Jabari Parker (right) says he won't get caught up in a personal competition with fellow rookie Andrew Wiggins.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Whether either player likes it or not, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are going to be grouped together in conversation for years to come because of where they went in last June’s NBA Draft.
The hype surrounding the two continued through the draft to one of the most anticipated summer league games in years.
Now, Parker and Wiggins will square off in a preseason game for the first time Friday when the Milwaukee Bucks meet the Minnesota Timberwolves at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"I’m not looking for any (individual) matchups," Parker said following Thursday’s practice at the Cousins Center. "I’ve never looked at any matchups, especially when we played each other. I’m just focused on the team.
"I don’t know why a lot of people try to compare us, two different positions . . . I hope we become our own players."
In the summer league opener, Parker scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Wiggins led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 70-68 victory with 18 points. A lot has changed since July, especially for Wiggins.
Wiggins became just the second No. 1 overall pick since the NBA/ABA merger to be traded before playing a single game when the long-rumored Kevin Love trade to Cleveland was completed in late August.
The day before the NBA Draft in June, Parker said he expected to go No. 2 overall to Milwaukee after he received the impression the Bucks were more committed to him than the Cavaliers.
"I think God put us in positions to succeed," Parker said. "He had the harder way, while I had the convenient route. We’re just going to get there no matter how it is. It turned out for the best for both of us."
Wiggins has averaged 14.5 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 42.8 percent from the field over 31.0 minutes per game in Minnesota’s first two preseason games.
With Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin out since Oct. 4 with a strained adductor muscle, Wiggins has started both preseason games on the wing alongside Corey Brewer.
"He’s very mature," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of Wiggins. "Everybody talks about his athletic ability, but he’s a competitor. He’s going to get better because he works extremely hard. Minnesota plays fast, so that fits his skill level."
Through four preseason games with the Bucks, Parker has averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor. Parker has played 123 total minutes this preseason, tied for the sixth-most in the NBA and the most of any player who has played four games.
"I feel like it is going pretty good," Parker said. "I’m playing a lot of minutes, so that is helping me in the preseason. That has been to my advantage."
Parker’s comfort level on the floor seems to be rising with each game he plays. That was particularly evident Tuesday in Cleveland when he scored 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 27 minutes.
"That confidence is very important," Parker said. "It was experience that I didn’t have that now I am getting in the preseason."
While the common perception would be that Parker would want the regular season to get here sooner rather than later, the rookie has a different outlook.
"I’m not getting real eager," Parker said. "I hope I have a little bit more time to learn. Hopefully these next couple of games will turn out for the better, but I have to throw myself into the flames first."
Roster moves: The Bucks made a series of roster moves Thursday, including exercising the third-year contract option on forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the fourth-year contract option on forward John Henson.
Under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the first two years of a first-round draft pick’s contract are guaranteed, while the third and fourth year of the contract are options held by the team.
Picked No. 14 overall by the Bucks in the 2012 NBA Draft, Henson has averaged 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his two years in the league.
Antetokounmpo, picked No. 15 overall by Milwaukee in 2013, is entering his sophomore season after opening eyes throughout the league as a rookie. The Greek forward, who has grown two inches to 6-foot-11 since he was drafted, averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season.
Because he was a second-round pick, Khris Middleton is in a different situation than Henson when it comes to his contract. Middleton is entering the final season of a three-year deal he signed with Detroit after the draft in 2012. He will be a restricted free agent next summer.
The Bucks waived forward Chris Wright and guard Elijah Millsap on Thursday, trimming their roster to 16 players. Training camp addition center Michael Eric remains in camp.
Wright didn’t play in the preseason for the Bucks after he left the team early in training camp to pursue an opportunity overseas.
The brother of Atlanta forward Paul Millsap, Elijah Millsap played in just one of Milwaukee’s four preseason games, scoring four points in seven minutes against the Pistons on Oct. 9. Millsap, 27, spent last season between Maccabi Ashdod of the Israeli League and the L.A. Defenders of the NBA D-League.
Injury update: The Bucks will be without two key players for at least the next two preseason games, as forward Ersan Ilyasova (bruised knee) and center Larry Sanders (illness) will not make the trip to Cedar Rapids and New York.
Ilyasova played 27 minutes against the Cavaliers on Tuesday but sat out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. Sanders has not practiced or played since Saturday’s preseason loss to the Chicago Bulls.
"He’s still sick," Kidd said of Sanders. "Hopefully over the weekend he gets better."
Bucks guard Brandon Knight sat out of practice again Thursday, but he will accompany the team on the trip. He said that his strained groin has improved but is unsure if he will play Friday against the Timberwolves.