Milwaukee Bucks cut losses, let Jabari Parker walk

(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks allowed Jabari Parker to walk in free agency. While it’s a disappointing end to the former No. 2 pick’s tenure as a Buck, it was the right move.

NBA teams often struggle with the concept of sunk costs. It’s likely part unwillingness to reevaluate, to consider that you might have actually gotten something wrong. It’s definitely part saving face, avoiding the public shame of admitting mistake.

In a league in which job security for everyone but a select few executives is nonexistent, it makes sense. Admitting to a huge mistake, like trading a star player for a poor return or drafting the wrong top prospect, is potentially career-ending.

The problem with executive transience in the NBA is that it incentivizes thinking short-term. It incentivizes being Billy King, sending out approximately all your future first round picks for aging stars. Meanwhile, executives should strive to be Danny Ainge, shipping aging veterans for an outsourced rebuild.

Most executives don’t have the luxury of time, the cache that enables them to survive turmoil. The NBA landscape is marked by short-term, doubling down, refusal to admit mistakes.

It’s the type of thinking that leads the Chicago Bulls to match a monstrous four-year, $78 million offer sheet for Zach LaVine because he was a central piece in the Jimmy Butler trade. It’s the type of thinking that leads the Philadelphia 76ers to trade neither Jahlil Okafor nor Nerlens Noel while their values were depressed, but not yet gone entirely, because they were top picks.

Rarely does a team admit error and cut its losses. The Milwaukee Bucks did so on Saturday:

The Bucks could have fought to keep Parker. They could have retained his restricted rights. They could have attempted to clear money to match an offer sheet from the Bulls (the Bucks are hard-capped and were severely — and intentionally — limited in how much they could pay Parker).

Instead, Milwaukee did Parker (and his powerful agent, Mark Bartelstein) a solid. The Bucks, with Parker’s consent, withdrew the former second overall pick’s qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent and clearing the way for a pact with the Bulls. The team had no interest in retaining the 23-year-old forward.

This might seem like a disaster. Parker was the second overall pick in the NBA draft just four years ago. He was supposed to be a star. Now, the Bucks are letting him walk for nothing, and they’re doing it willingly.

In reality, this move should be celebrated.

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That’s not to say that the Parker era should not be mourned. It is beyond unfortunate that Parker’s career has unfolded the way it has. The injuries have been soul-crushing. The unfulfilled potential is truly demoralizing.

The reality of the situation, however, is that Jabari Parker is not a player that an NBA team should be eager to employ. As I wrote here, while campaigning against retaining Parker, there is essentially no evidence that he is a good NBA player. Parker, of course, has a terrifying injury history, as well.

Jabari Parker is not a player the Bucks should have invested in simply because they had already invested in him.

Unlike most teams, the Bucks cut their losses. They acknowledged that the selection of Parker did not pan out. They didn’t cling to unfounded hope. The Bucks were realistic and thought logically and concluded that Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova (Lopez may have been attainable either way) were better investments than Jabari Parker.

Next: 2018 NBA free agency tracker: Grades for every deal so far

Be disappointed. Be deeply saddened that Parker did not work out in Milwaukee. But don’t be mad at the Bucks. This is a rare case in which John Horst and the Bucks do not deserve criticism. Rather, they deserve praise for not making a bad situation worse.