When the Hawks signed Jabari Parker to a one-year deal with a player option in the second, it was the typical low-risk, high-reward signing Travis Schlenk has feasted on since coming to Atlanta. The Hawks haven’t been significant players in free agency yet under Schlenk – that will come next year – but so far, he’s been able to find a few pots of gold at the end of the rainbow for pennies on the dollar.
Last offseason, it was Alex Len. The 7’1″ center struggled mightily in Phoenix for five seasons after being drafted fifth overall, forcing him to settle for a two-year, $8.5 million contract, which he outperformed in his first season with the Hawks alone. Len averaged a career-high 11.1 points in just 20.1 minutes per contest while expanding his game to include a three-point shot. Unfortunately, he’s off to an abysmal start to this season, but I still have faith Len will be able to turn things around, or perhaps Parker stole all his mojo.
The former Duke standout has found his groove again in Atlanta. Make no mistake about it; Parker could always get buckets. His problem has been severe injuries, which have plagued his entire career. But even with them, he’s never averaged less than 12 points per game in the NBA as a starter or off the bench.
The plan initially was for Parker to be the catalyst of Atlanta’s second unit, which was a huge problem area for the Hawks last season. He filled that role perfectly at first but was eventually forced into the starting lineup and asked to do a lot more after John Collins was suspended for PEDs last week. Now, it’s the Jabari Parker show, and he’s making the most of it.
Through the first nine games of the season (4 starts), Parker is averaging 17.6 points on 56.9% shooting from the field while hauling in 5.7 rebounds. He’s a maestro in the paint, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him become a much more consistent shooter from behind the arc in Atlanta. That is a staple of Hawks basketball. We saw it with Len, and Parker is already shooting 4.0 three-point attempts a game this season at a 27.8% clip. If that can improve, he has the opportunity to be one of the best offensive stretch-fours in the game.
Even with all the setbacks that Parker has had to suffer through, not much has changed. He’s a straight bucket-getter, possessing an offensive game that few players his size can claim. His defense will never be his calling card, but he’s shown signs of improvement early on in Atlanta, recording four blocks his last time out against Portland. Still 24 years old, the All-Star potential remains, and Trae Young might be the best at helping his teammates tap into that. Health providing, this is just the beginning of what could be a career-year for Parker.