It wasn’t one of the most lucrative long-term deals of the summer, and it almost certainly won’t have any impact on the NBA championship in 2019, but the Bulls‘ two-year, $40MM deal with Jabari Parker was one of the most interesting free agent signings of 2018.
The contract, which is guaranteed for $20MM in year one with a $20MM team option for 2019/20, was one of the last big-money deals of July. At the same time the Bulls were finalizing their agreement with Parker, the Nets were using their remaining $20MM+ in cap room to absorb a pair of unwanted contract from the Nuggets, acquiring a pair of draft picks in the process. The Hawks were preparing for a similar deal with their leftover cap space, taking on Carmelo Anthony‘s $27MM+ salary in a trade that allowed them to add a future first-rounder and get out of their long-term commitment to Dennis Schroder.
For rebuilding teams with cap room to spare, moves like the ones made by the Nets and Hawks are common. It often makes more sense for those front offices to essentially rent out their cap space and net a young player or draft pick in the process than it would to use that space to sign a free agent of their own.
The Bulls could’ve taken a similar approach, but instead they opted to use their room on Parker, a former No. 2 overall pick whose NBA development has been slowed by a pair of ACL tears. The hope is that the 23-year-old Parker will bounce back and become a key part of Chicago’s core alongside the franchise’s other young building blocks.
Before his latest major knee injury in 2017, Parker had averaged 20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 2.8 APG with a .490/.365/.743 shooting line in 51 games during the 2016/17 season. Those are very promising numbers for a player who was still 21 years old at the time.
While Parker’s offensive upside is obvious, there are still plenty of questions about his game. He’s not a strong defender, and his decision-making on offense can sometimes leave something to be desired. Although it’s possible he’ll still evolve into a star, that looks far less certain than it did a few years ago. And it’s not clear how he’ll fit in with the Bulls, whose lineup already features another defensive liability on the wing (Zach LaVine), as well as several players who figure to dominate the ball on offense.
Parker’s short-term deal with the Bulls will give the club an exit ramp. If things don’t work out for the Chicago native, he likely won’t still be a Bull at this time next year, since the team will have the opportunity to decide on his second-year option.
On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that the former Duke forward will remain with the Bulls long-term even if he does excel in his hometown — his two-year pact will give him the opportunity to reach unrestricted free agency again in 2020, at which point he could sign with any team.
What do you think? How will the Bulls’ experiment with Parker play out? Will the former top-two pick be one-and-done in Chicago, or will his short-term contract eventually turn into a long-term stay?
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