In today's NBA, there is hardly a limited supply of talented point guards.
Perhaps more so now than ever before, the league can boast remarkable depth at the position as well as incredible star power at the top. And of course, the San Antonio Spurs can claim both within their roster as well.
The spotlight certainly falls on Tony Parker, a soon-to-be 14-year veteran who has played various roles within the organization since he was drafted in 2001. He provides the team with the superstar talent necessary to win titles, though the roster boasts plentiful depth behind him—another key given Parker's age.
As a whole, the point guard rotation has consistently been one of the team's strongest features, and following a strong 2013-14 campaign, there's little reason to believe 2014-15 won't follow suit.
As he does every year, Parker headlined the Spurs' point guard corps with under-the-radar excellence—serving as the team's alpha dog and primary orchestrator throughout its 2013-14 pursuit of a title.
Despite a significant drop from his 2012-13 MVP-caliber stat line—his scoring and assist averages dipped from 20.3 and 7.6 to 16.7 and 5.7, respectively—digging deeper, the Spurs' lone 2014 All-Star showed little evidence of a decline.
His playing time took an expected hit, and his changing role within the offense—spurred on by the rapid development of Kawhi Leonard as both a scorer and a playmaker—had a noticeable effect on Parker's numbers.
Even so, his shooting efficiency remained top-notch, hovering around the 50 percent mark throughout the season. His poise, leadership and overall ability to drive his team to success were unchanged, and his stats remained admirable given the circumstances.
But Parker, though the linchpin of the team's backcourt, hardly ran a one-man show. In fact, given his preseason expectations, Parker wasn't even San Antonio's showstopper at the point guard position. That honor belongs to Patty Mills, the team's resident towel waver-turned-bench spark, whose contributions proved essential from start to finish.
Though he isn't quite the player Parker is, he shattered expectations from day one. After serving the previous year as a bench bookend, Mills entered camp slimmer, the first of many improvements that surrounded his 2013-14 campaign.
He became one of the team's most reliable three-point shooters and a leader in the second unit from the season's start to his championship-clinching Game 5 performance, in which he contributed 17 points, including 14 in the third quarter.
When tasked with a heavier workload midseason due to a Parker injury, Mills responded with the strongest month of his career, establishing himself not only as a capable reserve but also as an individual capable of carrying a team in the near future.
His breakout alone is worthy of endless praise, but given the continued excellence of Parker and the increased development of fourth-year Cory Joseph, the Spurs deserve the highest of honors when it comes to the point guard position throughout their championship season.
2013-14 Point Guard Grade for San Antonio: A
The 2014 offseason was filled with highs and lows for the San Antonio Spurs, and a fair share of both revolve around Mills.
After his impressive campaign, Mills—an unrestricted free agent—entered the summer with a handful of options. Numerous teams with greater needs for his services had the money available to outbid San Antonio, and there was chatter within NBA circles regarding the young man's potential as a starter.
Fortunately, Mills ended up re-signing in San Antonio. However, the reunion is due in no small part to a shoulder injury that cost Mills both a few million dollars and the opportunity to explore a future as a starter elsewhere.
The injury will keep him sidelined for a projected six months, heartbreaking news for both Mills and the Spurs, who became reliant on his services off the bench.
Beyond Mills, San Antonio offered a partially guaranteed contract to undrafted point guard Bryce Cotton, who will compete in training camp for a two-year contract after an impressive Summer League outing with the Spurs.
At 5'11'', Cotton is hardly an imposing threat. However, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in talent. His success in college led to unanimous inclusion on the All-Big East First Team.
A talented scorer, he'll have the opportunity to translate his collegiate success into a professional setting as he attempts to secure a roster spot for the upcoming season.
Even with Mills sidelined, the 2014-15 NBA season won't be too different for the San Antonio point guard crew. Parker will return to lead the team, though he'll likely see his stats and playing time diminish, as coach Gregg Popovich conserves the health and energy of his veterans.
Additionally, an increased focus on Leonard should take a load off Parker's shoulders as the small forward looks to build upon his Finals MVP-worthy playoff campaign.
Still, Parker will serve as the team's offensive catalyst and a likely contender for the All-Star Game.
Backing him up will be Joseph, who will assume the lead reserve duties as Mills recovers. Joseph has manned the main backup role before and has done so well. He's the team's best defensive option at the 1, and his confidence running the floor allows for seamless transitions whenever Parker needs to catch a break.
Joseph, though still raw, has been improving annually, and many people, including Bleacher Report's David Kenyon, are confident that Mills' absence won't prove too hard for a Spurs team knee-deep at the point guard position:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has adapted his schemes to match his team's collective strengths; he only needs to tweak it for Joseph.
San Antonio should not skip a beat because the efficiency of the backup point guards was so similar, both offensively and defensively.
After all, Pop captains a plug-and-play operation, inserting the next man up and getting results. Besides, the show must go on, and the franchise will undoubtedly survive an unfortunate injury to a significant piece.
And of course, once Mills returns, look for him to pick up right where he left off. Joseph—who has shined in the past when given the opportunity—may steal a few minutes should he take advantage of his upcoming increased role, though the big picture—as it relates to the Spurs' collection of point guards—should look similar to 2013-14.
After a season in which it sported one of the greatest cohorts of floor leaders, San Antonio will look for a repeat, relying on a full recovery from Mills, consistent improvements from Joseph and perennial excellence from Parker.
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