Looking at the evidence of the last two articles, it would seem that if Tony Parker were simply in another system, and also without the creative services of Manu Ginobili, then he would be a top point guard – someone you can build your team around and win with. However, it’s not nearly that simple or true. Two significant factors separate Tony Parker from guys like Steve Nash and Chris Paul: 1) Decision Making/Court Vision, 2) Perimeter Shooting.
When Nash, or Paul, or anybody for that matter, runs a pick-n-roll, they always have options. What is done with those options usually shows the difference between a true point guard and a scoring point guard. In Dallas, when Nash would run a screen and roll with Nowitzki, a switch in defenders would normally be the result. What would Nash do with his options? He would wait for Dirk to establish good position mid-post (about 15 feet out) and pass him the ball. That would allow Dirk to take uncontested mid-range jumpers, because he was being guarded by the other team’s point guard. For Nash, giving up the ball to Dirk on a switch opens up even more (easy) options for him. If he gets the ball back from Dirk, he can pass to an open teammate due to the defense shifting because of the mismatch Dirk has. Or he can take the open jumper since his taller, less mobile defender is probably sagging back due to his driving ability. Chris Paul does the same thing with David West. In each situation with Nash or Paul, they make decisions that don’t always get them assists, but give the main scorers on their team (Dirk/West) easier circumstances to operate under.
We all know Nash and CP3 have court vision, but the point is that you can basically take four other guys in the NBA (at their respective positions) and put them with Nash or CP3 and it’s almost guaranteed they’ll get that team to 100 pts by the end of four quarters. What about Tony Parker? Parker always looks to score off a pick-n-roll, even if there is a switch in defenders. This takes away easy post-up/scoring opportunities for players that are bigger and don’t get plays run for them (Splitter, Blair, and Jefferson). Also, players don’t cut to the basket because Parker either doesn’t see them or is not comfortable making the pass. In transition, Parker usually gets the ball and looks to take it all the way for the “score” even if there aren’t favorable numbers. Because of that, players that can score in transition (Jefferson, Anderson, and former Spur George Hill) don’t get easy opportunities since the ball-handler is so far ahead of them. (Note) When Ginobili handles the ball on the break, several players get a chance and have scored (Blair, Hill, and Jefferson especially).
Point guards that have a consistent midrange jumpshot are generally harder to stop than point guards that are lightning quick. Also, when running the most basic of NBA plays (Pick-n-roll / Isolation for a post player) the other players on the floor don’t have to be big perimeter threats. Example: Jose Calderon from the Toronto Raptors is one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA. Why? He is slow, somewhat skinny and isn’t a great one-on-one player. However, over the last 4 seasons Jose Calderon has averaged 11 points per game ( 40% 3PT FG, 48% FG overall) and 8 assists per game (only 1.8 turnovers per game). Calderon runs a lot of pick-n-rolls, as does every point guard. Because of his shooting ability, however, he has a lot more options than a point guard that is simply quick. In addition to driving for a layup or kicking out to a 3-point shooter, when the defense goes under a screen he can knock down jumpers pretty much all night. If the defense traps him he can make the outside-in pass to the player that set the screen for an easy dunk or 10-foot jumper. All of that is accomplished simply because he a can knock down shots.
What about Tony Parker? To start, many Spurs fans complain about other players besides Parker; two players in particular - 1) Richard Jefferson 2) Matt Bonner. Why is Richard Jefferson not a very consistent scorer on the Spurs? (a player who averaged 20 points per game before joining the Spurs) or Why does Matt Bonner get heavy minutes? (a frontcourt player who is arguably the worst defender and definitely worst rebounder on the team). The answer is Tony Parker’s shooting ability. Parker, like many point guards in the league, is fast but has a jumpshot that comes and goes. YES, Parker does have the ability to get to the rim and score around 20 points while shooting a high percentage. ONLY WITH THE RIGHT SPACING. That’s why Richard Jefferson, a player who was known to slash, dunk, and get many trips to the free throw line is relegated to shooting 3′s from Bruce Bowen’s corner. Matt Bonner is a one-dimensional player who would normally get minutes only in special situations or when someone is injured. Just look at the minutes that guys like Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak get. Add to that the fact they don’t get big contracts or stay on a team very long. Because of Parker’s need for space to drive, Bonner is essential to helping the offense flow when it’s being run by Parker. What happens to Parker when guys back off, stay home on shooters, and allow him to take jumpshots all game? Look what happened to Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose during the conference finals.
The Truth: Parker is not a top point guard, he is an above average point guard. One San Antonio talk show host referred to Parker as a “20 (points) and 5 (assists) guy”. Tony Parker has above average skills in certain areas. For him to be a top point guard, he has to fill the holes in his game. Namely, his shooting from the perimeter must be a lot more consistent. He also needs to be a more willing passer. Nothing spectacular, but simply giving the ball to players in areas that they can operate. So, while Parker is not a guy you wanna build a championship team around, he is still an important piece for the Spurs if they ever want to win a championship again.
Date: August 5, 2011