Jabari Parker after signing $40 million deal: 'They don't pay players to play defense'

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Say this for Jabari Parker, he seems pretty comfortable with who he is as a player. But that might not be a good thing.

Fresh off signing a two-year, $40 million offer sheet with his hometown Bulls, Parker appeared on Chicago radio station 670 The Score and was very clear on what kind of value he plans to bring to the Bulls:

“I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense. There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.”

“A better offense wins a championship,” Parker later added.

How Jabari Parker fits with the Bulls on defense

Going back to when he was drafted, Parker has been known as a player with defensive question marks, though his offense has usually been good enough to give him a pass. That eye test assessment has followed him over the years, though injuries are partially to blame.

The stats also back up that notion. Parker didn’t fare too well in defensive real plus/minus when he was on the court last year, ranking 79th out of 84 power forwards.

While the Bulls probably didn’t sign Parker to be a defensive stopper, they’re probably hoping he can at least be passable in the switch-heavy defense that has taken over the NBA. When he was asked if he thinks he can accomplish that, Parker

They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them.”

Unfortunately for the Bulls, Parker isn’t exactly surrounded by players that can take the load off. All-NBA rookie Lauri Markannen ranked only 68th among power forwards in defensive real plus/minus, while Zach LaVine, who the Bulls just signed for $80 million, came in at 84th out 97 point guards. Even though this year’s first-rounder Wendell Carter lit up the Summer League on defense, even a league-average defense might be a tall order for Chicago this season.

Jabari Parker doesn’t think he’s in Chicago to be a defensive stopper. (AP Photo)
Jabari Parker doesn’t think he’s in Chicago to be a defensive stopper. (AP Photo)

Is offense more important in the NBA?

Supporting Parker’s claim that offense wins championships is the Golden State Warriors, who have topped the NBA in offensive rating over the last four years and have three trophies to show for it. However, the Warriors they also ranked in the top 5 in defensive rating in three of those seasons, with last season’s No. 9 ranking representing their low point. The Warriors are good.

Not supporting Parker’s claim is the makeup of the playoffs outside of Golden State. The entire top 10 in NBA defensive rating made the playoffs last year, with five of the top six teams winning at least one series (the lone team to lose in the first round was the Spurs, who faced the Warriors). The quarterfinals teams who didn’t make the top six in defensive rating were:

  • the New Orleans Pelicans, who had blocks leader Anthony Davis

  • the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had LeBron James

  • the Warriors, who were the Warriors

So unless the Bulls gets a true defensive freak, the best basketball player on the planet or become so absurdly stacked that they exist on a different plane from the NBA, they’re probably going to need a strong team defense if they want to make a deep playoffs run. But that’s probably the plan: keep Parker in the fold to supply offense while the rest of the core can supply value elsewhere.

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