In a league dominated by so many talented point guards, it’s easy to forget that Tony Parker is a perennial All Star, 3-time NBA champion and former NBA Finals MVP. It’s time, however, to realize that he will someday join NBA legends in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. The fleet Frenchman enjoyed perhaps the finest season of his career, in this his 11th in the league, while propelling the San Antonio Spurs, once again, to the best record in professional basketball. In four of Parker’s 11 seasons, the Spurs have finished with the best regular season record in the Western Conference. Three NBA titles already with maybe a fourth to come this season; who would have expected this from a late 1st round draft pick from France?
Yet here the San Antonio Spurs are again, ready to return to the NBA Finals with a highly efficient, team-first style of play spearheaded by their lightning quick, savvy veteran. The Spurs led the NBA this season in team field goal (FG) percentage, three-point FG percentage and offensive effiency, which is the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions. When you look at Parker, he doesn’t appear to have aged much in physical looks and more importantly, play. He’s still blowing by defenders with ease, still making his living in the paint and still relying on his otherworldly quickness to get him to the right spot, at the right time to create easy scoring opportunities. Parker finished 3rd among NBA starting point guards this season in field-goal percentage and averaged 7.7 assists per game, good enough for the highest mark of his career. Parker had never exceeded 7 assists per game.
Perceived predominantly as a scoring point guard who has mostly played caddy to the great Tim Duncan, during the past decade of Spurs greatness, Parker has shed that label in a big way the past several seasons. Truth be told, he came more into his own as the top offensive player in San Antonio, after being named the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, averaging 24.5 points on a blistering 57% shooting in four wins over Cleveland. With Duncan in the twilight of his career, Parker has only gotten better as his career has advanced, often carrying the Spurs on nights against some of the NBA’s elite. Parker finished with his 2nd highest season total in the Hollinger Player Efficiency Ratings, which is a metric that calculates a player’s offensive statistical production per minute of play.
The league will be treated to a matchup of perhaps the two best point guards left in the NBA Playoffs, starting on Tuesday night. The Spurs will match up with the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul. If the Spurs advance, Parker will likely find young, rising star Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, awaiting him in the Western Conference finals. Westbrook is a player who can score at will from anywhere on the floor. Earlier this season, Parker dominated at Staples Center, outplaying Paul on February 18th, dropping 30 points and 10 assists in a Spurs win. The Frenchman also posted an absurd 42 points and 9 assists on 55% shooting against Oklahoma City, during a Spurs win in early February. Parker has risen to the occasion against the best the league has to offer. Yes, Tony Parker has earned his due as one of the top point guards in the league, during this halcyon of NBA point guard play.
The window is closing on the Spurs hopes for another title under all-time great coach, Gregg Popovich. Tim Duncan is near the end of the road and Manu Ginobli may only have one more great Playoff run left in his sore, aching bones. If the San Antonio Spurs are to win a fourth NBA Championship in 10 seasons, expect the speedy veteran with the deft shooting touch, and improved passing game, to lead the Spurs all the way to the top.