Milwaukee Bucks: 5 Biggest Questions Following Jabari Parker Injury News

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What are the biggest questions facing the Milwaukee Bucks following news of Jabari Parker‘s torn ACL?

There likely aren’t many scenarios more likely to induce panic in a franchise and a fanbase that was expected to be on a path to long-term glory, than a 21-year-old cornerstone suffering a second torn ACL to the same knee in the space of three seasons.

Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks, that’s exactly where they find themselves after news of Jabari Parker’s injury was made official.

In a season that looked to have so much promise as the calendar changed over from 2016 to 2017, Milwaukee’s alarming slide in terms of results has now been accompanied by an even more jarring setback.

Having waited until Wednesday for Khris Middleton to make his season debut due to injury, only to lose Parker for 12 months on the same night is a turn of events that just seems too cruel to be remotely plausible.

Now though for the Bucks, they’re faced with a whole host of major questions.

First of all, what do they do to stabilize and navigate through a season that was already proving to be challenging, and now seems virtually assured to end without a playoff trip?

Secondly, and of far greater significance, where does this leave the franchise’s long-term roster plans and what are the chances of seeing Parker playing at his best in the NBA again?

Let’s attempt to tackle these issues and more that have emerged in the aftermath of Jabari Parker’s heartbreaking knee injury.

Dec 20, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Bucks defeated the Suns 101-95. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What Does This Mean For Parker’s Extension Chances?

Much like his teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo received his own long-term extension to stay in Milwaukee last summer, Jabari Parker will be eligible for an early extension this summer.

Prior to injury it would have seemed like a certainty that Parker would have received a similar extension, coming in somewhere just below max contract level, but now the contract landscape is much more uncertain.

In all likelihood, the Bucks and Parker won’t be agreeing terms on an extension this summer, unless the player decides to opt for the option of some added security ahead of his return from one of the most serious injuries in sport for a second time.

If an extension was somehow reached, I’d expect it to come in the form of a significantly reduced deal in terms of value. Although both sides would much rather that the situation was pushing them together to discuss a big money extension, there could still be an element of this route offering some sort of win for both sides.

A cheaper extension being negotiated would be a big win for the Bucks’ longer term flexibility if they remain confident of Jabari’s ability to make a full and sustained recovery, while for the player he’d know that regardless of the outcome of his rehabilitation and future playing days he’d have some meaningful security in place to fall back on.

Still, I’d guess the most likely scenario at this point would seem to be that the Bucks exercise caution, Parker bets on himself, and both sides assess what they want to do in the summer of 2018 after Jabari has been back for a few months and is set to enter restricted free agency.

Feb 8, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) lays on the court surrounded by teammates after being injured during the third quarter against the Miami Heat at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Will Jabari Ever Be The Same Again?

This is potentially the darkest timeline, and also the most uncertain question of all to answer. Coming back healthy from an ACL injury at top level sports is significantly challenging, and far from a guarantee. Jabari managed to do it once, but can he do it again?

While that being a possibility will rely on a successful surgery and a diligent rehabilitation period, there aren’t exactly a whole host of NBA players to draw comparisons for in this situation. In fact, there aren’t really any that fit a similar age profile to a 21-year-old Jabari Parker.

Bucks fans won’t need to be reminded of Michael Redd‘s multiple ACL tears. Redd tore both his ACL and MCL in January 2009, and sat out for almost a year before returning and again tearing both his ACL and MCL for a second time. After the second injury, Redd missed 14 months and returned as a man in his 30s who was never to be the same again.

Another player to have suffered a similar fate was Josh Howard, who tore his ACL twice (2010 and 2012) in the spell of three years like Jabari has, but again did so as he was crossing over into his 30s. In Howard’s case, the second injury ended his NBA career.

For many, knee injuries in the NBA often evoke thoughts of Jabari Parker’s fellow Chicago native and Simeon alumni Derrick Rose. While Rose has torn his ACL before, he also twice tore his meniscus meaning that his knee injuries in some ways run even deeper.

