The Fourth Amigo: Tony Parker

Parker

The Frenchman from the Alamo with the spur on his boot comes in at number four. Tony Parker has had somewhat of an evolution over the past few season with his increased role in the Spurs offense each year. Since the 2007 Finals this has been in the works and its hit its highest point in the last few seasons.

He’s the key component in what the Spurs have been doing over the past few years. Gregg Popovich has leaned on Parker to be the fulcrum that keeps this offense going. His paint penetration is how the Spurs get their open looks. They aren’t an inside-out team anymore. The days playing in the post are a thing of the past. Even with Tim Duncan’s youthful renaissance, Parker is leading the charge of this offense.

The Spurs offense is a beautiful thing to watch and that’s because of Parker. His versatility and skill are what keeps it fluid and spacious. Young point guards could learn a thing or two from Parker’s evolution.

What he does well

Parker has been a scorer for a majority of his career and that’s fair to say. His jumpshot was lacking as well and left a lot to be desired. As a scoring point guard, that jumpshot was something that was needed. He developed a midrange game and that opened a lot of things up for him.

Even though he’s always been great at penetration, he couldn’t play that way forever. He needed to space the floor out if he wanted to keep getting into the paint late into his career. Right now he’s doing that as good as ever.

He’s having a pretty good season right now scoring 19.2 points per game, 7.1 assists per game and he’s shooting 52%. His PER is a very good 22.6 after a very slow start to the beginning of the season for him. He’s posting a career high offensive rating of 116 per basketball-reference.

He kills teams in transition, still. According to Synergry Sports Technology, 20.2% of Parker’s offense comes in transition. There, he scored 1.17 points per possession. That’s a great total for a point guard that’s barely 6’1. He’s drawn seven And-1 attempts in transition out of 55 made field goals and 13% of the time he’s drawn shooting fouls. And keep in mind that doesn’t even count the assists that Parker gets out of the transition game.

He’s amazing at going 1-on-3 in transition and somehow finishing at the rim. He does that so often because of the way that he slithers through the defense with his dribble. When Parker is in transition, he uses power dribbles to manipulate the defense into thinking that he’s going one way and then he goes the other. I like to call them pressure dribbles, because it pressures the defender into either backing closer to the rim or trying to take a swipe at the ball and steal it. Parker is the best in the league at this dribble when Derrick Rose isn’t healthy. He can snatch the ball ever so quickly from one direction to the other and then he uses his body as a shield and finishes at the rim.

Tony Parker is very good at manipulating defenses in many ways. He’s fairly exceptional at doing so off the ball. Very few point guards are able to do this and very few are able to create off of a catch full speed. A lot of point guards aren’t good at defending off of the ball, either. That’s why this is such a valuable skill for Parker to have. Take a look at the video below.

Parker gives the ball up early in the possession as there are a bevy of screens that are being set for him. He has his options along the baseline and in the corners. He can do what he see fits–either run the whole wheel or he can flare out depending on how Calderon is going to guard him. Calderon stays behind Parker taking away the flare so he just runs the whole wheel and catches the ball at the elbow. He curls around and has easy entry into the paint where he thrives at and scores an easy two points.

Its such a genius wrinkle in the Spurs offense that Pop uses. When Parker is off the ball he’s dominant. Off of screens Parker scores 1.3 points per possession according to Synergy. On 33 opportunities to score off of screens, Parker has converted 19 of them into scoring plays. That’s a ridiculous clip for a point guard.

Another great attribute that Parker has is his ability to kick the ball out after getting into the paint. Slithering through the defense isn’t easy. He’s among trees in the paint and other guards who are helping. There’s going to be a lot of hands swiping at the ball. When Parker kicks it out its always a dangerous thing. But he’s so good at getting the ball to open shooters. Take a look at an assist to Boris Diaw below.

Parker gets a screen from Tim Duncan. He takes the pick and instantly finds himself in the paint after one dribble. That efficient dribble drew three defenders to Parker–his own, Duncan’s and a help defender. He picks the ball up and makes the proper pass to Boris Diaw on the wing for an open three. Parker does that all day long off of pick and rolls.

The bad

Like Rajon Rondo, Parker has a tendency to pass up open looks. Not because he can’t shoot the ball but because that’s in his nature. If he feels that someone else can get a better look somewhere else, Parker will pass the ball up. That leads to some turnovers and some possessions where shots are missed because Parker had a good look and passed it up.

Those possessions are some of the most frustrating because it would be better for him to just take some of those shots. He’s always got the right idea in mind, but it pays to be a bit selfish for him at times. He’s evolved from being a penetrating scorer to more of a well-rounded penetrating guard. That’s always a positive, but sometimes you wish he’d go back to being more of a scorer. But the Spurs are winning so there really can’t be any complaints there.

Thanks to Synergy Sports and Basketball Reference for their numbers. 

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