Finishing with the worst record in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks went into the 2014 NBA Draft hoping to come away with a game-changer. They needed a spark, something to help bring the future of the franchise together. Now attempting to build a new arena, with new owners, the Bucks wanted someone who would get fans excited.
They needed this because of their dismal year last year. Fans weren’t interested in watching a team play for draft position a year after battling for the playoffs. Milwaukee’s 2013 offseason saw the franchise take a different approach. They let Monta Ellis leave in free agency to the Dallas Mavericks and traded Brandon Jennings away to the Detroit Pistons. While they couldn’t get anything in return for Ellis, the Bucks were able to bring in Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton from the Pistons, at least giving them something to work with.
Because of injuries, some that happened organically and others that happened stupidly (Larry Sanders‘ bar fight), the Bucks went through a lot of turmoil throughout the season. They failed to win consecutive games all season, something only two other teams have accomplished (or not accomplished) in NBA history. Milwaukee had to offer extremely cheap, even free, tickets to get fans to come to games. It didn’t really help.
Despite all this, the Bucks weren’t able to claim the top pick in the draft. That honor went to the Cleveland Cavaliers, again, and we know how their offseason has gone since then. For Milwaukee, they got the second pick and were able to get their man in the process.
Coming out of Duke after just one year, Jabari Parker was their man. The most NBA-ready player in the draft by all accounts, Parker showed he wanted to play for the Bucks and wanted to be their man. The feeling was mutual, and the Bucks made it happen, using the second overall selection on him.
Other than picking Parker, it’s been a rather quiet offseason for the Bucks. Even though they have plenty of money to spend on the open market, Milwaukee is still a hard sell for high-profile free agents. However, things weren’t completely quiet for the Bucks. Jason Kidd made waves this summer by forcing his way out of Brooklyn and wound up with Milwaukee. He’ll be the new head coach after Larry Drew‘s tenure.
So with a new coach, one that took his team to the playoffs last year (though they had a payroll of over $100 million) and an exciting rookie, the Bucks have the start of their rebuild project. But how does Parker fit with his NBA team?
First thing’s first for Parker, it all depends on coach Kidd and what he wants to do with Milwaukee. He’s already made some interesting choices with his team, hinting that he’d like to try the 6’11″ second-year player Giannis Antetokounmpo out at point guard. That’s an interesting choice to say the least, as Giannis showed some flashes of growth last year, but he really has a long way to go in his overall development. He’s raw, lengthy and aggressive but often gets overzealous with the ball in his hands. Asking him to play point guard when he should be a wing who can block shots is interesting, but we’ll see if that idea has any legs.
Kidd has several options to play point guard, something he didn’t have just a few months ago. It wasn’t long ago that the only point guards on the Bucks roster were second-year player Nate Wolters (who started 31 games at point guard) and Knight, the team’s leading scorer last year. At times when both were healthy, Wolters and Knight started side-by-side and complimented each other very well, with Wolters playing the distributor, offensive setup man while Knight attacked the rim and looked to score. The duo works, but it didn’t win them games.
To add to the team, the Bucks brought in veteran Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall. Marshall impressed with the Lakers last year after failing to find a team in his first full year in the NBA. Wolters, Knight, Bayless and Marshall gives coach Kidd options, but if he wants to throw in Giannis as a ball handler as well, well that’s cool too. Knight’s a scorer and should be able to take the pressure off of Parker to be the bucket-getter for a bit. The combination of those two could be pretty swell as well.
Then there’s the rest of the roster, which is a mixture of unproven talent and…some more unproven talent. There’s Sanders, who during the 2012-13 season was in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA. Then he started being reckless off the court and played in only 23 games last year. This gave John Henson a shot to prove himself, which he did, averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per game while appearing confident in his progression. He’s already being discussed to be the starting center opening night, though it’s pretty early to call that.
The likely other starter for the Bucks would be Ersan Ilyasova, a stretch-4 on a good day, a versatile player every other day. He played in only 55 games last year and shot just 28 percent from three-point range. Depending on what the Bucks want to do with their starting lineup, their first four starters could be Wolters, Knight, Ilyasova and either Henson or Sanders. This leaves one spot yet to be decided.
Logic would dictate that that final starting spot would go to Parker. After all, he is their future and their present. You don’t get picked No. 2 overall and sit on the bench for a team that finished last year with the worst overall record and no real improvements to the rest of the roster. Parker would and should be the starting small forward. Fans across the internet will clamor for Giannis to be the starter, but Parker’s better than Antetokounmpo is in terms of his overall game.
Not only would Parker being the starting small forward give him confidence, it gives the Bucks a scorer on the floor other than Knight. Knight was the leading scorer for Milwaukee at 17.9 points per game last year. The other top scorers were Ramon Sessions (15.8 PPG in just 28 games with the Bucks) and Middleton (12.1 PPG). Sessions was recently renounced by the Bucks, so he won’t exactly help them, and Middleton brings energy and toughness on the floor, but he’s not the guy to help lead the franchise into the future. Parker is.
Essentially this comes down to what Kidd wants to do with his team. It’s an extremely different look from what he had with the Nets with two future Hall of Famers and five former All-Stars. They’re young, decently inexperienced and need a leader with a plan, Parker especially. If you’re not going to start him then what’s the point of drafting him? To be the sixth man? Nope.
Everything else the Bucks do with its players can be discussed, but Parker as the starter shouldn’t be one. There’s a reason everybody sees him as the most likely rookie to win Rookie of the Year. He’s ready for the NBA. He’s confident in himself, he’s mature, he knows his limitations and what he’s capable of. Building for the future begins with using the players that can help get you there. That’s what Parker is and will be.
Parker fits very well with the Bucks as they need a second scoring option to pair with Knight, they need a small forward that knows what position he’s playing and what he wants to be in the league. The Bucks didn’t have that before, but they do now.