When free agency opens on July 1st, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker is set to be one of few stars demanding a max contract. But, with the Zach LaVine contract situation looming large over the Bulls this summer, they need not face the arduous task of integrating a second Bull on a max deal on the back of a return from an ACL injury.
Free agency brings the possibility of change, and the possibility of change translates to positive progress in the eyes of many. The addition of a second overall pick to the rebuilding Bulls may be signalled by many as the sign that the franchise is moving forward. But, the addition of Parker would create more questions than answers.
Parker is undoubtedly a talent, but one that needs prising open. Since joining the Bucks from Duke, the big man has already suffered the ignominy of going under the knife on two separate occasions for two separate ACL injuries on the same knee.
Prior to his second setback last season, the 23 year-old was averaging just over 20 points per game, and was making positive strides that were clearly haltered by time spent on the treatment table compared to time on the court.
Whilst only a restricted free agent this summer, Parker has made his intentions of securing a max deal clear. The Bucks retain the option of keeping the Duke alumni member on a qualifying offer of $8.85 million this summer, but given his alleged rejection of a $53 million three year deal from the Milkwaukee franchise, he is set to test the open market this summer.
The Bulls are one of few franchises who could offer the former first-team All American a maximum offer come July. But, if Gar Foreman and John Paxson offer the power forward a deal that matches the sum that Parker is demanding, then they would be putting the potential success of the Bulls rebuild at risk.
Given his rejection of an $18 million per year deal, the player is clearly seeking a figure north of this sum. The Bulls already have the LaVine contract to tackle first this summer, and if reports are to be believed, then the former Timberwolves rookie is also seeking a max contract.
One of the greatest assets the Chicago franchise has going forward is its cap flexibility, but two long-term max contract deals this summer would shatter this shining beacon of hope the Bulls fans have for their franchise. LaVine already poses a risk for the Bulls, as with no clear alpha male in the franchise yet to assert himself, the dealing of a max contract to the athletic shooting guard poses a potential problem moving forward if the player cannot live up to his potential post-ACL injury.
With the duo in the starting lineup, the Bulls would not only have to manage their minutes, due to their injury history, but would also have to nurture the two to reach their ceiling, a task made infinitely more difficult after such gruelling operations.
The young look Bulls under Fred Hoiberg have also yet to find their alpha male moving forward. Whilst Kris Dunn and LaVine have shown flashes of brilliance since the draft day trade for Jimmy Butler with Minnesota, they have yet to perform consistently in the Bulls uniform, and whilst Lauri Markkanen has surpassed the expectations of many, it is still too soon to realistically asses his potential ceiling in this Bulls team.
The addition of Parker into the starting five would pose a further problem for Hoiberg moving forward. Having found the task of dealing with egos a clash with his management style in his maiden two years coaching in the NBA, it seems that the addition of Parker, with as many as four men vying for the alpha role in the team, would be destined for failure.
The Bulls rebuild has arguably moved quicker than expected, with the emergence of Lauri Markkanen and greater faith in the young coach, Hoiberg. However, with the Illinois franchise placing great trust in LaVine’s progress beyond his expected contract renewal, free agency could prove to be a stumbling block for the franchise. They should be wary that change doesn’t necessarily mean progress, and that the addition of local free agent Parker would lead them down a treacherous path that would be hard to turn back on.