Who’s Better: Chris Paul or Tony Parker?

09.02.09 9 years ago 114 Comments

We argue. You decide…

CHRIS PAUL (by Ben York)
On both sides, the argument for who is better cannot be made by simply comparing stats. On the contrary, it goes much deeper than that.

Let me start by saying that you really couldn’t go wrong with either of these players on your team. Even though I’m arguing for Chris Paul, if I had to pick which player I’d rather have in the playoffs, I would have absolutely zero hesitation in picking Tony Parker. He’s proven to be so damn good, and clutch, for the Spurs in the post-season it’s hard to make a fair comparison to Paul who has only been in the playoffs twice.

However, we’re not judging these players based on their play in the post-season, we’re analyzing who is better now.

I could sit here and rattle off some of Paul’s phenomenal stat lines that he consistently puts up, but Austin could do the same thing with Tony Parker. Thus, the real disparity between these two players is that Chris Paul is the Hornets while Tony Parker enhances the Spurs — and there is a big difference between being a team and enhancing a team.

I typically hate this analogy, but I feel it’s pertinent in this comparison: Imagine if you took both Parker and Paul away from the Spurs and Hornets, how much worse would each team be? While the Spurs success doesn’t solely rely on Tony Parker, the success of the Hornets undeniably rests with Chris Paul. If Paul doesn’t get his teammates involved, score 25 a night, or literally will the team to victory, then New Orleans doesn’t have a prayer in the world to win. Paul is quite simply the glue that holds the Hornets together, and if he isn’t on the court, the Hornets are (at best) a mediocre team.

For example, last season Chris Paul averaged about 23 ppg and 11 assists per game. The Hornets, as a team, score about 95 points per game. Consequently, Paul’s 23 points and 11 assists (which lead to between 20-30 points) legitimately account for half of the Hornets production as a team in virtually every game they play. How ridiculous/amazing is that? In addition, the Hornets were without Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, and David West for a good portion of last season, which only makes Paul’s stat line that much more remarkable.

Tony Parker, on the other hand, adds to the already great Spurs team. Rather, to put it another way, he’s not looked at like Chris Paul is to account for half of the Spurs points on a nightly basis. Parker is a fantastic player, there isn’t any doubt about that, but his role is to facilitate Gregg Popovich‘s system — not be the system.

Parker is a fantastic point guard. However, he doesn’t consistently make the players around him better regardless of the situation or who is on the court with him. Chris Paul does, and that’s why he is the better player.

TONY PARKER (by Austin Burton)
As much as I’ve been a blaring advocate for Tony Parker in recent years, I’d always ranked him behind Chris Paul in the “Best Point Guard on the Planet” race. That changed during this year’s playoffs.

On the surface, there wasn’t much difference in CP and TP’s brief postseasons. Both of their teams got knocked out in the first round in series that weren’t really that close. But while Paul was below-average (16.6 ppg, 10.4 apg, 1.6 spg, 41% FG) against Chauncey and the Nuggets, Parker was as dominant as a player could be in a losing effort, dropping 28.6 points, 6.8 assists and 1.2 steals against J-Kidd and the Mavs. And TP wasn’t gunning; he shot 54 percent from the field and matched his regular-season assist numbers despite San Antonio having exactly zero credible scoring threats after Tim Duncan.

When his back was against the wall, Paul sank into a corner. When the Hornets gave up early in the infamous Kobayashi Game, CP gave up with them. On the other hand, Parker responded to bleak circumstances like a predator. Going into the postseason without Manu Ginobili, the Spurs got nothing from Roger Mason, Mike Finley and their other role players. They were pretty much a two-man team, and yet Parker alone put a fright into Dallas. He owned a must-win Game Two, scoring 27 of his 38 points in the first half of a Spurs blowout. Then in a Game Four loss, Parker posted 43 points and four steals. Reminiscent of the ’07 Finals, he was San Antonio’s postseason MVP, even ahead of Duncan. Is CP capable of carrying his team like that against adversity when it matters most? Probably. But until he actually does it, “probably” is all he’s got.

Am I overrating what may simply have been a bad stretch for Paul, and a mere hot streak for Parker? Possibly. Or you could say that in those contrasting playoff performances, we got the short-film version of why TP had three championships and a Finals MVP to his name, while CP is still a conference-finals virgin.

Paul gets the nod over Parker defensively, and while TP’s passing is underrated, he is still a notch below CP in that aspect of the game. Their handle is about equal — Paul’s is just more flashy. But Parker is a much better scorer and shooter; his mid-range J is a vital part of the Spurs’ pick-and-roll, and he’s consistently among the League leaders in field-goal percentage despite being a small guard with seemingly no muscle on him.

I’ve covered this before: Parker has simply beaten everyone lined up across from him (including CP3 in their only playoff matchup), and no point guard over the last two decades has matched TP’s combined level of team and individual success. For me, that alone used to be enough to put Parker ahead of almost every PG in the world. After the ’09 playoffs, he’s advanced to the top of the class, vaulting past the NBA’s teacher’s pet in the process.

Who do you think is better?

Follow Ben York on Twitter: @bjyork
Follow Austin Burton on Twitter: @AustinatDIMEmag
Follow DIME on Twitter: @DIMEMag

“Who’s better?” archives
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8/25 — Baron Davis vs. Mike Bibby
8/21 — Shaquille O’Neal vs. Pau Gasol
8/19 — Andre Iguodala vs. Rudy Gay
8/14 — Ray Allen vs. Michael Redd
8/12 — Steve Nash vs. Jason Kidd
3/3 — David West vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
2/26 — Kevin Durant vs. Danny Granger
2/19 — Paul Millsap vs. David Lee
2/17 — Caron Butler vs. Tayshaun Prince
12/24 — Marcus Camby vs. Andrew Bynum
12/19 — Deron Williams vs. Chauncey Billups
12/17 — Manu Ginobili vs. Tracy McGrady
12/12 — Amare Stoudemire vs. Al Jefferson
12/10 — Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
12/9 — Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo
12/8 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12/5 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12/4 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12/3 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12/2 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

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