For the first time in his 15-year career, Parker was borderline useless when it mattered the most. He managed a meager 10.9 points per game on 36.3 percent shooting, dished just 3.6 assists and misfired on all nine attempts from long distance.
When combined with Kawhi Leonard's emergence, Parker's struggles reinforced that San Antonio's future is changing right now. Consequently, the veteran must adjust to a new place in the offense, leaving his role as a featured player for more of a complementary spot.
For the transition to be as seamless as possible, the Spurs need Parker to work on a couple of important parts of his game during the offseason. And for any championship aspirations to be legitimate hopes, San Antonio must hope Parker's history doesn't repeat itself—again.
Knock Down Jumpers in the Pick-and-Roll
Every team knows Parker is most effective at the rim, but for much of his career, defenders were hard-pressed to keep the shifty guard out of the lane.
Now 33 years old, he's clearly lost a few steps, which has occasionally affected Parker's ability to create opportunities near the basket. Though not necessarily at a rampant rate, that regression will only continue. So, he needs to adjust.
Opponents have stopped challenging Parker when he slides by a screen in San Antonio's pick-and-roll attack, instead dropping under and daring Parker to shoot a mid-range jumper.
Tony Parker's release on his jumper is inconsistent enough that they will lose if they go to it too often.5/3/2015, 1:11:14 AM
The Clippers followed that game plan and succeeded tremendously. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Parker connected on a putrid 22.7 percent of his attempts from 16 feet or farther.
Long story short, Parker had better be prepared to hoist those shots next season, especially if an injury slows the veteran in any way. His shooting form could certainly use some fine-tuning, considering Parker finishes long-range shots with his right hand pointing 90 degrees to the right.
Granted, it's not like Parker is no longer effective in the pick-and-roll. Per NBA.com, he tallied the 12th-most points as a PNR ball-handler.
But because opponents will keep clogging the paint and forcing Parker to take mid-range looks, the point guard needs to develop a steady shooting hand.
Create Opportunities Outside of the Pick-and-Roll
As Parker slowly loses his dangerous slashing ability in the Spurs' go-to offensive set—again, this isn't a death sentence for him; Parker is just getting older—he cannot afford to force the offense.
Off-ball movement hasn't been a part of Parker's responsibilities lately, but Leonard's steady rise toward becoming the team's No. 1 scoring option should change that.
Like longtime teammate Tim Duncan, Parker possesses a tremendous amount of basketball knowledge, of which court vision is a key part. He sees open spots on the floor well before the offense actually attacks that area.
But now, Parker must search for those vacant locations without the ball and open space for Leonard to operate. As noted by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, Parker acknowledged the impending changes, saying:
I'll try to do my best to stay aggressive and be involved. But Kawhi's going to be the man. He's playing great and sometimes I'll have nights like this where I have the ball. But most of the time it's going to be Kawhi. … So I'll play off him, like all those years I did with Timmy. I'll just stand in the corner and just wait for Timmy to do his thing. We always did a great job sharing and wait our turn. It will be no different with me.
For the Spurs' sake, hopefully Parker doesn't actually just "stand in the corner," since the once-elite scorer can increase his value by adding to his passing arsenal.
Parker's usage rate—the percentage of offensive plays he's truly involved in—has steadily dipped, so he must take advantage of a decreased number of touches by working with teammates, not just off of them.
Stay Healthy and Remain Productive Down the Stretch
Fancy analysis might have been the expectation here, but quite simply, the Spurs need Parker to be Parker during the playoffs.
He showed flashes of his classic form against the Clippers, but deadly stutter-steps displayed in the following clip were rarely seen.
J.R. Wilco @jollyrogerwilco
Tony Parker with a quick move to the basket for two. #Spurs https://t.co/lcdR1etYtW4/26/2015, 7:52:43 PM
Next year, San Antonio needs Parker playing at a level where he's capable of sending defenders in the wrong direction, even if only for a moment. Those hesitations are what have allowed Parker to be such a tough matchup in the past.
Though he missed a not-terrible 14 games last season, the point guard never returned to a consistent, productive form following a hamstring injury sustained in December.
Nevertheless, Parker is planning to join Team France in its pursuit of the Eurobasket 2015 crown. He sat out of the FIBA World Championships last year but will join Spurs teammate Boris Diaw during the tournament that takes place in September.
So, Parker seems likely to be either exhausted at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign or ready to tear up the league. But no matter his form when the regular season arrives, what's most important for San Antonio is Parker survives the extra work.
He's been unavailable for at least 14 outings during each of the last three years, and there's no evidence to suggest Parker won't pull this or tweak that—perhaps multiple times. He's Nos. 12 and 94 in career playoff and regular-season minutes, respectively, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Parker is a well-traveled player, and injuries are certain to come along with a high odometer.
The Spurs need Parker to remain consistently productive in a new role, but he can only accomplish that by staying healthy and on the floor.
Unless otherwise noted, stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of June 4.