begin his young career. With two ACL tears and various injuries to his lower body, Parker only appeared in 183 games over his first four seasons. After committing long-term to guard Zach LaVine, the front office tandem of Gar Forman and John Paxson have doubled down on young players looking to redeem themselves by signing Parker to a two-year $40 million deal.

Milwaukee, whose front office shifted focus entirely to their star Giannis Antetokounmpo, paved way for Parker’s departure by rescinding his qualifying offer shortly before the deal was set. This gave Chicago free reign to structure a one-plus-one deal.

For Parker, the chance to prove himself to his hometown team is not to be discounted. Over 51 games in the 2016-2017 season, Jabari averaged 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds on 49 percent shooting from the field. Considered a tweener at the forward positions, his combination of strength, size and skill make him a deadly scorer. While his output dipped during his limited action this season, Parker managed to shoot a career-high 38.3 percent from behind the arc. Floor spacing is everything in the modern NBA, let alone Chicago’s core of skilled bigs and dynamic guards.

Coming off of a playoff performance so poor that he was benched in favor of Thon Maker and John Henson, Parker has a lot to prove. He’ll be featured in a benign scoring role under coach Fred Hoiberg, who is still mostly an unknown after three seasons with Chicago. Hoiberg, whose implementation of Parker to the lineup is essential to the team’s development, needs to distribute minutes and shots amongst his cast of budding talents while structuring a team-first scoring mentality.

It’s too early to tell how Parker will be used, but the playmaking of Kris Dunn, coming off a breakout season with Chicago, shouldn’t be overlooked. The sophomore materialized after a lackluster rookie year by averaging six assists in just under 30 minutes per game. As the second piece in the notorious Jimmy Butler trade, Dunn surprised with his high IQ, court vision and natural feel for the game. Whether it be as a screener, roller, or catch-and-shoot recipient, Dunn will help Parker to reach his full potential.

Talent isn’t the concern for Paxson and Forman. Their abundance of assets and cap flexibility heading into the future has prepared them for a return to the playoffs once their players develop. Their hope is that the core will grow and develop into the perfect modern team with switchable defenders, floor spacing and a high-octane offense. To make their vision come to fruition, they’ll need to keep healthy. For a team that’s been wrecked by injuries in the past, Gar/Pax had no hesitation spending upward of $35 million on two RFA’s who’ve suffered significant injuries early on.