So the odds don’t sound great, but as a player with plenty of time on his side, Jabari will be something of a trail blazer in his recovery this time around. Even with the odds stacked against him the hope will have to be that if he’s done it once, maybe he can do it again.

Nov 17, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Michael Beasley (9) dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Will The Bucks Look For A Replacement Via Trade?

I’d feel very confident that the Bucks won’t make any major moves as finding a direct replacement for Jabari would be virtually impossible without giving up significant assets.

Could the Bucks make a minor move to clarify the shape of their rotation, though? I’d go as far to say that I’d be surprised if they don’t.

The imbalance at the larger side of the frontcourt that was created in taking two centers back in exchange for Miles Plumlee could well be addressed in order to bring in a forward who could play the small forward spot.

Although Parker often plays at power forward, it would be the smaller of the forward positions where they will feel his absence the most as Mirza Teletovic and Michael Beasley are best suited to the four spot, and although Khris Middleton and Tony Snell would be capable of covering, Middleton’s own recovery from injury means that he can’t be relied upon for heavy minutes.

In other words, if the Bucks can find a deal reminiscent of those they completed to bring Snell and Beasley in prior to the season, they’ll pull the trigger.

John Hammond loves to gamble on the trade market after all.

Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

How Will The Starting Lineup Shape Up For The Rest Of The Season?

This is a discussion that seems somewhat hollow in light of the potential long-term impact of this news, but still it’s one that the team will need to address in the coming weeks and months. Not only will it be important for that span of time, but also to give them a sense of what they plan to do for over half of next season too.

The two most obvious options to replace Parker as a starter are Mirza Teletovic and Michael Beasley, and I’d expect Kidd to go with one of those options.

Although his shooting has been far from consistent and his play has been a source of regular frustration for fans of late, Teletovic would seem like the better fit for the two considering how the Bucks will be playing and how opponents will now look to counter Milwaukee.

With no opportunity to stagger two stars (at least until Middleton is clear of minutes restrictions) like they did with Giannis and Jabari, the second unit would seem likely to have a more pressing need for Beasley’s playmaking. With Giannis set to draw more attention than ever before, Teletovic’s gravity and floor spacing could be vital to ensuring that there remains open driving lanes for the Greek Freak to attack.

Alternatively, when Middleton does return to full game shape, the logical move might be to keep Tony Snell in the starting lineup and to team Snell and Middleton as a two-three tandem.

Jan 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) reacts with center Greg Monroe (15) and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) after scoring a basket in the first quarter against the Miami Heat at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What’s The Long Term Impact On The Bucks’ Future?

It goes without saying that much of this is going to be left to be determined further down the road, but the one thing that can be said with certainty is that the Bucks will have to give some real thought to what they want the shape of their future to be.

What’s different in that regard now is they’ll be making the decisions without as many answers as they’d have originally anticipated having. Can they still assume that Parker will be a star, or do they now have to consider if Giannis is going to have enough help readily in place in the coming years?

While on one hand the topic of Jason Kidd‘s future could be glossed over by pointing out that he couldn’t be expected to achieve too much in a season where he will only have had Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton on the floor together for a total of six minutes, there’s also the case to be made that Milwaukee’s time to prepare for contention has been cut short and now they need to be sure they have the right coach and system in place by the time they move to their new arena in 2018-19.

In terms of free agency, both Tony Snell and Greg Monroe look increasingly likely to return, as Snell’s ability to provide wing cover would certainly hold value in Parker’s absence, and Monroe may even have a path back to the starting lineup in the next 12 months without the concern of how he and Jabari mesh defensively.

Overall, could this be the moment where years from now, decades from now, people pinpoint this team’s chances of contention evaporating? Possibly. But there’s no way of knowing for sure.

In the interim, the Bucks just have to continue to act as if they’re on the road to a future title, but do so while being wary that their margin for error has shrunk considerably.

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