Giannis Antetokounmpo, more-so known as “The Greek Freak,” has been an art-in-motion this season. He’s gone from a mid-first round prospect with incredible upside, to a top 5 MVP candidate in a span of four seasons.
He’s currently the only player in the entire league that leads his team in all five of the major statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. And as perceived most would consider him the favorite to take home the Most Improved Player award.
Although, Antetokounmpo isn’t the only Buck starting to carve out his place among the stars of the NBA. Enter: Jabari Parker.
After appearing in just twenty-five games in his rookie season, Parker ended it early following a torn-ACL on an out-of-control drive to the rim, colliding with the Phoenix Suns PJ Tucker. Parker won Rookie of the Month for October/November after piling up two double-double games in his first three appearances, averaging 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
Last season, Jabari started to show signs of stardom in his first full-season in the league, but even then, his improvement in 2016-17 has come as a pleasant surprise.
Parker is playing with an heir of confidence that we’ve never seen before. He’s scoring the ball at a more efficient rate than his previous two seasons, and his ability to handle the ball on offense has been overshadowed by the fact that he virtually plays alongside a seven-foot point guard. However, it’s become a deceptive secret-weapon for Milwaukee.
Jabari is posting career-high numbers almost completely across the board, with 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, but arguably none are more impressive than his 40% shooting from beyond the arc. His increase in both attempts and makes has opened up the floor for the Milwaukee offense, providing more lane options while allowing guys such as Giannis and Matthew Dellavedova to drive to the rim and score, or kick out to a shooter on the perimeter.
One of the marks against Jabari Parker last season was his seemingly average level of athleticism, often looking a step or two slower than he did in his college days. But looking back on it now, it seems ludicrous considering his alley-oop dunks in transition are featured in the top-10 plays on a weekly basis. And also, his ability to finish in the half-court has been stellar.
Even his defensive ability, which was questionable last season has become much less of a liability, Parker is no longer getting lost on rotations and now being 2 years removed from his ACL tear, has been able to react much faster to defensive screens and close-outs.
This season, Parker’s passing and play-making ability have become a real asset to the Bucks. His ability to drive-and-dish have become a frequent part of the Milwaukee offense, and can also move as a slasher off the ball, have made him a real pain for the opposition to stay on top of, especially when he shares the floor with Giannis and Michael Beasley.
Giannis is still the favorite to win Most Improved Player. His 6.8 points, 1.1 assists, 1.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 0.4 steals increase is essentially the exact criteria needed to fit the bill.
Jabari Parker cannot be overlooked. The huge transformation in his game over the last few months have put him right there on the cusp of stardom. If he continues at this rate, he’ll be joining his Bucks running-mate on the Eastern Conference All-Star team in no time.