Tony Parker Has Earned His Due as One of the NBA's Best

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Tony Parker Has Earned His Due as One of the NBA's Best
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Tony Parker put many an NBA point guard in his rear-view mirror throughout the 2011-2012 season, including elite NBA point guard Russell Westbrook.

In a league dominated by so many talented point guards, it's easy to forget that Tony Parker is a perennial All-Star, three-time NBA champion and former NBA Finals MVP. It's time, however, to realize that he will someday join NBA legends in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The fleet Frenchman enjoyed perhaps the finest season of his career, in this his 11th in the league, while propelling the San Antonio Spurs, once again, to the best record in professional basketball. In four of Parker's 11 seasons, the Spurs have finished with the best regular-season record in the Western Conference. Three NBA titles already with maybe another to come before he hangs up his kicks—who would have expected this from a late first-round draft pick from France?

The Spurs reached the Western Conference finals this season with a highly efficient, team-first style of play, spearheaded by their lightning-quick, savvy veteran. San Antonio led the NBA this season in team field-goal (FG) percentage, three-point FG percentage and offensive efficiency, which is the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions.

When you look at Parker, he doesn't appear to have aged much in terms of physical looks and, more importantly, play. He's still blowing by defenders with ease, still making his living in the paint and still relying on his otherworldly quickness to get him to the right spot, at the right time, to create easy scoring opportunities.

Parker finished third among NBA starting point guards this season in field-goal percentage and averaged 7.7 assists per game, good enough for the highest mark of his career. Parker had never exceeded seven assists per game.

Perceived predominantly as a scoring point guard who has mostly played caddy to the great Tim Duncan during the past decade of Spurs greatness, Parker has shed that label in a big way the past several seasons.

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Truth be told, he came more into his own as the top offensive player in San Antonio after being named the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, averaging 24.5 points on a blistering 57 percent shooting in four wins over Cleveland. With Duncan in the twilight of his career, Parker has only gotten better as his career has advanced.

He has often carried the Spurs, on many nights, against some of the NBA's elite. Parker finished with his second-highest season total in the Hollinger Player Efficiency Ratings, which is a metric that calculates a player's offensive statistical production per minute of play.

The fans were treated to some scintillating matchups that featured the league's best point guards in the NBA playoffs this past season. Parker went toe-to-toe with elite point guards Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook in the playoffs, more than holding his own and having his way with the two U.S. Olympians on the offensive end. 

Parker turned in some brilliant performances against OKC in the Western Conference finals, using his quickness and explosive first step to get past Russell Westbrook on a routine basis.The Frenchman also posted an absurd 42 points and nine assists on 55 percent shooting against Oklahoma City during a Spurs win in early February.

Earlier in the year, Parker dominated at Staples Center, outplaying Paul on February 18th, dropping 30 points and 10 assists in a Spurs win. Parker rose to the occasion against the best the league had to offer in 2011-2012.

Yes, Tony Parker has earned his due as one of the top point guards in the league, during this halcyon of NBA point guard play.

The window is closing on the Spurs' hopes for another title under all-time great coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs came close in 2012 but simply weren't able to match the overall team speed of the Thunder. Tim Duncan is near the end of the road and Manu Ginobli may only have one more great playoff run left in his sore, aching bones.

If the San Antonio Spurs are to win an NBA championship next season, expect the speedy veteran with the deft shooting touch, and improved passing game, to lead the Spurs all the way to the top.

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