The one thing that makes Tony Parker a trade candidate
In the recent must-read Spurs Nation interview of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach made two statements which are on my mind. Coach Popovich’s first noteworthy statement came in response to his stipulated offseason goals.
…to do everything humanly possible to become a more elite defensive team. For a couple reasons: One, historically, good defensive teams go the farthest in the playoffs, as can be proven in a million different ways.
Secondly, for personal reasons I felt very uneasy all year long with our spotty defense that could not be consistently relied upon in fourth quarters. It drove me crazy. I think I just need to do whatever I need to do personnel-wise, or drill-wise or demand-wise to go from the middle of the pack back to four, five, six, seven, somewhere in there.
We can’t be one, two, three anymore. We don’t have that youth, that juice to do that. But I think we can be four, five, six, seven, instead of 12, 13, 14, 15.
Gregg Popovich was also asked if there were any untouchables on his roster. That is, players the Spurs won’t trade under any circumstance. His response was a nothing response: “Yeah, there are several untouchables, but I won’t name them.” In a vacuum this is an unremarkable comment, but when coupled together with his sentiments about returning to the top of the league’s team defense categories, things become more curious.
In response to Pop’s answers, I exchanged notes with our readers on the 48MoH Facebook page. My gut response was to tag Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, George Hill and Tiago Splitter as San Antonio’s untouchables. But after some thought, I’m not convinced about Parker’s place on the untouchables list. What gives?
Tony Parker is a fine player. No complaints about Parker as a player. He breaks down defenses, is a proven floor leader, gets to the rim whenever he wants, is a lock to create a mid-range jumper off the screen at any point in the shot clock, and knows the Spurs’ system down in his bones.
However, if the Spurs want to return a better defensive team next season, and if the Spurs wants to see their best defensive units finishing games, getting stops in the 4th quarter and all, one wonders if the Spurs can use Tony Parker to close games, given the rest of their personnel.
Parker is a competent defender, but he’s nowhere near an elite defender. Good, not great. The Spurs’ best backcourt defenders are George Hill and Manu Ginobili. When the Spurs go to three guard sets, they’re typically exposed defensively. In those cases, they’re too small on the wing and struggle to board. In-game combinations of Parker-Ginobili-Hill are fine for stints, but the Spurs put themselves at risk when playing the trio together late in games.
It’s for this reason, and this reason alone, the Spurs should consider shopping Tony Parker. An exchange of a top shelf wing or big for Tony Parker is something the Spurs should explore, especially if such a player helps the Spurs in their quest to improve defensively.