The San Antonio Spurs‘ Tony Parker might be one of the more under-appreciated point guards in NBA history. He seems to be consistently forgotten when analysts argue who the best point guard in the league is. Chris Paul often has him beat by almost everyone even though he has never won a ring (or four in Parker’s case) or a Finals MVP (like Parker).
Although I will admit the love for Parker’s game finally came to form during the 2012-13 season, when he averaged 20.3 PPG, 7.3 APG and 3.0 RPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and a 35 percent mark from outside. Parker was considered to be a viable candidate for MVP during a short period of time before LeBron James eventually claimed the award yet again.
This past season, however, Parker went right back to being underrated, with names like Paul, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard all being touted as “the best point guard in the league” at various times throughout the season. Of course, Parker hardly cares about that title, and at the end of his career he will have the last laugh with his many awards and accomplishments.
But being the dominant player he has been during the last eight to nine years of his career especially, it is still dumbfounding as to why he has not been considered to be the best guard in this league for over this same time frame.
One could make the case that the market of San Antonio is so small and thus his exposure to the public is somewhat limited. This is definitely a valid claim. However, Tim Duncan is considered to be the best power forward of all time by many, and Parker has been beside Duncan for a huge chunk of his career. So I do not totally buy that.
Maybe it is because the word “flash” almost never applies to how the Spurs play basketball. While this is true for many players on the Spurs, this is not a fair way to describe Parker, who has a unique ability to change his direction on a dime and spin the ball in the basket on very difficult angles with blinding speed. His craftiness in the paint cannot be overlooked. Over his career he has been downright lethal inside, always flirting with shooting 50 percent from this area and in some cases shooting higher than that percentage during his time in the NBA.
To this day, many around the league still consider Paul to be the best point guard in the league. Stats are understandably a huge part when it comes to player comparison, but that seems to be the lone measurement used in terms of the “Paul is clearly better” argument. Statistically, Paul is definitely very impressive. But he has yet to lead his team past the second round of the playoffs, and that includes some very good Los Angeles Clippers teams during the past few years. And, as noted before, Parker leads the rings count four to zip. Not to mention I have watched a good number of Clippers vs. Spurs games, and Parker always seems to give Paul fits when they go head-to-head.
Granted, Parker is not a standout defender by any stretch like Paul is and probably will never be, but he is certainly a special talent whose clever ability to penetrate and frustrate defenses gives the Spurs a lot of options on offense.
I will not be surprised if Parker is again forgotten this year and considered “too old” at the age of 32 since that seems to be the top complaint hurled at the Spurs year in and year out. I truly believe Parker is the best point guard in the league and has been for the last two to three seasons.
With Manu Ginobili and Duncan nearing retirement, I expect him to step up his game to MVP-caliber status once again and show the rest of the league that he can carry on the Spurs’ winning tradition.
Maybe only when he is heavily considered to be a potential winner of the MVP award will he be seen as the best at his position. Until then, he will have to live with being on a team in contention to win the title every year, even if it means sacrificing individual glory.
I think he is okay with that.