Was Chicago's Signing of Jabari Parker a Mistake?

The Chicago Bulls signed Jabari Parker to a prove-it contract this offseason. Is it too soon to tell if his signing isn't working out?

It's only been 15 games, but the Jabari Parker signing has not looked like a great move for the Chicago Bulls.

At the time of his signing, it seemed like a reasonable move to add Parker to this roster. He was given a big contract, but it is really only guaranteed for the current season at $20 million with a second-year team option for another $20 million in 2019-20.

The Bulls had cap space to fill, so why not give him a 1+1 prove-it deal to see if he still has the potential that got him drafted with the second overall pick in 2014? It was a chance worth taking, but his signing does not appear to be working out as hoped.

Atrocious Defense

There were warning signs before the season started, such as his comments back in July when Parker was on Chicago sports radio 670 the Score and claimed: “They don’t pay players to play defense.” (start listening around the 3:00-minute mark). Right after these comments, Parker adds that he will still play defense. Yet, his comments suggest he puts little value on defense and seems to think his offense makes up for a lack of defense on his part.

Fifteen games into the season, I can tell you that this is not true. Parker’s strengths do lie on the offensive side of the floor, but he is nowhere near talented enough to get by without playing defense. Most of the time, it has been clear he just isn’t trying.

He often fails to rotate, make any effort to even put a hand up, or make any noticeable defensive effort.

This isn’t all to say Jabari is incapable of playing defense. He certainly can. He just needs to stay focused on defense and put forth the effort. For instance, Parker’s last-second block on Colin Sexton last Saturday night versus the Cavaliers saved the game for the Bulls.

Poor Offensive Efficiency

Although a cursory glance at Parker’s numbers might suggest he is doing okay (14.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 apg) a closer look at his offensive efficiency tells a different story.

At 30.7 minutes per game with an 11.4 PER, Jabari has certainly not performed to expectations.

He is currently shooting 44.3% from the field, which may seem like a solid percentage except that his career average is around 49%. Additionally, while he has never been a high volume three-point shooter, Parker was at least efficient enough to warrant two or three attempts per game during the previous two seasons, shooting 36.5% in 2016-17 and 38.3% in 2017-18. This season, Parker is currently 13/49 for 26.5% shooting from three.

For the guy that seems to think his offense will make up for any defensive shortcomings, he sure isn’t backing it up.

Maybe he will up his percentages as the season goes on but this is his opportunity to shine while Markkanen and Portis are injured. I have a hard time believing Parker will improve once he loses opportunities to their return.

Is Jabari out of Shape?

Watching Bulls games this season, it doesn’t seem like Parker is in the best shape, which could be a factor in his offensive struggles and lack of defensive effort. Others are picking up on this too. Of course, statistics cannot directly back this up but the eye test certainly suggests this.

Staying in NBA shape has been an issue for Parker throughout his career and this season seems no different. For Parker to have a big role on this team once Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis's return, Parker needs to be able to play small forward. Right now, he just doesn’t seem to be in the right conditioning to keep up with the rest of the small forwards in the league which will make rotations a nightmare when all three players are vying for minutes at the same position.

A Lack of Self-awareness

The clip below earned Parker a "Worst of the Week" nod from The Starters.

This clip is very frustrating to watch. It is hard to tell for sure whether Parker is blaming Wendell Carter Jr. for this play but if he is, I find it more frustrating than anything I have discussed above. This was a horrendous lob pass. Parker has no right to blame Carter Jr. for that.

Parker showcased a complete lack of self-awareness on this play by blaming his teammate. Coupled with his poor shooting, lack of defense, and appearing out of shape, it leads one to believe Parker doesn’t even realize he hasn't been performing well which is very disconcerting. Parker was given big money to show that he still has that all-star potential. For a guy coming off two ACL injuries, he does not seem to be taking this potential contract year very seriously.

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