Trading Tony Parker

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Can Tony lead the Spurs to a fifth title? The little trophy in his left hand thinks so.

Can Tony lead the Spurs to a fifth title? The little trophy in his left hand thinks so.

In recent weeks we’ve discussed the numerous trade opportunities that are available to the Spurs. During these discussions certain commenters have repeatedly floated an idea that I have yet to address formally: The idea of trading Tony Parker. Once or twice I have mentioned that I think trading Tony Parker is a bad idea, and is a much more drastic move than some realize, but I haven’t fully explained why.

First I want to briefly touch upon what people seemingly want to trade him for. Different commenters have suggested different trades for different reasons, so I don’t want to treat the “Trade Tony” crowd as if they are some unified group. But, for the most part, advocates of trading Tony think we could acquire a number of young role players for our starting point guard. I feel like the most often mentioned trading partner is Portland, who has a glut of young talent. For instance, if we could acquire Nic Batum, Steve Blake and Greg Oden for Tony Parker (check the Trade Machine, it works), why wouldn’t you? Yes, we lose an All-Star Point Guard, but we acquire a potential All-Star center, a talented young wing, and a PG who can get the job done.

Although Portland is in the hunt for a marquee point, I don’t believe they would go for this. That being said, I am using this hypothetical situation because I believe it is the best possible trade the Spurs could get, and even though I disagree with the “Trade Tony” crowd, I don’t want to sell them short. I also don’t think the Spurs are at all interested in trading Tony for another All-Star, one for one. If the idea has even crossed Buford and Pop’s mind, it has crossed it along these lines.

So why, despite the proposed trade’s enormous upside, am I still opposed to it? Because trading Tony Parker is the equivalent of blowing it up. Yes, the team will continue to resemble its current manifestation for a couple of years whether Tony is traded or not, but by trading Tony the Front Office would be saying, “We are no longer trying to win another title during the Tim Duncan era. We are officially planning for the future.”

The reality of the matter is, this team needs to get deeper and younger, but it cannot become those things at the expense of Tony Parker. Let me make a couple of things clear, so people don’t jump to conclusions: By saying Tony Parker is a fundamental piece of our championship aspirations I am not saying Manu Ginobili isn’t. So many people treat the situation as an either/or while, in fact, neither of them has won an NBA championship without the other.

Let me rephrase: By surrounding a soon-to-be 32 year old Manu Ginobili and a 33 year old Tim Duncan with an assortment of still developing role players, you have not produced a championship roster. Players like Nic Batum and Greg Oden may be reliable contributors during deep playoff runs in 2 years, but by that time Manu and Tim will be in no position to lead them. The heart will always be there but the physical ability no longer will.

I am not saying this is necessarily a bad situation. If you are more interested in winning a championship in 5 years than during the next 2 or 3, than this probably sounds like an excellent idea. And in some ways it is. But to those of you who claim that the Spurs cannot win another title during the Duncan era without Manu and then turn around and say we should trade Tony: Your logic has led you down 2 different paths.

Even if you have resigned yourself to the idea that the championship run is over and would prefer the Spurs adopt a more long-term mentality, I still think trading Tony is a bad idea. I think that because the Spurs can get younger and deeper without trading Tony. And if you can achieve those admittedly crucial goals without sacrificing your elite point, than you don’t sacrifice him. It’s as simple as that.

As things currently stand, in 12 months only 3 players are still on the books: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and George Hill. At that point in time, the Spurs will have all kinds of financial flexibility. With so many current members of the team set to retire at the end of next season, there is no need to panic and trade away our most valuable asset.

Although not as fundamental to my argument, I also like the idea of having some continuity between the generations. I like the fact that Robinson played alongside Duncan. I am glad that Duncan has taken the time to mentor Parker, despite their differing roles. And I look forward to the day when Parker can pass on that wisdom to a new generation of Spurs.

And yes, Parker does have the emotional and mental fiber to carry on the legacy of hard work and humility that has built this franchise. Spurs fans constantly refer to Parker as a “prima donna,” but you want to know what: I think that is bullshit. Parker may not emit the saintliness possessed by Ginobili or Duncan, but on the broader spectrum of NBA players, Parker is team-oriented and very hard-working. Have we so quickly forgotten that, in response to what seemed like endless verbal lashings from Pop early in his career, Parker put his head down and tried even harder? Or that he meticulously worked to reconstruct his shot, a laborious process few NBA players have the commitment to complete?

