Bulls sign Chicago native Parker to 2-year, $40 million deal
Two years and $40 million may seem like an alarming number. But the Bulls' signing of Jabari Parker on Saturday amounts to gathering the spare cash and channeling it into a one-year experiment.
Can Parker stay healthy and thrive in his hometown? The Simeon product tore the ACL in his left knee twice in four NBA seasons with Milwaukee, so that remains to be seen.
Parker suffered his second ACL tear on Feb. 8, 2017, five days after Zach LaVine experienced the same injury. So the two highest-paid players on the Bulls' roster next season will be in roughly the same spot on the comeback trail.
Fit on the floor is the other main question. The Bulls will ask the 6-foot-8 Parker to fill their vacancy at small forward, after playing mostly power forward for the Bucks.
Maybe it's a bad sign that four years into his NBA career, Parker's true position remains in doubt. But that's what the Bulls will try to discover.
"Jabari is a 23-year-old player who is a natural fit with our young core, and is a proven scorer at the NBA level," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "We look forward to welcoming him back to his hometown."
The Bucks agreed to rescind Parker's qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. That move allowed the Bulls to make the second year of the contract a team option. Had Parker remained a restricted free agent, an offer sheet must be for at least two years, by rule.
Either way, the Bulls figure to decline that option year. If Parker turns out to be a good fit, they'll negotiate a long-term deal. If Parker's tryout goes badly, the Bulls may just cut ties and move on.
As far as the Bulls being players in free-agency next summer, that door remains ajar. As it stands now, the Bulls will have around $45 million to spend, which could include Parker's presumed next deal, plus Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne, who are scheduled to become restricted free agents.
Milwaukee seemed to be preparing itself for Parker's exit by signing Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez earlier this summer. Even if Parker remained a restricted free agent, there was little doubt the Bucks wouldn't have matched the Bulls offer sheet.
There are plenty of advanced statistics showing Parker's defense is poor and the Bucks played better when he wasn't on the court. At the same time, Parker's career was interrupted twice by knee surgeries and ensuing slow recoveries. Maybe the jury is out all the way around.
Parker was the No. 2 pick of the 2014 draft out of Duke and posted some nice numbers during the 2016-17 season, averaging 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 49 percent from the field.
At his best, Parker brings plenty of offensive versatility, able to score near the rim, with midrange jumpers and from the 3-point line. Parker shot 38.3 percent from long range in the 31 games he played last season.
"I am extremely grateful to the Bucks and the incredible fans of Milwaukee for showing me so much love and encouragement," Parker said in a statement. "Thank you to my teammates for being like brothers to me."
The Bulls released the non-guaranteed contracts of Paul Zipser and Julyan Stone on Saturday, leaving them with 11 players on the roster. With Parker and rookie Chandler Hutchison on board, there's not much need for free-agent forward David Nwaba. Promoting either of last year's two-way players, Antonio Blakeney and Ryan Arcidiacono, is a possibility.
Summer league ends:
The Bulls lost to Detroit 72-66 on Saturday, ending their run at the Las Vegas summer league. Antonio Blakeney led the Bulls with 24 points, but didn't shoot well in the second half. Chandler Hutchison added 11 points and Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 16 rebounds.