Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
San Antonio has won 68% of the games in the Gregg Popovich era, including 9 division titles and 4 NBA championships. Tim Duncan gets labelled as one of the greatest power forwards in the proud history of the NBA, while Manu Ginobili is often viewed as the most irreplaceable Spur. But with Duncan on the decline and Ginboili’s reckless style of play leading to him missing 30+ games with injury in two of the last four seasons, how have the Spurs been able to stay atop the star-focused NBA?
Tony Parker, who will turn only 30 years old next week, managed to carry the Spurs to the best record in the Western Conference this season and a first round sweep of the Utah Jazz: but nobody is taking notice. His name is rarely mentioned in the MVP talks, and in a league that has vast depth at point guard, Parker isn’t thought of as an “elite” talent. The lack of a legitimate nickname speaks volumes about the limited attention he receives from national media. I’d like to submit for consideration, “Valet Parker “, who constantly delivers the ball where it needs to be.
The Spurs simply cannot shag the title of “fading contender”, but Parker’s best is yet to come. The 2012 season saw Parker’s efficiency improve in a dramatic way, as he set a career high Assist Rate at 39.64. His 7.7 assists per game were also a high mark in the Frenchman’s 11 years, but the most remarkable statistic lies not in his ability to set up his teammates, but in his ability to limit his giveaways. His TOR dropped by 1.16, his largest improvement over a single season. By taking care of the ball and distributing at an elite level, Parker registered his best assist to turnover ratio (3.03) of his time in the NBA. The efficiency was further supported by Parker’s PER rating of 22.10, a number that ranked him in the league’s top 15. He ranked above established stars like Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki and ahead of young studs like Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Still think he’s not among the best players in the game?
The best play makers in the league put their teammates in a position to succeed, and cash in when they have chances near the rim. Parker may not be considered a force in the painted area, but the stats tell a different story. When it comes to scoring, “Valet Parker “ is among the game’s best. He shot 65.7% “at the rim” this season, ranking him just behind Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, but ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. When he isn’t scoring in the paint, he is setting up his teammates. Tim Duncan isn’t viewed as a top notch forward any more, and Tiago Splitter is far from a proven commodity, but Parker recorded more assists at the rim per game (2.8) than Wade and Steve Nash. Heck, TP even set a career high in charges taken per game. In a league where athletic, rim rattling point guards are the latest fad, the 6’2” Parker dominates the lane in an old school fashion … with fundamentals. We’ve got a “little fundamental” on our hands, and the league/media should take notice. He makes the smart play, not the spectacular. He is the reason why the Spurs are very much a contender this year, and they should be considered such as long as Parker is rocking the Spurs’ black and silver.