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Richard Jefferson

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The Cavs should take the risk on Jabari Parker

The Cavs should take the risk on Jabari Parker

The wound of LeBron James’ departure is still fresh in the hearts of fans, but the Cleveland Cavaliers cannot afford to remain in grief for long. The Summer League begins on Friday, and the Cavs still have roster moves they have to make, chief among them signing eighth overall pick Collin Sexton.

Cleveland has only 10 players under contract for next season, and even if Rodney Hood and Kendrick Perkins return to the team as expected, the Cavaliers will still have two roster spots open. One could be filled by Summer League signee Billy Preston, but the Cavs could take a risk with the final opening — and, for the right price, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker may be someone worth looking into.

Cavalier fans may remember Parker from 2014 pre-draft debates over who Cleveland should take first overall. Parker and Andrew Wiggins were widely regarded as the top two prospects that year, and the Cavs ended up going with Wiggins, who was traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love a month later.

Kevin Love

At 6-foot-8, 250lbs, Parker was projected as a stretch power forward who could also play on the wing. He was a solid interior scorer and rebounder with a nice outside shot, as evidenced by his 36% clip from beyond the arc in his only season at Duke.

In his rookie year, Parker averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in December, ending his inaugural campaign after just 25 outings.

Parker returned the next season to play in 76 contests, scoring 14.1 points per game. In 2016-2017, Parker was averaging 20.1 points before tearing his ACL for the second time in February 2017. Because of this injury, he played in only 31 games in 2017-2018, but he shot 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from distance during that stretch.

His defense leaves much to be desired, and losing some weight in order to play more small forward would benefit him. Parker’s injury issues have prevented him from reaching his potential thus far, but they have also allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to blossom into an All-Star.

Jabari Parker is now a restricted free agent, and the Bucks have extended the qualifying offer to him, meaning that if Parker signs a contract with another team, Milwaukee will have the ability to match it. However, it is not a sure thing that they would. Parker will want a large contract, and the Bucks may not be comfortable with paying a role player around $20 million per year. It’s unlikely that any team will offer Parker a max contract at this point, but that may benefit the Cavs right now.

In need of talent, Cleveland needs to begin taking some risks in order to find future stars. At just 23-years-old, Parker is already a solid player, and could develop into much more if he can stay healthy. In order to increase his value once he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Parker should look to sign with a team where he can be one of, if not the primary scoring option.

He won’t be able to do that in Milwaukee, but in Cleveland, he may have a chance. If Kevin Love is traded, rookie Collin Sexton will become the first option by default. By adding Parker, the Cavs would improve their offense, and take the pressure off of their young players, allowing them to develop alongside Parker.

With James leaving, the Cavs’ 2018-2019 payroll sits at around $106 million. This is $5 million over the salary cap, but $17 million¬†under the tax level. This means that if the Cavaliers can shed a little over $5 million in salary through trades and/or waiving a stretching a player, they could offer Parker the $8.6 million mid-level exception for this season. This is about double his salary for this season would be if he remained with the Bucks.

Perhaps Milwaukee would match this offer, as it is a very reasonable amount for Parker. But if they didn’t, the situation is ideal for both Parker and the Cavs. For Jabari Parker, he would increase his earnings by almost 100%, while moving to a team where he would be the number one scorer. Cleveland wouldn’t win many games, but Parker could put up very good numbers, just in time for free agency in 2019, where he would expect a nice long-term contract offer.

Dan Gilbert

For the Cavaliers, it’s a low-risk high-reward wager. If Parker doesn’t play well, he doesn’t have to be re-signed in the offseason, and his cap space can be used to sign someone else. Or, he could be retained for a discount.

If Parker does improve, Cleveland could have found a diamond in the rough (which is odd to say about a player four years removed from being drafted second overall), and could then sign him to a four or five-year deal. Or, he could be let go to sign a max deal with a different team.

Jabari Parker is not a perfect player by any means, but he has the potential to be a very good one. The Cavs don’t have much to lose, so why not take a chance on Parker? The possible reward would be an All-Star level player at 24 years old to jump-start the rebuild in the wake of LeBron James’ third decision.

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