And the fact that he is a score-first point does not mean he is selfish. Our offensive system has never necessitated a pass-first small guard. The fact that he averaged almost 2.5 more FGA per game than he did in ’07 is not a symbol of his selfishness: It symbolizes the fact that, when asked by Pop, he’s willing to permanently put himself in 5th gear.

The Spurs’ Yoko Ono

As an afterword to this piece, I’d like to address the signficance of someone we almost never mention here on 48 Minutes of Hell: Eva Longoria Parker. Mrs. Longoria Parker symbolizes the fears Spurs fans harbor about Tony: He is too enticed by the limelight and, when his contract is up in 2011, he will leave San Antonio for a larger market team, where he can indulge his supposed vanity.

I think this conception of Tony and Eva is patently absurd. First and foremost, as a native of South Texas, Eva has no reason to encourage Tony to leave San Antonio. She was a Spurs fan before they met. In fact, they were first introducted after a game she attended in San Antonio. Since they began dating, she has always been a committed supporter of the team and has never once hinted that she would like to see her husband in a different jersey. If Parker leaves San Antonio, there is no reason to believe it would be because of her.

(Quick Sidenote: Not surprisingly, the people I have met who are most adamant that Parker will leave San Antonio for a team on either coast are people who happen live on either coast. People from New York and LA can’t imagine why anyone would live in middle America! Colour me shocked.)

In general, this entire idea that superstars are looking to move to major market teams is based off of an antiquated sense of celebrity. Although the major American media companies are still located in New York and Los Angeles, the nature of new media and contemporary entertainment news coverage has begun to detach notoriety from physical locations.

For instance, despite the ambivalence many sports fans feel towards the Spurs, Parker still managed to grace the cover of the most recent edition of EA Sports NBA Live. He and his wife already own homes in Texas, Los Angeles, and Paris. During the offseason, they can spend as much time in any of those places as they like. And during the season, Parker is on the road half of the time anyways. The fact that his employer is technically located in San Antonio does not mean he has to spend his days twiddling his thumbs somewhere along the I-35 corridor.

The truth of the matter is, Parker has a good deal in San Antonio. He has the opportunity to be the centerpiece of a competitive franchise. He can complete his career alongside a coach and within an organization he loves and trusts. Market size aside, I see no reason why he would readily leave that situation.

  • GMT

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this entry. Plus, I’ve mentioned before that I believe that once Duncan & Manu are no longer Spurs for whatever reason, Tony will be the one keeping us in the competition.

  • Bushka

    I’d rather eat my own legs than see Tony leave

  • Chris K.

    Great essay, Graydon.

    I’ve tried to figure out why it is I feel we need to trade Tony, and I think it comes down to this: we’ve lost in the playoffs two years in a row;
    we only have a 3 (?) good years of Tim left;
    our supporting cast is old (Fin, Bruce, KT), limited (Mason, Bonner), inexperienced (Hill, Hairston, Gist, Mahinmi, etc), injury prone (Manu, Oberto) or nonexistent (a championship quality small forward or center);
    trading Manu would hurt too damn much;
    and I can’t shake the feeling that if something doesn’t change fast, we aren’t going to win another title with this group….

    Maybe they’re not good reasons, but they’re reasons.

  • mori1040

    Nice post, Graydon. I also agree that trading Parker would be a drastic step and alter the team chemistry to a point where a championship run within the Duncan window would be nearly impossible.

    Having a player like Parker around for the next few years, coupled with the sterling reputation the Spurs organization has in the league will also help the team’s chances of adding legitimate stars after players like Duncan and Ginobili retire. It’s much easier to imagine a Boston style blockbuster FA acquisition going down with the allure of joining a player like Parker. He’s been to the mountaintop, he’s already bought into the system, and he knows how to win big games.

    I also agree that Portland wouldn’t agree to that trade; but while we’re speaking hypothetically, I like Parker to the Warriors for:

    Azubuike
    Brandon Wright
    Ronny Turiaf

    more than the Portland trade. It won’t happen. But I like this trade better because ‘Buike is a WAY better 3 point shooter and rebounder than Batum, Ronny Turiaf is actually a better shot blocker than Oden (and a heck of a lot more durable), and Brandon Wright has a lot of upside. Of course GS would never trade away two young bigs, even for a player like Parker, but it would be kinda sweet.

