The Celtics broke with their usual traditions this week by making the surprise move to sign free-agent big man Jabari Parker, who had been let go by the Kings on March 25, the date of the NBA’s trade deadline. In years past, even when the need for bench depth has been glaring—last season, for instance—the Celtics have instead chosen to protect little-used young players rather than chasing players who can provide offensive punch from the bench.
On Saturday, only a little more than 24 hours after word broke about the Celtics’ signing of Parker, the team reaped some benefits from the move. Parker put up 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and actually found himself on the floor in the final two minutes of a one-possession game.
Jabari Parker came in the clutch pic.twitter.com/Ld7dPdEjAr
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2021
The Celtics eventually got the win over the Warriors thanks to 44 points from Jayson Tatum and a huge 3-pointer from Kemba Walker (26 points) that put the Celtics up by five points with 24.8 seconds to play.
But it was Parker who helped keep the very weak Boston reserve unit afloat with his offense. Outside of Parker, the Celtics bench was 4-for-16 shooting with nine total points. That was all too typical from this team—before acquiring Parker, the Celtics averaged 30.6 points per game from its bench, 29th in the NBA.
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Brad Stevens Talks Long-Term Plan for Parker
What was interesting about the process of signing Parker for the Celtics was that, rather than awarding him a 10-day contract, the team dove right in with a two-year deal obviously with the intent of developing him as a reliable bench piece.
While Parker fell on hard times lately, playing on three games for Sacramento this season after playing six games for them after last year’s trade deadline, he does have a history as a productive scorer, averaging 14.8 points in seven seasons. Said Stevens:
First of all, Jabari has been a good player in this league for a few years now, and he’s obviously had a rough couple of last stops. As you saw from the details that came out, this is a plan beyond this year. We’re going to be patient in bringing him along. We’re looking mostly at him as a guy that can play some 4 for us and maybe some small-ball 5 in some lineups, especially around some of our better players, as a ball-mover, as a playmaker, as a driver, as a guy that can put the ball in the basket and it a real threat to put the ball in the basket. Obviously, there will be some size challenges with that. But right now … we can put a pretty versatile, long group on that floor.
Very Thin Celtics Bench Could Be Bulked up Quickly
Stevens also said that another key bench piece, Evan Fournier, is moving closer to a return from the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He is out of quarantine, Stevens said, and will still need a few days to get through the remainder of his testing, but Stevens seemed to hold open the possibility that Fournier would be back next week.
Fournier had scored 40 points combined in the two games before he was forced out because of COVID, making 11 of the 16 3-pointers he tried in those games.
A healthy Fournier would be a huge lift down the stretch for Boston. But getting Parker up to speed would give the Celtics a solid 1-2 punch in reserve. “Hopefully, this is a place where he can re-find his groove,” Stevens said. “I think that is important. And we’re going to work hard to help him.”