In recent seasons, the latest Spurs dynasty has been faced with the metaphor of whether or not its run had set sail. But Coach Popovich and General Manager R.C. Buford have managed to steer the Spurs in a much more favorable direction.
In a title-contending team with a handful of veterans and rising stars, who should take over in the last five minutes and have the ball in their hand with seconds ticking away?
The statistically-led analysis of star PG Tony Parker’s clutch ability provides the definitive answer.
With the game on the line, his shot is not limited to his highly commended comfort in the paint. This season, 82 percent of his scoring efforts in clutch situations, as defined by 82games.com*, have been jumpers.
Why these percentages are relevant is because of his field-goal percentage. Parker’s game-winning capacity was questioned after averaging just 26.0 and 39.5 when the game was on the line from 2009-2011. But so far this season, inside the final five minutes of a close game, Parker is averaging a staggering 56.5 percent.
However, this improvement could have been forecasted.
Tony Parker took over in the lockout season. Most notably in the MVP conversation, where he finished fifth in the final voting and with more first-place votes than Kobe Bryant.
This career-defining season paralleled a shift in the Spurs' locker room. In the eyes of the media and in the Spurs organization, it became not Tim’s, but Tony’s team.
Parker more than validated this new responsibility.
Although this season, the uncanny depth of the Spurs along with Duncan’s re-surging numbers has spread the responsibility.
Younger Spurs, such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, are knocking on the door of the big time. Their talents demand more and more of the ball each season.
But with just minutes or seconds left on the clock and the win still hanging in the balance, Parker’s play of late is putting no doubts in Coach Pop’s first option off the inbound.
The era of Duncan grinding in the paint and Ginobili slashing to the rim or pulling up for the three in the final minutes has curtailed.
At 30 years old, Tony Parker steers the team far beyond his role as point guard. After 47-and-a-half minutes of Spurs basketball and still no definitive result, it's Parker's job to save an old ship.
* 4th quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by more than five points