Is Tony Parker a franchise player?

01.19.10 9 years ago 38 Comments

Not that Tony Parker is sweating a 2010 All-Star snub — I’m guessing he’d rather spend the winter weekend curled up with Eva Longoria instead of getting booed every time he touches the ball in Spurs-hating Dallas — but TP nonetheless issued a late reminder yesterday that he shouldn’t be forgotten in All-Star talk.

On paper, Parker went against nemesis Chris Paul and gave him 25 points while snapping the Hornets’ seven-game home win streak. In reality, CP and TP rarely guarded each other; but no matter who was in front of him, Parker thrived. He scored 16 in the first half as the Spurs built a sizable lead, then added nine in the fourth quarter as his team withstood a late New Orleans rally.

Parker (16.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 48% FG) isn’t necessarily having a down year — his numbers are right in line with his career averages — but he hasn’t been as explosive as he was last season when he set career-highs in scoring and assists and shot over 50 percent from the floor, either. Couple in that the Spurs (25-15) haven’t been as dominant as some predicted, and TP has gone back to being overlooked in those “Best point guard” arguments: During a recent Hornets/Pacers game, the Indiana broadcast ran a poll asking who is the NBA’s top PG, with Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and CP as the three options. No mention of the guy who has a trophy case all three of them would give a finger for.

But on a night like Monday, when TP is the best player on the floor, we get a look into the future, where Tony Parker is a marquee name and a franchise centerpiece. And where do the Spurs go from there?

Obviously, everything depends on Tim Duncan. Although he’s still putting up 20 points and 10 boards every night, Duncan does turn 34 in April, and the end of the road has to at least be in his vision. Duncan has two more years left on his contract; Parker has one. So when TP becomes a free agent in 2011 — knowing TD could only be in San Antonio for one year after that — would he want to go somewhere else and start fresh (a sign-and-trade to the Clippers for Baron Davis makes sense on multiple levels), or help Duncan go out on top and wait his turn to be The Man in San Antonio?

This might be the new Golden Era of point guards, but so far history shows teams constructed around a point guard don’t win championships. Isiah Thomas pulled it off with Detroit (’89, ’90), but since then, title teams have revolved around big men and wings. You could argue Chauncey Billups was the top player on the ’04 Pistons, but he wasn’t the franchise guy. That team didn’t really have one, and Ben Wallace was the heart and soul. For today’s elite PG’s, the ones who are the focal points of their team find themselves in middle-of-the-pack situations or worse: Deron Williams (Jazz), Derrick Rose (Bulls), Brandon Jennings (Bucks), Chris Paul (Hornets), Tyreke Evans (Kings), and Gilbert Arenas (Wizards) before he found bigger problems to deal with. Nash’s Suns are looking strong this year, but we’ve been down that road before.

Can Tony Parker put up All-Star numbers as the centerpiece of a franchise? Sure. Can a team with Parker as the main guy contend for a ‘chip? As much as I like his game, I’d say no. If Parker is to add another ring to his collection post-Duncan, he’ll have to find another Duncan.

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