With their first major decision as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens made Jabari Parker the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
This was the most likely outcome for the Bucks’ draft night, and the pick was met with a wave of positive reaction both here in Milwaukee and throughout the NBA universe. And that excitement - perhaps most importantly - has been matched by Parker himself.
It’s clear now the Bucks brass have wanted to bring Parker to the Brew City for quite some time. Lasry may have even tipped his hand before the Draft Lottery even happened with comments to ABC’s John Parkinson at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, saying he wants Jabari Parker at No. 1.
And now that he’s a Milwaukee Buck, the level of support the franchise has shown him is not lost on Parker. Several times since new commissioner Adam Silver called his name, Parker has said how the Bucks organization was “all-in” on him, and says he wants to be a “throwback player and stay with one team.”
“I don’t look forward to leaving anytime soon,” Parker said at his introductory press conference in Milwaukee. “I want to keep that in my heart because if I just look at it as a short-term deal, then things won’t work out.”
That statement was met with huge cheers from the hundreds of people packing the second level of the Milwaukee Public Market, which hosted the press conference. Parker wants to be in Milwaukee and, for long-suffering Bucks fans celebrating perhaps the franchise’s proudest moment in more than a decade, the importance of this cannot be overstated.
“One of the really special things about last night’s draft was the fact that Jabari Parker welcomed the idea to be a Milwaukee Buck,” team General Manager John Hammond said in his opening remarks.
What Milwaukee appears to be getting in Parker is the type of player and person a franchise can build its culture around.
“My character is everything,” Parker said.
When asked about becoming the face of the franchise, Parker had this to say:
“I’m going to look at myself as another guy on the team and just fill my role. I think it starts there. We’ve seen with the San Antonio Spurs, not one person shines or overpowers the other because they’re all a unit. Because they win, they’re all successful. I want to try to bring that same mentality within myself and try to show that within the team.”
Hammond and coach Larry Drew were on stage with Parker at his press conference, and both talked about his character as much, if not more, than his on-court talent.
“We can’t emphasize this enough,” said Hammond. “One part is Jabari Parker the player, but I think more important to us in the long run is Jabari Parker the man and what he stands for.”
"Forget basketball,” Drew said, “this is a humble young man who's driven."
After Hammond and Drew’s gushing initial statements, and before taking questions, Parker stopped to recognize his parents, several members of his family, friends and former coaches in attendance at the Public Market.
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement surrounding Parker and the dawn of the new era for the Milwaukee Bucks. It’d be just as easy to dismiss this excitement as needless hype for someone who’s yet to step on an NBA court. There’s something about Parker, though, that makes this time seem different.
If we talk about a best case scenario for Parker in Milwaukee - and at this point, why not? - it’s that his impact on the organization would be like that of Tim Duncan, a high-character franchise cornerstone and a perfect fit for a small-market team looking to reshape its culture both on and off the court.
Bill Simmons, on ESPN’s draft night coverage, mentioned how much has changed for the Bucks franchise in 2014. Six months ago, he said, the Bucks were up for sale and rumored to be headed to Seattle (though former owner Herb Kohl steadfastly said he’d never sell to someone who’d move the team). But now, they have new billionaire owners and a blue chip talent in Jabari Parker.
Simmons and the ESPN crew went on to praise the Bucks pick, but they weren’t the only ones. Here’s what’s being said about the second overall pick.
“Everyone knew this pick was coming, and the truth is that it’s perfect. Parker, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo give the Bucks a really nice crowd of young forwards. But Parker is the one with tremendous scoring ability, a talent of the same type as New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Parker will be the Bucks’ best scorer from Day One, particularly since Brandon Knight was that guy last year for the worst team in the NBA. It’s all up from here in Milwaukee, with new owners and a new star. We won’t even dock them for his lax defense. Grade: A-”
“Winner”: Milwaukee and Jabari. “This is so much better than Cleveland for Parker. With the Cavs, he would’ve been surrounded by bad defense, exacerbating his own issues on that end, and then stuck playing the 3 on offense. With the Bucks, he’s got guys like Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of whom will help cover him on defense.
On offense, he’ll be able to play plenty of stretch 4, exploiting mismatches. His offense will help compensate for all the things Antetokounmpo, Sanders, and Henson don’t do.
It’s just a perfect pick. There’s a story about how Parker used to sneak into his church gym to practice, but then would get locked in and have to sleep there overnight. That’s just an A-plus draft-night anecdote. That’s the draft anecdote all other draft anecdotes dream of being one day.
For Milwaukee … in six months, the Bucks have gone from one of the most depressing teams (besides Antetokounmpo) and the best candidate to relocate to a team that has as bright a future as anybody in the East. They still need a point guard, but that can be handled down the line. Finding Parker and Antetokounmpo was a much bigger deal.”
“Winner,” Jabari Parker: “The kid was happy to go to Milwaukee and may be the first person in years happy to go to Milwaukee. And it's a good fit. He gets to be the guy with the Bucks. Parker needed the right circumstances and everything came together for him on draft night.”
IMMEDIATE IMPACT: A+
Milwaukee needed a star to put a face on its rebuild, and Jabari Parker is that star. He’s a versatile scorer with a refined offensive game. He can play either forward position, and his silky style figures to compliment Giannis Antetokounmpo’s raw athleticism. The current plan is to play both together in a modern NBA frontcourt that should be very tough to stop.
Overall Grade: A+
No. 2: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
The Milwaukee Bucks desperately needed a go-to scorer, and they've found one in Jabari Parker.
Fresh out of Duke, the combo forward has the tools to immediately become a dominant offensive player, as he has a smooth jumper, does a convincing freight train impersonation in the open court and has the requisite athleticism to finish plays around the basket in the half-court set.
Defense is a question mark—and likely what pushed him back to No. 2 in the proceedings—especially because he projects as a bit of a tweener. Without elite foot speed or length, he'll need to be hidden on that end for quite some time.
Nonetheless, Parker's scoring talents and NBA-ready status have to be exciting for the scoring-deprived Bucks. No longer will Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo have to attempt to carry the offensive load, which puts Parker in great position to make a run at Rookie of the Year.
The haul: Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis, Johnny O’Bryant
Both Parker and the Bucks are exceedingly happy that Cleveland selected Wiggins first overall. Jabari looks to be a Rookie of the Year favorite, and his modern-as-tomorrow forward pairing withGiannis Antetokounmpo in a versatile frontcourt, with Larry Sanders hopefully finding his indoor voice, will serve as much-watch basketball in 2014-15, and hopefully for many years to come.
“Winner,” Milwaukee Bucks: “Milwaukee and Parker had been flirting pretty heavily for weeks, and the player/need fit there might be even better than in Cleveland. The Bucks are desperate for points, hope and a positive personality to rally around and Parker promises to bring all three. It's a nice feeling for the fanbase of a rebuilding team to know that the worst is officially behind them; Milwaukee's fans can say that with confidence now that Parker is aboard.”