  • muwu

    Yeah but like Simmons did say, undeniably the Spurs are in the deadly NBA middleground. Good enough to get into the playoffs, not good enough to seriously contend. I mean, if you can get a a young guy who can contribute well NOW and another who’ll be ready in a few years, why not? Maybe they step up and the Spurs would be just as good. Would you rather the Spurs wait until they sink into the depths of okc-like suckiness before they start to rebuild? Doing it from scratch is awful difficult

  • muwu

    Oh and also as I guy who follows the Nets, I am well conditioned in mediocrity, it is not a good place to be. Every year for the last few year the Nets were like that, and only this last year when Kidd left and they missed the playoffs did they get a piece that could actually help them. If the Spurs continue to be happy with the middleground, they’re gonna stay there, unless we can get a gift from Chris Wallace or a season ending injury from someone

  • Rick

    As somebody who voiced some of the “trade Parker” noise, I figure I ought to throw my $0.02 in here.

    First off, I don’t really want them to trade Parker, or feel that they should. It is simply my opinion that, if the Spurs have some information that indicates to them that it is time to break up the Duncan/Ginobili/Parker trio, Parker is the one who will fetch the most trade value as well as the one who’s skills are the most easily replaceable.

    Please note that I am not saying he is easily replaced, simply that it is easier to acquire an average height, quick point guard who scores a lot than Duncan’s fundamentals or Ginobili’s controlled chaos.

    Personally, I love Parker and want him to finish out his career here. Moreover, the thought of having to depend on the health of Ginobili’s ankles and Oden’s knees/ankles/80-year-old body makes me a bit ill.

    I actually like the Golden State deal better, (although I might push for Anthony Randolph over Brandon Wright), but I don’t see that one happening either unless GS’s new GM is more of a head-scratcher than Mullen was.

  • Jose

    If the Spurs address the needs they have now and in 2010. Parker won’t leave. Imagine a Chris Bosh or some other big time talent in 2010 with Parker. If Spurs address the holes. All should be well.

    Parker is to valuable to lose. He’s a elite point guard with room to improve. The issue is whether the Spurs front office can make the moves to please Parker.

  • Sean

    I think the 2010 free agent bananza is not going to be as great as everyone thinks…

    There will be some great players, but I don’t think there will be as much movement..

    Question for everyone here: Can you name a big time superstar FA that we have ever signed??

    The truth is most players look to play in big markets(LA, NY, DAL) or vacation destinations..

    Chris Bosh would be great, but I don’t see him ever signing in San Antonio.. more likely Dallas or Miami.

  • johnny

    I personally would rather the spurs go after a championship hard the next couple of years than try to win while also building for the future. I think if they did that they would just merely be alright and maybe at best make the 2nd round of the playoffs. I prefer go after it now and then when the duncan era ends you build through the draft, and hopefully get lucky in a great draft year with the #1 pick. Look at the teams that have won the championship over the years. The best players were high draft picks. Yes even the Pistons (Chauncy Billups was 3rd pick in draft) along with there other players hamilton, rasheed, (darko lol). Duncan and Shaq obviously both went #1 in the draft, boston had garnett, allen and pierce as high draft picks. la bryant, odom, gasol (gasol went the highest). A lot of these players were aquired through trades but most of these trades went down while the teams were bad ie. boston, detroit was ok in a bad eastern conference. The point being that spurs should go for it and rebuild when its all over, I’d rather have a championship than 10 years of at the very best and lucky being in the second round.

  • Nick

    Call me crazy (and optimistic), but if all goes as planned, I see the Duncan years winding down like the Robinson years, if free agency shakes out right. I think the allure of playing with Duncan, Parker and Manu will make and the sense of urgency to win now will make us a big time player in 2010.

  • BlaseE

    I think Sean is dead on about 2010. The key thing for the Spurs and 2010 is that we take advantage of other teams who think they need to clean house to get a big name who may or may not come.

    Graydon points out that only Hill, TP, and TD are under contract after next season. I think it is key for the Spurs to use this offseason aggressively and get that number to 6-8. We need to be more stable going into 2010 when the league is going to go crazy and the cap could drop again.

    As for the future, I think we need to put our faith in our FO to not keep us in the abyss for long with or without Tony. Holt is a great owner and RC and Pop are great at scouting and building teams. I’m really sick of other teams’ fans comparing us to OKC or the Nets or some other mismanaged team. We got to where we are with a great FO/ownership and some luck with ping pong balls. That won’t end with Duncan, Manu, or Parker.

    Didn’t Tony flatten his last championship ring into a necklace for Eva because she is such a big fan? She might divorce him if he went to the Lakers.

  • alamobro

    The notion of trading Tony is completely absurd.

    I have yet to hear a realistic trade scenario that would justify such a deal. Just reading the proposed trade scenarios on this comment list is like reading a fantasy basketball piece.

