The Milwaukee Bucks entered the 2018 NBA Playoffs as the seven seed with a favorable matchup against the injury-plagued Boston Celtics. Giannis Antetokunmpo was a Celtics killer in the regular season averaging 33.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, so all he needed was help from his teammates to advance to the semifinals. After two games, the Celtics own a 2-0 series lead and Antetokunmpo has received little to no help from everyone not named Khris Middleton. One player who’s really struggling is Jabari Parker.
Parker entered this series as a major x-factor playing his best basketball this season. In the six April before the playoffs, Parker averaged 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and two assists per game. This was while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three. With Antetokunmpo, Middleton, and Parker each averaging 19 or more points per game during that span, the Bucks expected Parker would be their third scorer in the playoffs. He’s been far from it.
Since the start of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, Parker’s averaged one point, three rebounds, and 0.5 assists per game while shooting 14.3 percent from the field. He’s yet to make a three-point shot.
What is the cause for this decline? His role on the team has completely changed. Before the playoffs, Parker averaged 31.8 minutes per game. After two games, that number fell to 12.5.
Most NBA coaches limit a players minutes due to fouls or turnovers. That’s not the reason for Parker. Parker’s averaging one turnover and foul per game. The reasoning is the Bucks inconsistent playoff rotation.
“It’s hard to play four minutes then sit out,” Parker said. “Nobody on the team can do that. Nobody, especially in my position.”
This is also taking a massive hit on his usage on the court. Parker was 4th on the roster with a 26.2 percent usage rate in April. He’s currently 8th on the roster with 18.3. His offensive rating is also a team-low 69.1.
The timing for Parker to freeze couldn’t be worse. He’s entering a contract season with red flags already on his resume and he’s struggling when it matters most. Parker is running out of time to improve his free agent stock.
Playing well in the playoffs can seriously effect contract negotiations. Two seasons ago, Bismack Biyombo started all six games in the Eastern Conference Finals and averaged 6.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. That earned him a four-year, $72 million contract with the Orlando Magic. Biyombo didn’t have the red flags on his resume like Parker, but one series convinced a franchise to invest $18 million per year in a backup center.
The Bucks need Parker to step up significantly if they don’t want to get swept. Parker knows it and preached at yesterday’s practice that he needs to be better.
“Going forward, I’m going to try and be a better person, be a better man and be there for my teammates.”
The Bucks have now entered must-win territory. Parker needs to be there for his teammates tonight.