3. Tony Parker
Many people may wonder how and or why Tony Parker is a top 3 point guard. Some may tend to challenge this notion, as his numbers are as modest as the Spurs seem to be as a collective unit. A quiet and reserved squad that pounces on its foes with precision, fantastic coaching, flawless execution and top notch communication.
How could a Parker be a top 3 point guard in this league, but be absent from the top 10, in the major statistical categories that gauge a point guard's value and or talent? The answer to this question lies solely in minutes played, as Parker ranks 24th among point guards.
Mario Chalmers, Avery Bradley, Jameer Nelson, Trey Burke, Jeff Teague and Brandon Jennings have all played more minutes than Parker this year, as the 12 year Spurs floor general has only logged 1,981 minutes this season. His playing time has been abbreviated due to injury, as Parker has only participated in 67 contests this season.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich has made it a known fact that he has wanted to rest and reserve his star players, as they tried to overcome the mental wreckage that was present from the 2013 Finals meltdown.
Pair this with the fact that Tony Parker was the driving force behind the Spurs magical finals run last year, and he competed intensely in EuroBasket this summer, and it's easy to how Parker's body finally caught up with him.
Even though sidelined by various maladies, the rest of the league's flock of point guards failed to catch up with Parker, as his veteran savvy fights off the rest of the competition from dethroning him as a top 3 point guard in this league. If Parker was given the same opportunity as the forenamed point guards, it's not outrageous to think he could produce in the same fashion.
Among the top 10 point guards in usage rate, Parker is the only PG, with the exception of Jimmer Fredette (yes I was surprised as you are) that plays less than 30 minutes per game. The highest MPG among these PG's is Steph Curry at 36.5, second is John Wall at 36.4, and third is Kyrie Irving at 35.3.
Parker is 8th in usage rate, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine him splurging to the top of this statistic if given the same MPG as some of the other point guards in this league. Again, Coach Pop's idea of preservation comes into play, as he's made it a focal point to rest the players that are imperative for another title run.
Last season, when Parker played 32.9 MPG, he averaged 20.3 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.0 RPG. He also played 66 games last year, one fewer than he has played in the 2013-14 campaign. This just highlights the type of productivity Parker would have if he played the same number of minutes as the rest of the top point guards in this league.
But make no mistake, when Parker is on the court, he is a terrorizing figure. His craft in the open court leaves defenders in the dust, and his patience and wit in the half court has coaches reconstructing their defensive scheme to combat the 6 time all-star's effective attack.
His play meshes well with those around him, as he is the perfect blend of fury and composure. Tony's dynamic footwork, high basketball IQ and blinding quickness makes him a tough draw for anyone, and combine that with his surplus of playoff experience and it's easier to understand why Parker is one of the league's best point guards. He's a coach on the floor, allowing for Coach Pop to refrain from throwing a tantrum during a timeout to get his message across. Parker's understanding of what Pop wants delivered, makes it easier for that message to be extended to players on the court when things tend to go awry.
Younger players can gaze upon Parker's calm, collective and cool demeanor, and instill these same qualities within themselves to prevent mistakes from occurring in the most crucial moments of a game. And when the game is on the line, Parker is exceedingly reliable.
Parker thrives in barn-burning contests, and statistics vividly illustrate this. In 22 games that have reached "crunch time," Parker is averaging 2.8 PPG on 64% shooting, which is 3rd among guards. This isn't a surprise, as Parker leads all point guards in field goal percentage throughout the regular season. To qualify for "clutch" statistics, your team must be down 5 points or less, with 5 minutes to go in the game.
Under these circumstances, Parker is one of the best in the league at elevating his game and delivering a victory for his team when they need it most. These type of performances, these type of players are the ones that sustain success in this league and generate memorable moments in the regular season and beyond.
Parker's statistics may not be eye popping. His highlights may not be mesmerizing. The fact remains that the results he produces are. He was a legitimate MVP candidate last year, he's been stellar this season and he has orbs of championship experience. He's logged more Finals minutes than all of the point guards in my top 5 combined, and he has claimed 3 NBA championships, and 1 Finals MVP.
At the end of the day, Parker must be respected, and if it takes another Finals run to have his named murmured among the Rose's, Rondo's Paul's and Curry's, I am anxious to see what Parker pulls out of his bag of tricks to garner our attention once again.
Do you agree with Tony Parker's ranking? If not where should he be ranked? Should Steph Curry be higher than Parker? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and remember to continue to support The Basketball Society.