San Antonio Spurs: 10 Reasons Tony Parker Is the Most Underrated PG in the NBA
When the roster for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game was finalized, there was not as much debate about who was on the list as who wasn't. One name some journalists felt was missing was San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker.
Already a three-time All Star in a conference packed with talent, it wasn't much of a surprise he was left out, and those voted in ahead of him were definitely worthy.
However, Parker's name has become somewhat lost over the last couple of years despite his major role in leading the Spurs on a tear through the regular season.
Here are 10 reasons why Tony Parker is the most underrated point guard in a league loaded with talent.
10. Unappreciated Speed
It is no mystery that Parker is one of the quickest players in the league. He is nearly impossible to catch on the fast break and there are very few, if any, point guards in the league who can stay in front of him on defense.
Many may look at his scoring numbers and just assume he gets several layups to boost his average, but that's not by sheer coincidence or luck. His uncanny ability to speed past the opposing defense is the key to his success.
9. Ability To Create His Own Shot
Another underrated aspect of Parker's scoring is his ability to finish at the rim and create his own shot.
Whether he's driving through the lane, pump faking or shooting one of his signature floaters, he doesn't need much assistance to get points on the board compared to many others.
Even though he's fourth in the league in scoring among point guards with 17.6 points per game, he's not seen as the biggest threat on his team and often gets overlooked compared to other stars like Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
8. Passing Ability
Parker is often seen as a score-first point guard. His middle-of-the-pack assist average of 6.7 per game (14th among point guards) makes his passing ability one of the more underrated parts of his game.
His ability to find the open man is almost second to none. Whether it's driving and passing out to the perimeter or lobbing the ball to the post, Parker almost always gets the ball into the right hands.
Also, the Spurs try to get everyone involved in every play, meaning Parker often starts the play more than finishes it. If assisting assists were a stat, he would be towards the top of the league.
7. Improved Outside Shooting
Defenders have so many things to worry about when the Spurs are on offense that they tend to forget Parker can do more than just drive to the basket.
He is often left alone on the perimeter, and his improvement from long range has made other teams pay.
He has always been able to hit the midrange jumper, but so far he is averaging 36.6 percent from beyond the arc this season, second only to the '06-'07 season (39.5 percent) and already matching the number of makes (15).
While he's not the best outside shooter at his position, he shoots it well enough to either keep the defense honest to open up the lane, or he makes them regret leaving him wide open.
6. Underrated Defense
Considering rebounds and blocks are not their top priorities, the fact that Parker's abilities on defense are underrated could apply to most points guards in the league .
However, Parker's ability to keep his counterparts at bay is one of the more under-appreciated aspects of his game. He plays the passing lanes well and has a knack for getting steals at the top of the key leading to fastbreak layups.
There are several reasons opposing point guards have trouble getting their team going against the Spurs, and Parker is one of them.
5. Not The Main Focal Point
Parker is not seen as the main focal point on his team, even if he should be at times. Opponents tend to worry more about Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, drawing attention away from him.
Despite being the second leading scorer and leader in minutes and assists on the league-leading Spurs, Parker doesn't stand out like other All-Star point guards do.
When Parker first arrived in the league as an 18-year-old in 2001, many thought he would struggle in Coach Gregg Popovich's disciplined system, and he did.
While he showed flashes of brilliance at times, Parker was inconsistent his first few years and was often a victim of Pop's rage. He played a relatively minor role in the Spurs' 2003 Championship, particularly the title-clinching Game 6.
However, he stuck with it and quietly became the rock that made his team roll, eventually winning the Finals MVP Award in 2007. He may not be the most vocal leader in the league, but he knows how to lead his team to victory.
3. One Down Season
After having his best statistical season in 2009 that included career highs of 22 points and 6.9 assists per game, many felt Parker had passed his prime after an injury riddled 2010 season.
His stats dropped, he played in only 56 games, and he temporarily lost his starting job to his backup: an up-and-coming George Hill.
Despite resurging back to his normal self after a relaxing, action-free summer, some critics still feel he is no longer capable of playing at the level he did a few years ago. So far, he's proving them wrong.
2. Trade Rumors
After a tough season and the rise of Hill, Parker fell victim to all the trade and free agent rumors last summer, especially ones claiming Amar'e Stoudamire and his desire for him to play in New York.
It wasn't something he hadn't seen before. He was part of numerous rumors back in 2003 that the Spurs would sign Jason Kidd in his place.
Of course Parker never had such desires, and his one true wish was granted when he signed a four-year extension with the Spurs at the beginning of the season.
Now that he is out of the trade talk and no longer a key free agent in the upcoming offseason, his name has fallen off the media page that is now focused on other star point guards like Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams.
1. He's a Spur
If there is one thing that makes Tony Parker more underrated than anything else, it's the fact that he plays for the San Antonio Spurs.
Already an underrated team full of underrated stars and role players, Parker fits right in with the rest of them. With the Spurs' team-first approach and small-market atmosphere, many of the star players are overlooked by those outside the organization.
In the end, Parker doesn't care what others think. Yes, he was disappointed about not making the All-Star team this year, but he has only used it as motivation to keep playing well and to prove his doubters wrong.
All he cares about is helping lead his team to another championship and, if history repeats itself, that will surely push him back into the spotlight, even if it is just for one night.