Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
If you don’t understand how the San Antonio Spurs work, you won’t understand Tony Parker’s importance on this team. The Spurs' offensive rating is 5.1 points better with Parker on the court for a reason, and that reason has a name—Tony Parker.
First, Parker is really fast. He’s been measured as the fastest player in the NBA. When you have a guy that fast, what really helps is to set up lots and lots of screens for him, which the Spurs love to do.
According to Synergy, they have made 1,064 field goals this year either going to the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll, to the roll man, or off the screen. That’s over 200 more than the Heat’s 858, if you want a frame of reference.
The Spurs love to set screens. They’ll set multiple screens in one possession, and that gives the fastest player in the NBA (maybe) even more time to work with. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a smart player, surrounded by smart players and coached by a brilliant coach.
All those screens and smarts mean that teammates know what to do and where to be. Parker knows when to shoot and when to pass, and whom to pass to. The system is brilliantly designed, but Parker makes this system work at a higher level.
The Spurs' screen-heavy offense against the Heat’s hyper-aggressive, turnover-inducing defense is a fascinating aspect to this series, and who wins could come down to the decisions Parker makes. If he makes the right ones, it will result in points for San Antonio. If he makes the wrong ones, it will result in points for Miami.
He won’t just have to be physically sharp. Mentally, he’ll have to be as acute as he’s ever been.