    In the end, Tony will probably be the best player on san antonio from next year on ( yes,this includes Tim and Manu….seen them play lately??)

    How you come to the conclusion that Tony should be traded is puzzling indeed.

  • Hollywood

    As this site has said, Tim Duncan is the window NOT Tony Parker. I don’t think we would get an equal return in a trade with Parker but after next season we should see where the team is at. If Tim’s knees truly fall apart, we will be in mediocrity if Parker is our lone good player. That’s how it practically was this playoffs and we got run in the first round.

    Parker is a great player but not good enough by himself to get us out of the first round. I like the idea of Tim transitioning to Tony, but that’s not an equal transition. It’s not a knock on Tony to say that because it’s difficult to fill the shoes of the best power forward of all time.

    The Spurs FO are too risk averse to make a major trade so it’s a moot point anyway. However, I see no reason why not to consider trading Manu or Tony if the right deal came along. In some sense, that’s the only true way to transition into the next era.

    In my opinion, we can give ourself one last chance at a title with the same group (which is a long shot of beating the Lakers, even with them losing Odom or Ariza in the off-season) or we could try to trade an asset while it’s still an asset for a young up-and-coming star and make our transition that way. I don’t see how we can have it both ways.

    Even with the 2010 messiah, there aren’t great odds of that player ever agreeing to come here or even being a true foundation.

    Trading either Tony or Manu probably gives us a better chance of getting a quality player, if not numerous quality players.

    I agree with a previous poster that going into 2010 with only 3 players under contract isn’t actually a great scenario as it implies a huge rebuilding and starting over in itself.

    We’re concerned about trading now to get young players that would need time to acclimate to the system, yet we’re less worried about getting new players after 2010? When Tim and Manu are even less reliable?

    The 2010 plan seems to be a religion that gives hope but isn’t quite realistic or logical.

    No scenario (trade now or wait for 2010) guarantees any certainty, but I see nothing wrong with discussing all options. Obviously, it’s all up to Pop and RC. If they don’t feel like sticking around much past 2011, then I don’t see a lot of big moves coming other than their departure.

  • Chris K.

    +1 imaginary points to Hollywood.

  • dj superflat

    doing what parker’s done on a team with timmy and manu is just silly, imagine what he could do if were the man on a team. i think people seriously underestimate the havoc parker could wreak if he were on some crap team like memphis, particularly holding a grudge against SA. and parker’s shown that he can grow, so he’s going to become a good 3 point shooter. when that happens, he truly enters top 5-10 players in league discussion. trading tony is just nuts (as is trading manu, unless you get some incredible offer).

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Graydon Gordian

    I definitely sympathize with the idea that 2010 is over-hyped. But, at least in terms of this post, I wasn’t referring to guys like Chris Bosh. There are so many experienced, second tier NBA talents who will be available next summer. It will be an excellent opportunity to pick up role players who are ready to contribute immediately. At the moment, guys like Raja Bell, Kelenna Azubuike, Travis Outlaw and Amir Johnson come to mind (although, really, the list is so long it’s hard to speak concretely about it).

    That being said, I agree with BlasE that acting aggressively both this offseason and before the trade deadline this coming season may be preferable. The 2010 free agent bonanza will be a bit of a crap shoot, and if we can use our expiring contracts to acquire contributors now, that may be the most practical option.

  • ThatBigGuy

    To quote a scene from “Old School:”

    ‘I have no rebuttal; that answer was perfect.’

    Well done, Graydon, well done.

  • BlaseE

    If everything goes as planned….

    We can add Manu, Splitter, Gist, and Yawn to the list of players who should be signed to contracts for the 2010 season. That gets us to 7.

    Manu (33), Hill (24), and Parker (28) in the backcourt and Splitter (25), Gist (23), Yawn (23), and Duncan (34) for the front. Those will be the ages of the players at the start of the ’10-’11 season in the () which averages to ~27.1 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bonner (30) or Mason (30) come back to maintain consistency if either finishes the next season still on our roster. Robertas Javtokas will be 30 as well.

    That is 8-10 players and no SF. I think its crucial to get at least 2 legitimate SF prospects this off season through draft or trade and then get a second tier player next off season like Graydon says to solidify the position for the closing of the window. Graydon brings up two names I personally really like: Azubuike and Outlaw. I’m sure everyone on here could add a name to the list of SF’s so I think we have a lot of options for who that person turns out to be.

    Anyone else think this is the most exciting off season in forever? I think the reportedly weak draft is even more interesting than usual.

