It’s us. The media. It’s every one of you who has griped that Tony Parker is underrated and still has not voted for him for All-NBA teams.
Got a stat for you. Parker recently went through a stretch of missing six consecutive 3-point shots. Before that, he was shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He still has three months of the season left to get back to 40 percent. If he does that and maintains his pace in other stat categories, he will become only the second player in NBA history to average more than 19 points, 7 assists and shoot better than 50 percent for the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line.
The first was not Chris Paul.
It was Larry Bird.
Now, I should point out that I have nothing against Chris Paul and respect him as a player. Same for Deron Williams. And I can’t say Parker is better than either.
Well, I could, but I’ll settle for saying he is their equal.
“I this he is a lot better than he gets credit for being,” Harper said. “He goes about his business every single night. You look up and he has the numbers and he’s gotten the job done. I think it benefits him that he’s been in the same system for a long time. He’s played in the same offense and they’ve finally taken the handcuffs off him and I think he plays with a freedom that a lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to play with.”
Give a read to what Phoenix’s Jared Dudley said after Parker burned the Suns for 31 points and 11 assists, including 11 points and five assists in the fourth quarter, of San Antonio’s eighth straight victory Saturday night.
“He’s their best player,” Dudley said. “He’s their best offensive threat. He knows their offense. If they don’t have him, I know the Spurs are always good, but they can’t win without him.”
To be fair, Parker is a different type of point guard than Paul or Williams – and I’m not ignoring the other great ones like Rajon Rondo, who had to overcome the shadow of other great players on his team to be recognized as an elite point guard, or Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving or anyone else. This is more about Parker and his longevity of greatness.
Parker is more of an igniter and creator than a passing point guard. He has never averaged more than 8 assists per game in a season during his career. Neither did Harper, who was the same type of offensive point guard as Parker, yet very different physically. Harper had far greater strength but did not have the speed of Parker. Neither player had the sort of game that would enable them to lead the league in assists.
But Parker has been amazingly consistent. Consider the last nine years when Parker has played at an All-Star level. His scoring average – with scorers Duncan and Manu Ginobili in the lineup – had been, in round figures, 17, 19, 19, 19, 22, 16, 18, 18 and 20 points a game, respectively.
During that period, his shooting from the field has been as high as 55 percent, but never lower than 48 percent.
And he’s improved. In his fourth season, he shot 65 percent from the free throw line. He currently is shooting 81 percent.
He’s been at an elite level for quite awhile, but there is little doubt he has not received the recognition that he should have received. But Parker is OK with that. As he notes, as a Big Three in the league, he, Duncan and Ginobili have been underrated.
“I always say if we did what we did in New York or Chicago, we’d be gods right now,” Parker once told the San Antonio Express-News.
Last year when Parker made the All-NBA second team, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he deserved to be considered for MVP. He finished fifth behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul (of course) and Kobe Bryant.
It’s unlikely that he will win this year, but first team NBA is another matter.
If he goes on to do something only Larry Bird has done, shouldn’t he be the first team point guard? Paul is having a great year and, like Parker has been for several years, is blessed with a strong supporting cast. But he’s merely doing what Parker has done for years and don’t be fooled. With Duncan turning 37 in three months, Parker has been the best player on the Spurs for several years.
I don’t have a vote anymore, but if I did and Parker maintained his stats and joined a group that consists only of Larry Bird, then I’d vote for him first team. Others should, too. And if they don’t, they should quit griping about Tony Parker being underrated.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub. For Hubbard’s archive from SheridanHoops.com, click here.
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