We constantly engage in discourse about the distinction between a star and a superstar, not just in basketball, but in sports and entertainment. We evaluate and foreshadow which stars have the recipe to become something more.
It’s probably too early to whole-heartedly project superstardom onto Jabari Parker, but his ascending confidence suggests the possibility of that potential.
Jabari Parker inherited the initial expectation of stardom as the no. 2 overall draft pick in 2014 after one standout season at Duke. His NBA career didn’t have the ideal start. Parker tore his ACL just 25 games into his rookie season in Milwaukee. Since bouncing back one month into the 2015-16 season, and now in his third season, Parker has only looked more comfortable and capable, particularly as a formidable scoring weapon.
Parker proved himself right away as a double-digit scorer. His average has increased from 12 in his shortened rookie season to his current average of 19 points per game. One could argue that Parker is simply playing catch-up from his lost time while injured. He’s progressively figuring out ways to be a near dominant offensive force due to his versatility as a 6’8 forward.
He can push the ball and create a shot for himself off the dribble:
You can isolate him on the wing:
You can space him in the corner as a spot-up man:
And you can use him as a roll man:
On the surface, Parker’s offensive repertoire is eligible to eventually reach an elite level, but it’s his attentiveness to other areas of the game that will determine the case for him as an alleged superstar.
In 76 games played in 2015-16, Parker finished with a -3.4 Net Rating and a 106.5 Defensive Rating, per NBA.com/stats. Parker’s defensive presence has yet to be felt on a substantial level thus far, which can also be said for his assisting. Parker only assisted on 8.6% of the Bucks’ points in 2015-16 (to put in perspective with a high-octane playmaking forward, Draymond Green assisted on 27.7% of Golden State’s baskets in 2015-16, per NBA.com/stats).
When it comes to becoming a sound defender and getting more assists, that comes down to Parker’s personal willingness to develop those parts of his game. He’ll be 22 years old next year, so there’s more than enough room and opportunity for that development to take place. But little things, like being able to maintain his production on the road, where Parker’s scoring and plus/minus numbers drop, are the difference makers in the conversation of superstar.
Another interesting variable to consider is Parker’s environment, particularly if he remains linked to Giannis Antetokounmpo as the mainstays of Milwaukee’s future. Jason Kidd’s point guard experiment with Giannis might subconsciously assign Parker to a permanent, one-dimensional identity of scorer. That’s not to say that Kidd could potentially hinder Parker’s growth. I believe Jabari Parker has the foundation in place to become any kind of player he wants to be. The fact is, right now he’s still in pursuit of just NBA star status.
If he is to become a superstar, we should see more telling signs in the rounding out of Jabari Parker’s game in the next few years.