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What to know about Jabari Parker, the Celtics’ newest signing

Jabari Parker made his first appearance with the Celtics on Saturday.
Jabari Parker made his first appearance with the Celtics on Saturday.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Jabari Parker knows the highs and lows of basketball.

Once a highly touted prospect out of Chicago, Parker went No. 2 in the 2014 NBA Draft out of Duke and was expected to be a transformational player.

He never quite reached the perch many predicted he would, as injuries consistently set him back, but he did blossom into a steady role player when healthy.

The 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward has played for five NBA teams in seven seasons, most recently with the Kings. He appeared in just six games last year for Sacramento, and three this season.

Now, his rollercoaster career has brought him to Boston, where he’ll look to provide a scoring punch off the bench for the Celtics as they gear up for a playoff run.

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Parker, 26, is signing a two-year deal, and the Celtics waived forward Moe Wagner as a result.

Here’s what to know about him.

He’s a proven scorer, but his production has dwindled

Whenever he’s had an opportunity, Parker has been a reliable scorer.

He’s averaged 14.8 points per game throughout his career while shooting 49.3 percent from the field. In 2016-17, he put up a career-high 20.1 points a night in 51 games for the Milwaukee Bucks.

His scoring average dipped to 12.6 the next year, hovered around 14 or 15 in the seasons to follow, then descended to 8.5 and eventually 2.7 with the Kings as he was injured and ultimately fell out of the rotation.

Parker can score at all three levels, but he thrives most as a mid-range scorer. He’s shot over 50 percent from inside the arc every year of his career, whereas he’s a career 32.3 three-point percent shooter.

Jabari Parker, seen here with the Hawks in 2019, is averaging 14.8 points per game for his career.
Jabari Parker, seen here with the Hawks in 2019, is averaging 14.8 points per game for his career.John Amis/Associated Press

Parker has a chance to emerge as a secondary scorer alongside Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, and Marcus Smart. There’s a lot of uncertainty regarding Parker’s skill set, and his role remains to be seen, but he and Fournier could potentially provide the scoring punch off the bench that the Celtics were clearly lacking prior to the trade deadline.

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He tore his ACL twice early in his career

Parker was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in October and November of 2014, but a torn ACL in December derailed a promising start to his career.

He regained momentum, and was the Bucks’ second-leading scorer behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, then he suffered his second ACL tear to the same knee in just his third season.

“I don’t find this very different,” Parker said at the time. " … The only difference is that I know what I’m going through. From there, second time’s a charm.”

He added in a story on NBA.com in 2017 that there’s nothing that can make him quit.

“People look at this as a negative. They don’t really look at it as a blessing,” Parker said. “But what you do, you create your own story. Like, a lot of people walk around like they haven’t been touched. And then when they face adversity, they don’t know how to deal with it because it’s the first time in their life.”

Parker stayed optimistic, but he never quite got back on track with the Bucks. He then joined his hometown Chicago Bulls in the 2018-19 season, yet that situation didn’t pan out as he had hoped either, as he fell out of the rotation and started just 17 games.

He played 25 games with the Washington Wizards in 2018-19, 32 with the Atlanta Hawks in 2019-20, and barely saw any action with the Kings.

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His style should mesh with the way the Celtics have been playing lately

Parker was “injured and out of shape” when he arrived in Sacramento, according to Kings beat writer Jason Jones, via The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. He then tested positive for COVID-19 in June and missed time.

A back injury and personal reasons kept him away from the team this season, then he remained on the bench once he returned.

While this season has been essentially null for Parker, he did show just last year that he still has something left as a scorer. He put up 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers in August and also scored in double figures against the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets.

With the ball in the hands of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Walker most of the time, Parker shouldn’t have to create his own shot too often. During their five-game win streak, the Celtics have averaged 117.6 points and 27.4 assists per game and have moved the ball perhaps the best they have all season. Their depth has been on full display, as teams have had trouble matching up with Tatum and Brown and sticking with their other playmakers simultaneously.

Jabari Parker scored 11 points against the Warriors this past weekend.
Jabari Parker scored 11 points against the Warriors this past weekend. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Parker won’t be expected to shake things up or alter what the Celtics have been doing. Instead, he’ll have a chance to hit jumpers and provide a lift when Brown or Tatum is on the bench. His role may not be too significant every game, but his offensive arsenal will always be there for coach Brad Stevens to turn to if the Celtics need a spark.

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It’s a low-risk move for the Celtics

It feels like Parker has been around forever, but that’s because he was thrust into the national spotlight when he led Simeon Career Academy to four straight state championships and was named the national player of the year as a high school senior.

He was then named a first-team All-American at Duke, was drafted ahead of Joel Embiid, Smart, Julius Randle, and Zach LaVine, and was expected to become an NBA star. The ACL tears, however, set him back and prevented him from reaching that status.

The consensus is that this is a low-risk move for the Celtics. If Parker comes in and plays sporadically and looks like the player he has with the Kings, there’s no harm and it is what it is. If he resembles the player he was early in his career, the Celtics may have gotten a steal.

Parker is only 26, and he still has a lot to prove on a team looking to re-establish itself as an Eastern Conference contender.