The New York Knicks are trying to replace Carmelo Anthony with Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker. That’s ironic.
Jabari Parker was still a freshman at Duke University in 2014. He was fighting with Andrew Wiggins to be the top overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
In Jan. of that year, Bleacher Report’s Daniel O’Brien wrote an article pondering whether Parker would be the next Carmelo Anthony or Paul Pierce. O’Brien predicted Jabari would be a “more efficient version” of Melo. This wasn’t the first time Jabari and Carmelo were linked together.
Parker spoke to reporters after leading the Blue Devils to a blowout victory over the UCLA Bruins on Melo’s home floor. The former McDonald’s All-American had no problem accepting the lofty comparison after hanging 23 points on the Bruins.
“Yeah, it’s a good comparison,” Parker said after going for 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists as Duke beat UCLA, 80-63, in front of a capacity crowd that included Bruce Springsteen, Tyson Chandler and Tim Hardaway Jr.
“He mastered the fundamentals. He’s always good at his craft. He works on it and that’s a person I’ve been looking up to, so yeah, that’s good compliment.”
Parker continued to embrace the challenge of the Melo comparison when he went on the Dan Patrick Radio Show shortly after declaring for the NBA Draft. The former “SportsCenter” anchor asked Parker which NBA player he most resembled.
Per Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report, Parker admitted he takes a lot of his moves from Anthony. When Patrick poked fun at Anthony over his ball hogging — “but you pass, though, don’t you?” — Parker responded by mocking Anthony’s typically weak supporting cast. “Yeah, I pass. But I have a team.”
The comparison makes sense to this day. In college, the comp was made partially made as a slight to Anthony because Parker struggled mightily on defense. Even now Parker is no Tony Allen when guarding on the perimeter. On offense, their skill sets are very similar.
They both rely heavily on isolation attempts. Parker’s usage percentage last season was a career-high 26.5 percent. The usage went up as his FGA skyrocketed when he finally took a more featured role in the offense. The Anthony comparisons began to show. While Parker is more aggressive attacking the rim — he’s 11 years Anthony’s junior — they both heavily rely on the jump shot as well.
Over half of Parker’s FGA last season (53.3 percent) were on jumpers. Anthony launched an absurd 1,162 jumpers; accounting for 83.7 percent of his FGAs. The elder Anthony relied significantly more on the jump shot, but he also needed to. The 33-year-old can’t put the ball on the floor and attack the rim anymore like Parker can.
The two were linked again this week when Parker’s name emerged in the latest of one of many Anthony trade rumors. Ian Begley of ESPN reported that Parker’s name came up in trade talks involving Anthony. Begley states that the Bucks emerged as a potential third team in a trade with the Houston Rockets.
The irony of replacing Carmelo Anthony with his projected successor on the court shouldn’t be lost on any of us. Even if the much-hyped prospect hasn’t lived up to that praise quite yet. In Parker’s defense, it’s hard to live up to the hype of being the No. 2 overall pick when you’re not even on the court. Suffering two ACL tears in three seasons has caused him to miss a combined 94 games already.
Parker’s played 152 games; amassing averages of 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game on a slash line of .491/.341/.743. His PER is a respectable 16.3. Those numbers were helped by a breakout year last season. Of course, it was ruined by injury.
Things were looking up for Parker in 2016-17. The 22-year-old was playing like a (borderline) All-Star before he tore his ACL. After 51 games he was averaging 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. His three-point shot greatly improved from his first two years — when he only attempted 51 shots from downtown — as he converted on 36.5 percent of his 3.5 attempts per game.
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To provide a little context, let’s take a look at Melo’s numbers after three seasons. The former Syracuse star averaged 22.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on a slash line of .448/.282/.795. His PER was a superior 18.8.
Keep in mind, Anthony had already played 85 more games and logged over 3,500 more minutes than Parker at this point. He was the face of a franchise while Parker is playing second fiddle to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. He’d have the same role in New York. It’s Kristaps Porzingis‘ team once Carmelo Anthony gets traded.
Jabari Parker may never live up the expectations of being a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest scorers the league’s ever seen. That doesn’t make the possibility of him replacing Anthony any less ironic. If Parker were to end up in the Big Apple, all the comparisons would arise again. The Knicks wasted the prime of the original Melo; maybe they’d do better with the next one.