LAS VEGAS — Making his professional debut in front of an overflowing NBA Summer League crowd, Jabari Parker wasted no time putting on a show as his Milwaukee Bucks took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Las Vegas.
Parker, the second pick of this year’s NBA Draft, was up for the challenge right from tipoff, communicating confidently as he bounced between this year’s first overall pick Andrew Wiggins and last year’s first overall pick Anthony Bennett on the Bucks’ first defensive possession.
That was all the warmup Parker would need before showcasing his fantastic offensive talents. A lightning-quick spin move from the weak-side block left his defender rooted to the floor as Parker shot past him. A reaching foul was perhaps the only thing that interrupted Parker from finishing the incoming lob pass as the crowd broke its anticipatory silence with an "oooh!"
Parker got aggressive after Nate Wolters drilled a couple of shots to take the lid off the rim. A designed lob play out of a timeout got the rookie to the foul line where he ripped the net on the first attempt for his first NBA point. That trip to the line got Parker dialed in for a total of six first-quarter free throws in rapid succession as the Bucks ran their offense through their new star, including an interesting triangle set between Parker, Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo before Parker took a break following his first foul.
Parker got right back to the line at the start of the second quarter by taking it strong to the rim and shrugging off contact, something which he did a lot of Friday and will surely do throughout his career.
Parker and Antetokounmpo also keyed an intense defensive effort, and Parker looked the part of the savvy veteran as he shut down a Cleveland pick-and-roll set with a high flash before darting back to his man to force a clumsy turnover.
The fun really began when Parker took the ball on the left wing, dribbled through two defenders and hung in the air before depositing a left-handed scoop for his first field goal. That pretty finish keyed him up to unleash his seemingly signature spin move in transition, whipping past another frozen Cavalier defender for an and-one that he converted to the crowd’s delight.
The rookie sensation stayed aggressive and hustled on both ends of the floor throughout the game, putting to rest any concerns about his conditioning. On the contrary, he looked simply dominant throughout, displaying marvelous footwork and a drive and focus that did not let up. He was so good that the Cavaliers started double-teaming him on post-ups, and he had no trouble keeping up on the defensive end even as he fought through waves of screens.