October 3, 2022

By the end of Ty Corbin’s short-lived and ill-fated era, the Utah Jazz on-field product had regressed enough to land the team a rare lottery pick, No. 5 overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

Even picking this high, however, didn’t get them close enough to land Jabari Parker, a supernaturally gifted first-year Duke forward renowned for his effortless scoring and shrewd vision of the field who ended up being selected second overall by the Milwaukees. Bucks.

Eight years later, with the 2022 draft just a week and a half away, the Jazz and Parker are in very different places than they were then.

The team has made the playoffs six straight seasons and is now looking everywhere they can for talent upgrades to help the roster take the next step. And Parker? Well, let’s just say it’s eminently accessible these days. In fact, the 27-year-old is among 20 players invited by the team to attend its latest two-day free agent mini-camp, which takes place Monday and Tuesday this week.

When the Jazz held a similar session involving 18 players on May 31/June 1, Jazz vice president of professional staff/Salt Lake City Stars general manager Bart Taylor said the goal was simply to “find guys at the end of the list who can contribute.”

Asked about the latter group and what the team wanted to see from Parker on Monday, he noted that the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward is someone Jazz CEO Danny Ainge knows a little about, like Ainge got Parker to play for the Celtics for a while, but otherwise the general premise is the same.

“It’s similar to, really, anybody else we want to see, to be honest. For someone like him, it’s more, is he fit, interacts with him, learns to better know him,” Taylor said. “Obviously Danny knows him well — they had him in Boston when he was there. But bringing the rest of our team and other people who know him a bit to see him up close and see what he can do on the pitch and see how he plays with this group of guys that we have. You know, it really is that simple, to be honest.

Other participants in this minicamp are Joel Ayayi, Frank Bartley, Trae Bell-Haynes, Vitto Brown, Bruno Caboclo, DJ Funderburk, Langston Galloway, Caleb Homesley, Jay Huff, Ade Murkey, James Palmer, Reggie Perry, Isaiah Pineiro, Grant Riller , Justin Robinson, Aamir Simms, MaCio Teague, Sindarius Thornwell and Denzel Valentine (who briefly joined the Jazz last season on a rocky 10-day deal as their roster was decimated by a COVID-19 outbreak).

Parker has long intrigued Utah basketball fans, due to hopes that the Chicago-born McDonald’s All-American will eventually play collegiate at BYU, as he is a member of the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter Day Saints. That didn’t happen, of course, but just being a professional LDS athlete kept his profile relatively high in Beehive State.

Anyway, how did a guy who’s already drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce end up here?

After all, while a few players in this class of 2014 have become superstars (Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid), a few have occasionally reached All-Star level (Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle), and many others have carved out big roles for themselves (Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Jordan Clarkson, Jusuf Nurkic, Spencer Dinwiddie, TJ Warren, Clint Capela, etc.), Parker is just trying to prove he still deserves a spot in the league.

Well, first of all, the draft is never a sure thing – as evidenced by the Jazz using that No. 5 pick on Dante Exum, then in December 2019, shipping Exum and two second-round picks to Cleveland in exchange. of Clarkson, the No. 46 overall selection in this 14-year-old draft.

Yet, in Parker’s case, it goes a bit beyond that.

After earning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors in October and November 2014, Parker tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Dec. 15. Two years later, in his third season, amid a campaign in which he averaged 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 36.5 percent on 3-pointers while forming a young shot tantalizing 1-2 punch with Giannis Antetokounmpo… he tore his left ACL again.

Since then, Parker has also had shoulder issues…and back issues. Starting in the 2018-19 season, he went from the Bulls to the Wizards to the Hawks to the Kings to the Celtics. He averaged just 4.4 points per game in 12 games played last regular season and just 5.5 points in 13 games played the previous season. He never really became a defender, never really developed consistent 3-point shooting (32.6% for his career) and seems to be very much on the downside of a cursed career.

So why bother to bring him then?

Well, he’s still only 27. He still has career averages of 14.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s still 49.4 percent from the floor and has been more than 50 percent from two-point range every season he’s played (except for those twelve games in Boston this season) thanks to a play of midrange still good.

Basically, the Jazz are looking everywhere they can for someone who might have the skills to improve the team.

“It’s really a one-year process. We start as soon as the summer league ends, just identifying the guys who maybe go to the G League, go overseas, and we kind of keep a running list all year round,” said Taylor. “I and our professional staff, [Vice President of Global Scouting] Luca Desta and his international team, [we all] follow the guys all year round and coordinate with each other on who’s playing well overseas, who’s playing well in the G League. And then we review and see who would be interested in doing something like this.