Milwaukee Bucks’ Forward Jabari Parker has been a basketball prodigy since he first could walk, always compared to another NBA MVP, Chicago native and Simeon Career Academy High School Graduate, Derrick Rose. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a relatively unknown star in the making at the time, took Greece by storm and is now one of the most “intriguing point guards in NBA history”(Jenkins, 2017) Both suit up for the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the most exciting and up and coming franchises to watch. Parker and the Antetokounmpo are here to stay, and have turned the NBA upside down.
Former All-Star, NBA Champion and Bucks’ Head Coach Jason Kidd, who was an electric 6’4 point guard, always wished he could be taller. “… I wanted so badly to be 6’7 or 6’8… guys like Magic are looking through a window that is so high, they can make passes I could only dream about.”(Jenkins, 2017). While his dream never came true, he can now coach it. Antetokounmpo stands at 6’11, has a wingspan of 7’3, and by the way, starts at point guard. The Bucks have shown that the traditional smaller point guard is an idea of the past, and at 6’11, you’re not just the “big guy” under the basket. The “Greek Freak” as he is known, is one of the most dynamic and exciting players to watch in the NBA. How can an opposing team defend a 6’11 point guard when their 6’11 center can’t keep up with the speed and grace Antetokounmpo possesses every time he hits the floor?
The new-age point guard is averaging 23.4 ppg, 8.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and just around 2 steals and 2 blocks per game. The last time a stat-line was filled with numbers like these was when the Lakers drafted their non-traditional point guard, the 6’9 NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Over his career Johnson averaged 19.5 ppg, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, .4 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. At 22 years old, I am not yet putting Antetokounmpo in the same category as Magic Johnson, but showing the shared dominance the two have shown in the NBA, why haven’t more teams employed the 6’5 and taller point guard?
The athleticism shown by Antetokounmpo for his height and build is incredible, and with the Bucks needing desperately to land an impact player in 2013, GM John Hammond took a risk, flew to Greece, and with the 15th overall pick, found a gem.
Jabari Parker’s story is just the opposite. Fans lined the streets to see Parker play, as he took home 4 State-Championships as a Simeon Wolverine. As the next best player out of Chicago since #1 overall pick Derrick Rose, Parker was bound for greatness. But a foot injury his senior year in high school, and an underwhelming freshman year both personally and as a team at Duke, Parker “fell” to the #2 overall pick in the 2014 draft behind Kansas star Andrew Wiggins. To make matters worse, Parker suffered a similar fate as Rose, tearing his ACL during his rookie season. Fighting his way back in what is now technically his 3rd season, Parker has found his stride again.
Parker is averaging 20.5 ppg to go along with 5.8 rebounds. With his knee back to full strength, Parker slashes hard to the basket again, has his explosive first step again, and has even made his mark from behind the arc. Shooting just 15% from 3-point last season, his percentage has skyrocketed to 41.2 % this season. While the 6’8 Parker can play both the small forward and power forward position, his tandem and rapport with point guard and occasional forward partner Giannis Antetokounmpo, leaves many match ups to worry about for opposing teams.
Size and athleticism has always been what the NBA is about, but this Milwaukee combination is something the NBA has not seen before. The Bucks cashed in on back-to-back drafts and have created a formula that many NBA teams will begin to follow. The Bucks have proven that you can no longer look at potential players solely based on their stereotypical role in the NBA. If another scout saw Antetokounmpo at 6’11, he would be deemed a center, and therefore be drastically underutilized by whatever team acquired his services. However, his youth coaches and now the Bucks realize what they have in a 6’11, playmaking “point guard” taking the NBA by storm. With both players under the age of 25, Parker (21 years old) and Antetokounmpo (22 years old) have a bright and exciting future. This season has proven that proper scouting, development and unwavering commitment to a plan can build a team that can become a perennial contender. The Bucks are using two players that may have been type-cast 20 years ago, that are now taking the NBA and the city of Milwaukee to new heights and their athleticism and basketball smarts have changed the way we analyze the game.
Milwaukee never caved into pressures, continued to build and create a two-headed monster in Parker and Antetokounmpo that has many teams re-assessing the way they have tried to build their organizations over the past few seasons. The NBA has always been a league of athletic playmakers and the Bucks have struck gold in finding two players, from completely different backgrounds, that will continue to change the game for the better.
Jenkins, Lee. “Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Most Intriguing Point Guard in NBA History.” Sports Illustrated 2017: Si.com. 3 Jan. 2017. Web. 17 Jan. 2017. <http://www.si.com/nba/2017/01/03/giannis-antetokounmpo-milwaukee-bucks-greek-freak-jason-kidd>.