No question, with a week to go until the Celtics take the floor for the start of the NBA regular season, the roster and rotation has taken shape. We may see some tinkering with the starting five, and there will be positional battles that will play out all season, but the contours of this team are pretty well set.
With one exception: We don’t yet know who will be the 15th man on the roster. According to one team insider, though, veteran Jabari Parker has “a leg up” in the competition for that spot.
Parker certainly helped himself with his play in Boston game in Orlando on Wednesday.
In outlining the Celtics’ roster situation, Spotrac’s Keith Smith noted that Parker has considerable competition from a handful of other players: Ryan Arcidiacono, Garrison Mathews, Juwan Morgan, Theo Pinson. None of those players saw much time in the preseason, and Mathews, Morgan and Pinson, as Smith points out, have eligibility as two-way players. Smith pegs Mathews as the most likely to land a two-way G-League deal.
As Smith wrote, “The Celtics are over the tax and won’t drop under it without a trade. They’d have to eat $100,000 if they waived Parker. That’s not a huge amount, but it could be enough to keep him around.”
Celtics Intended to Keep Parker When Signing Him
Of course, when the Celtics signed Parker after he was waived by the Kings last spring, the team was adamant that he was not a short-term rental. Parker played in just 10 games for Boston last year and averaged 6.4 points, though he did average 8.5 points on 61.9% shooting in four playoff games.
Coach Brad Stevens, now the team’s president, said at the time, “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, but also maybe some small-ball 5 in some lineups especially around some of our better players as a ball-mover, as a passer, as a playmaker, as a driver, as a guy that can put the ball in the basket and is a real threat to put the ball in the basket.”
The Celtics gave him a multi-year deal last season, but the $2.3 million he is owed this year is only guaranteed for $1.1 million. The Celtics could cut Parker before October 20 and would only owe him the $100,000 Smith mentioned.
Jabari Parker Can Add Needed Scoring Among the Reserves
The Celtics saw Parker as a reclamation project a one-time Top-3 recruit in the nation who starred at Duke and was the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
But Parker tore his left ACL as a rookie for Milwaukee, then tore it again in 2017, his third NBA season. Parker was averaging 20.1 points per game in 51 games that season and appeared on his way toward developing a good 3-point shot (he made 36.5% that year).
Parker has not been the same since, and the Celtics are his fifth team in his last three seasons since leaving Milwaukee. Parker only appeared in three games for the lowly Kings last year.
But Parker is only 26 and the Celtics are a team that could struggle with scoring off the bench, especially if point guard Dennis Schroder gets moved into the starting five. Parker’s defense was poor even before his injuries, so that will be an issue—but he can score, and the Celtics need that.