Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR
Chicago native and rapper Kanye West famously asked the city he comes from in his hit “Homecoming,” “…do you think about me now and then?”
An obvious answer exists to that question, no matter how weird he acts at times, a talent as large as Kanye’s, who has made the type of global impact he has can’t help but stay on the mind of this city.
The same can be said of the former Simeon standout and top Duke prospect Jabari Parker, one of a line of premier representatives of the sport that likely best represents the youth of the city. At one time Parker was a shining representative of that youth, now as a more wordly and more experienced 23 year old he makes Chicago his home again by signing a two-year, $40 million deal after the Milwaukee Bucks, who brought the kid into the league rescinded their initial offer to resign him coming into this summer.
The deal is a little on the pricey end for a guy that has not been living up to the high expectations of a player who played under one of the top college sports programs with one of the top basketball coaches in the world in Mike Krzyzewski and then upon being drafted as the second overall pick in the 2014 draft was given the keys to the franchise in Milwaukee until that plan was upended by a long, underrated prospect from Greece.
However, despite Parker’s inability to establish himself as a prominent young talent from his era, a value still remains for his talent and the Bulls believe they’ve identified it. This signing on paper exists as one of the more promising free agent signings in recent memory for the Bulls and it can be a steal for them if all the variables work out.
Health has not always been on the side of the 6’8 star, coming off of two ACL injuries within the past three seasons. Parker has only played 31 games last season and 183 out of a possible 328 games, and his numbers have been fairly inconsistent, averaging under 20 points in three out of the four years in the league he was healthy enough to play.
Factoring in all that to the terms to his new deal seems crazy, but look closer and you see the Bulls have full control in the end.
Even after the Zach LaVine deal, which approaches Parker’s per-year agreement at $20 million per year, the Bulls remain flexible salary cap-wise for next season, allowing Chicago to still have enough space to possibly entice one of the top-line free agents in 2019.
The two-year agreement with Parker is not long-term in and of itself, its even more short term in that it is included with a team option, which allows the Bulls to break ties with him at the end of the season or sign him long-term depending on the success of this upcoming season. This is basically a trial deal to see if Parker can still produce at a high level and stay healthy for a full season without any major injuries.
Assuming that Parker can stay healthy and play the entire season he can be a vital piece to the Bulls’ young offense. Coming of the bench, the young veteran would be a good versatile sixth man with the ability to stretch the floor as a power forward or be on offensive threat in a pick and roll offense with his ability to handle the ball for his size and create for others.
Parker can be a good back up for Lauri Markkenan and pair nicely with Wendell Carter Jr. or Robin Lopez, especially if he can continue to develop a perimeter jump shot. Defensively, though he needs improvement, Parker can add some versatility and toughness in their big man lineups, which allows them to make defensive scheming easier on their guards.
In Derrick Rose, Jabari also has a friend that can mentor him through this transition period as Parker replaces Rose in the role he famously held for the Bulls as hometown hero for eight years. Like Parker, Rose went to Simeon Academy as one of the top high school recruits in the nation before playing in the National Championship game for Memphis and being ultimately drafted first overall by the Bulls in 2008.
Rose lived up to the hype, becoming the youngest league MVP in history and making the playoffs a regular thing in the Madhouse on Madison, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals during his MVP year in 2011, but he also experienced hardships, missing 257 games in a Bulls uniform due to major injuries, including the entire 2012-13 season and most of the 2013-14 season.
Parker can relate to the storyline Rose has endured and he embraces the standard that was laid before him, calling Rose his favorite player and a Chicago legend in front of the Chicago press Wednesday for what he did for basketball here.
“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. Because he still maintained,” Parker said in his introductory press conference. “No rise and falls. Injuries are a part of life. Everybody has an injury, either athletics or normal life. Derrick is one of the best players to ever play the game and one of the best icons of Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”
The Bulls continue to do a good job making deals that do not hurt the team long-term and Parker has a chance to find joy long-term should he gel with his hometown team, something Rose or Dwyane Wade could not do over time.
If all odds fall in both parties’ favors, we will have some serious discussion ready about the Bulls progress in the East and Parker will have a legacy established in Chicago that will be so much more memorable.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio