Hunt: Stars aligned for Bucks, Parker
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sometimes the right choice presents itself in such a blatant way that it defies a second thought.
Such was the case Thursday night with the synergetic NBA draft union between Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks.
This is exactly what the Bucks needed, a player who can help reenergize this franchise, a guy who scores the basketball, a 19-year-old potential superstar who just might sell tickets to an ensured future.
Nobody wanted to see the tumblers click in precisely the right order for the Bucks on the back of Joel Embiid’s health, but sometimes the fates take the ball right to the hole.
When Embiid fell from the top spot, it became almost a given that the Bucks would get the Chicago kid who is actually grateful for a chance to make something happen a short limo ride away.
Jabari Parker wants to be a Milwaukee Buck, and that right there is just south of franchise-changing basketball skills.
Oh, Cleveland put up the pretense of drama by defying the five-minute clock to take Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 pick. And when it happened, the two rich guys who rode in to hopefully keep the team where it belongs high-fived in a Brooklyn arena.
This is the way it was supposed to happen for a team that, by its own missteps, has had little go its way for nearly two decades. This just might be the start of something, Jabari Parker playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo for the foreseeable future, an athletic, exciting, young and energetic forward tandem dusting away all the accumulated cobwebs from an atrophied franchise.
“Tonight,” said general manager John Hammond, “we got beter.”
The Bucks won’t be a playoff team this year because virtually no team goes from the league’s worst record to the top half of the conference in one season. But with Parker and the Greek Freak and John Henson and a hopefully redirected Larry Sanders, they might be on their way to entertaining reluctant ticket buyers back into the seats.
New owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens understand that the NBA, at base, is another entertainment choice among many. That’s why they needed things to fall their way with Parker in their first, and maybe most important, draft.
Yes, the ultra-athletic Wiggins may have the most upside, but Parker can do what the Bucks need at this moment: a true NBA-ready player who can make things happen not next year, but right now.
The Bucks gambled and won last year on Antetokounmpo, who was supposed to be a project and instead turned out to be a player. For the Bucks to climb out of their self-created dungeon of obscurity, they need the Giannis-Jabari frontcourt to bring the shovels and picks every day.
Parker isn’t the perfect package coming with one year of experience at Duke. He’s not a refined defensive player. But he is a player, and defense can be taught and then embraced by a person’s strength of will. Parker has that. He’s dedicated, smart and engaged. The off-court stuff is going to come naturally to him.
Hammond ventured to make a couple of comparisons of Parker the player and Parker the person. Parker the player, he said, could be a Carmelo Anthony-type talent, a startling possibility for the Bucks, who haven’t had anyone like that since they drafted Glenn Robinson 20 years ago.
Of Parker the person, Hammond hopes he is another Kevin Durant, who took a small-market franchise in a league of major-market titans and made Oklahoma City more than relevant. Durant has made the Thunder a winner. With Parker, the Bucks have something they haven’t had in a long time. They have hope.
Put the ball in Parker’s hands, and maybe you no longer hope to win. Maybe you win.
Maybe this is crest of the perfect storm that won’t flatten the Bucks for a change. The momentum began when Lasry and Edens bought the team from Herb Kohl. It continued when the Bucks took the player the Cavaliers didn’t, which happened to be the one the Bucks wanted all along.
“He is the exact right guy for us,” Hammond said.
It isn’t often when someone representing the franchise can say that without drawing a roomful of rolling eyes. The Bucks can say that now.
Michael Hunt is a sports columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org