Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker had a solid output in his first game coming off a knee injury, recording 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 15 minutes of play. It’s going to be a crucial next few months for Parker, who will hit the market this summer as a restricted free agent.

The former Duke Blue Devils standout turned down the Bucks’ three-year, $54MM offer in the offseason as he firmly believed he’s worth a max contract. Parker can back up his claim by producing the kind of numbers (20.1 PPG on 49 FG% with 6.2 RPG) he was putting up before suffering second ACL injury.

Regardless of his production for the remainder of the season, the former No.2 overall pick will command interest from several suitors, and some of them might be willing to meet his $18MM per year asking price. Both looking for an upgrade at the small forward slot, the Chicago Bulls, and New York Knicks are expected to field feelers for the budding star.

Chicago Bulls

Although the Bulls salvaged a first-round pick (top-5 protected in 2018) in the trade that shipped Nikola Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans, they did absorb some hefty contracts in return, including Omer Asik’s $11MM per year deal. Bobby Marks of ESPN noted that the deal had somewhat reduced the Bulls’ buying power next summer, bringing the team’s projected cap space down to around $27MM.

The good news is the Bulls are still open for business with any teams that find some of their young players interesting, with the exception of Lauri Markkanen, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn. There are rumblings that they are shopping veteran center Robin Lopez for another first-round pick.

Shaving off Lopez’s contract will free up $14MM in cap space, putting the Bulls in position to pursue two max-level players.

The Bulls would obviously use some of the space to re-sign Lavine, but there would still be enough money left to convince Parker to go home. The Bulls have some level of interest in the Chicago-native, who would fill their glaring void at the wing position.

The New York Knicks

The Knicks have been searching for a wing player who has the upside to become a part of their young core, which also includes All-Star Kristaps Porzingis and point guard Frank Ntilikina.

The Knicks have their eyes on several promising wingers, but landing the 22-year-old Parker would be the best case scenario for them.

Despite going through two ACL injuries, many still view Parker as a potential All-Star caliber player down the road. Parker’s ability to play power forward position would perfectly fit with Jeff Hornacek’s small-ball scheme, allowing Porzingis to dominate his match-up at the center spot.

Creating the cap space to pursue Parker is the toughest part for the Knicks front office guys Scott Perry and Steve Mills. The Knicks have been trying to move Joakim Noah since the last off-season, but none are willing to absorb his albatross contract ($39MM, two-years remaining after this season) unless they receive a first-round pick as part of the package.

The Bucks are still the clear frontrunners to retain Parker’s service, having the right to match any offer sheet for their promising forward. The Utah Jazz is another team that has been on Parker’s radar for quite some time because of the strong Mormon roots in Salt Lake City. Then again, the Bulls and Knicks are big market franchises that present opportunities Parker couldn’t even dream of with Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks and the small-market Jazz.