  • BigJ

    Very well written, but I’m not convinced. My point of contention: is Tony a leader who can lead us to a championship? If, with the proper pieces, he is…then keep him. If instead the Spurs front office views Timmy and Manu as the leaders of this team then Tony must be dangled out there as the most reliable asset.

    Your continuity of leadership argument is strong, but it presumes Tony can lead a team to the ultimate prize? I don’t think he can. There is no indication he has the depth of overall skill to do so. Maybe what we’ve seen so far is the young player deferring to the older team leaders? It feels like hoping for hope’s sake to follow this train of thought. Tony’s in season skills are awesome and well applied to an 82 game grind. In contrast his post season game borders on skiddish and his clarity of court vision appears to evaporate. Too often “post season” TP either loses a step, can’t find the open guy, takes an errant shot, etc. It’s just not the same guy we see during the regular season. If you’re like me you have observed and analysed Tony’s game in the post season. Some times I watch him and I think, “Maybe his darting quickly down court to the paint just doesn’t work as well during playoff intense NBA ball?” Or, “Maybe he doesn’t know how to attack that defensive adjustment?” Or, “Does the Spurs offense rotations provide Tony the type of flexibility he needs to succeed in the post season?” There are a lot of “if’s” here and more often than not the “if’s” necessitate giving Tony the benefit of the doubt. My estimation over time is that Tony doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team to the championship. He’s an excellent complimentary piece, but not the leader.

    Maybe the Spurs see something different? I don’t. I think they see the writing on the wall with Tony and given the current state of the franchise he is the asset with the most luster. I say trade him.

    Of course, I am most willing to insert both of my feet in my mouth if he proves me wrong. But, I just don’t think he can lead the Spurs to a championship with out Timmy or Manu at full strength. Several years down the road that may matter a great deal.

  • Rick

    I don’t understand the thinking of some Spurs fan; trade Parker, trade Ginobili. Why would you trade the second best point guard in the NBA and third best shooting guard?

  • alamobro

    I see alot of the following sentiment in this post

    “We should trade tony if the right deal pops up”

    The “right deal” isnt going to materialize people. You dont trade away the youngest most reliable player on the team,the one who is still improving.

    The “right deal” would have to include a quality bigman and or a very high draft pick or excellent point guard. I dont see that happening.

    The “right deal” wont materialize except in some internet fantasy website.

    Am i saying Tony is untradeable ? No. But i dont think the deal exists that would justify trading him.

  • alamobro

    I see alot of the following sentiment in this post

    “We should trade tony if the right deal pops up”

    The “right deal” isnt going to materialize people. You dont trade away the youngest most reliable player on the team,the one who is still improving.

    The “right deal” would have to include a quality bigman and or a very high draft pick or excellent point guard. ( now that the gaping hole at small forward has been filled by Richard Jefferson)I dont see that happening.

    The “right deal” wont materialize except in some internet fantasy website.

    Am i saying Tony is untradeable ? No. But i dont think the deal exists that would justify trading him.

  • http://espn.com Justin

    Some of you guys are just plain stupid when it comes to assessing Tony Parker, while some of you are finally coming around. I’ve been on his bandwagon when the “genuises” of the NBA where courting Jason Kidd to come and play with Tim Duncan. It would of been a move that would of stalled San Antonio for at least a decade. Parker would of got pissed, moved to LA, and tortured SA for years. This talk of trading the best (BY FAR) player on the Spurs is lunacy. He’s been the best for the last couple of years by the way. Timmy is still solid yet getting naturally older, and don’t even get me going on Manu. Let’s just say if he was from Idaho his story would be different. He’s great when he’s healthy but that’s NEVER. Probably the most overrated folk hero I’ve ever seen. I understand he can speak Spanish, but you guys realize he never plays right? How could somenone who’s never on the court be looked so high upon. I advocated trading him three years ago when his stock was through the roof…and now we probably couldn’t get a second tier player for him. Someone said we’d have to open the pocketbook for him next year….WHAT? Anyway, I digress, trading Parker talk is what I’d expect from the fair weather SA crowd…..Bow to Manu!

  • Crow

    You wait til at least 2011 and then see where the team is and what offers you get for Parker.

  • http://spurs.com devious

    trading parker is absolutely a must hes not able to defend any pg in the league which leaves td to help which inables his man to score tony also is not consistent with his jumper and cannot hit a three to save his life also point guards like derin/chris paul/nash/billups etc are able not only able to score but assist in double digits not to mention they all can shoot out to three point range and fyi the only reason parker scores is the attn tim duncan and ginobli demand trade parker please