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What Jabari Parker might bring to the Celtics

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Boston is adding Parker for some additional bench scoring at a position of need

Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

If you were shocked to get the Twitter notification that Boston was signing Jabari Parker, you weren’t the only one. The Celtics will reportedly waive Moritz Wagner to add Parker. Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Parker will sign a two-year deal with Boston.

Before we get to what Parker may bring to the Celtics on the floor, let’s cover some general reasons Danny Ainge may have made this move.

Wagner was, at best, a fifth big for Boston. He’s behind Robert Williams, Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams and Luke Kornet in the big man rotation. He’s not versatile enough to play the four, so he’s really a pure five for the Celtics. There isn’t a reason to keep Wagner for the spot he had, given Tacko Fall can fill the same role.

What Boston is in need of is additional bench scoring, and ideally scoring with some size. When healthy, Evan Fournier will provide the bulk of that, but he’s the lone proven, consistent scorer among the reserves. No one who is categorized as a frontcourt player off the pine can be counted on to score, especially not off the dribble or from the perimeter. Enter Parker.

From a roster and cap perspective, it’s highly likely that Parker will sign a two-year minimum contract. It’s also likely that the second year is mostly, if not fully, non-guaranteed. In addition, despite the fact that it feels as if he’s been in the NBA forever, Parker just turned 26 years old in mid-March. That’s young enough that he should still have some productivity left in him.

Finally, Parker should come to Boston fresh and ready to play. He’s played in just three games this season and only nine games overall since the Sacramento Kings acquired him from the Atlanta Hawks at the 2020 trade deadline.

When healthy, and given minutes, Parker has always been a competent scorer. As recently as last season, he was averaging 15 points per game for the Hawks. For his career, Parker has averaged 14.8 points on 49% from the field, 32% from three and 74% at the free throw line.

Parker has never been a guy who will blow by someone off the dribble, but he’s a good enough ballhandler that he pairs it with his size to get finishes at the rim. He’s also got good touch on his mid-range jumper.

In his lone meaningful minutes this season, Parker played 16 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks, who originally drafted him in 2014. In that late-February game, Parker showed he still has some offensive skills.

Because he’s 6’8’’ with some bulk, Parker can still score over smaller defenders. He does a nice job using the dribble to set himself up for the jumper here:

In that same game, Parker went to his left hand for a nice finish over Brook Lopez out of pick-and-roll:

On this play, Parker shows he still has a little explosion left, as he uses the power-dribble to get up for the layup in some traffic:

Parker has never been a great rebounder, but he does fine on the boards, considering he’s usually played alongside quality glass eaters.

Parker’s defense has never been good enough to go against frontline players. Against reserves, he can more or less hold his own. It’s also been a long time since Parker has played with good defenders and in a good defensive system. He’ll never be a good defender, but if he can at least be passable, that’s a win.

Overall, this signing likely doesn’t change much for Boston. Parker will probably see time when the Celtics need a little scoring punch. His main competitors for minutes are probably Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye. Williams is a better defender, better outside shooter and has shown some ability to pass the ball. Ojeleye is both a far better defender and a more consistent outside shooter. Parker is a better scorer off the dribble and can create his own offense more easily than Williams or Ojeleye can.

On the nights when the Boston bench isn’t producing points, Parker will be called upon to try and get the offense going. He’s someone Brad Stevens can run sets for to get him in good spots to score. But most nights, offense isn’t the problem for the Celtics.

In the end, this is a no-risk, potentially-decent-reward type of signing. Wagner had no present, nor future, in Boston. Parker’s deal is likely to cost the team very little. If he pops, Boston will have him on the cheap for next season. These minimum contract, end-of-bench signings have worked out for Danny Ainge in the past with players like Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker and Javonte Green. At best, Parker can have a similar type of impact as those players had on their original deals with the Celtics. If not, Boston moves on with nothing lost.

Also, let’s not forget that Brad Stevens has a pretty good track record of rehabbing the value of former #2 overall picks that the NBA gave up on. He needs only to look down the bench at Evan Turner for a reminder.