Situation and luck are two giant factors that determine the trajectory of any NBA player’s career. The randomness of injuries and the supporting cast around athletes can either maximize or decimate even the most gifted athlete’s potential.
For some, injuries become a blip on the radar in what turns out to be a stellar career. Joel Embiid missed the 2014 and 2015 season with foot problems and just finished second in MVP voting this season.
Some aren’t as lucky. Look no further than the man picked right before Embiid, Jabari Parker, who has been dealt bad hands since his first days on NBA rosters.
It’s been quite the winding road for Parker. The former #2 overall pick, who was compared to Carmelo Anthony coming into the NBA, has dealt with a lot in just seven years.
Since entering the league, Parker has been decimated by the injury bug, tearing the ACL in his left knee twice and dealing with lingering shoulder problems to boot. On March 25, his career hit another low point when he was waived by the Sacramento Kings. He played just three games and averaged 2.7 points per game in Sacramento.
Three weeks later, Parker was signed by the Celtics and Mo Wagner was waived to make room for him. In ten regular season games and four playoff games, Parker proved he was an asset that should stay on the roster.
“I knew what I signed up for when I chose this, it’s just a matter of building,” Parker said in February during an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Life throws everything at you. Life is not real steady, everybody has challenges. And that kind of perspective kind of takes me far and gets me prepared for moments like this.”
In his debut with Boston, Parker scored 11 points and grabbed four offensive rebounds. He played to his strength: creating offensive looks. During critical minutes in the fourth, Parker hit Kevon Looney with a nice post spin to free up a smooth post fadeaway.
That was what Parker was asked to do whenever he entered the game. He lived on the offensive glass and made his hay primarily in the midrange and post.
The knock on Parker his whole career has been defense. Parker still is not a good NBA defender, and he displayed that on occasion. In his second game against Chicago, Parker checked in and immediately got turned around on defense, then committed a bad foul on Thaddeus Young.
Plays like this where Parker either was too slow to react or made a bad read were sporadic throughout his brief stint in Boston, but at times he outperformed his reputation on the defensive end, flashing some athleticism that made him such a heralded prospect.
A block on the shifty Tomas Satoransky showed that Parker has something to offer on the defensive end if all breaks right. Despite falling behind, he hangs in on the layup and prevents a quarter-closing basket.
Against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, Parker was hunted on defense but was brought in to create quick offense against Brooklyn’s smaller bigs.
Parker scored nine points in Game 1, 10 in Game 4 and 13 in Game 5, rounding out a short, but solid bounce back season.
With the Celtics bringing back Al Horford, there is a frontcourt logjam in Boston again, and Parker could be on his way out. The remaining year on his deal is non-guaranteed. If he remains on the roster on July 31, he is guaranteed $100,000. If he is on the Celtics roster on Opening Night, he is guaranteed about $1.14 million.
Parker’s fate mainly hangs on the status of Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams, and Tacko Fall. He does provide situational value at an affordable price. In a time where the Celtics are looking to restructure and retool, keeping a cheap offensive big in the back of the rotation could benefit Boston.
Whether or not Parker remains in green, he proved in his limited minutes that he still has juice left in the tank, and could be a decent big man for a contender in need of instant offense and good team defense.