May 7, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) dribbles up court during the first half of game four in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
So this is probably a little late, but SpursfanSteve and I are going to run through the Spurs roster and hand out grades for the 2011/2012 regular season and post season for each player. We'll group them by position and grade on a scale of A to F. Feel free to add your two cents, but please don't throw things.
We'll start with the Point Guard spot. Coming into the year a lot was expected out of Tony Parker, and there was great hope that T.J. Ford might finally be that solid back up PG. The Spurs also drafted Cory Joseph to see if the former Longhorn could help bolster the backup ball-handling position, rather than relying on combo guards to carry the load when Parker is not on the floor.
Editor note: This is the first post in what will be an ongoing series throughout the summer.
Here's how we grade out the Point Guards:
Regular Season Grade: A
Parker was just really good. All year he lead the team in scoring and assists and was an All-Star for the 4th time. He averaged 18.3 ppg and 7.7 apg. He established himself as an elite Point Guard in the NBA and proved that he could dish the ball as well as fill up the bucket. Parker to me has got to be a top 3-4 PG in the NBA, and anybody who disagrees hasn't been watching him. The Wee Frenchman has raised his game, and the Spurs are getting paid off for their faith in him.
Playoff Grade: A-
The playoffs were odd for Parker this year. With the Spurs dominating the first two rounds, his numbers could have been much better. His scoring went up (20.3 ppg), but his assists went down (6.3 apg). Parker continued to play very well for the most part, but I think he was to inconsistent in the Thunder series and that hurt the Spurs chances to win. Parker did have a monster Game 6 to try to keep the Spurs alive, scoring 29 points with 12 dimes, 2 steals, 3 rebounds and only 1 turnover, but his Game 4 performance was really bad (12 points, 4 assists on 5-15 shooting). Overall Parker was very good in the playoffs, but I know that he can improve.
SfS: Parker was arguably the best (and most consistent) point guard in the league last year, and was clearly one of the top three. We already knew he could carry a team to the playoffs, and while it was easier for him to do that this year than when he's had to do it previously, he met or exceeded all realistic expectations.
Regular Season: A solid A.
Parker did well throughout the first two rounds, but struggled against the length of Thabo Sefalosha. That said, his performance dropped only from elite to slightly above average.
Playoffs: Two series at an A/A+, one series at a B-, let's call the average an A.
Regular Season Grade: B-
I feel bad for Gary Neal, I really do. Last season when Ford went down and then out, Neal was asked to do something that's not his strong suit. He did it reasonably well. I only put Neal under PGs because of how much he played there this year, I think the Nail Gun is much better suited for playing the 2 and coming off screens for open jump shots. Neal plays hard and tries his best, but I think it would behoove the Spurs to put him back at his natural position.
Playoff Grade: C-
Gary's shooting percentages all went up in the playoffs, but all of his other numbers where down. He scored, assisted and rebounded less. My main problem with Neal was his defense. This was particularly bad against the quick play of OKC - Neal just couldn't keep up. Neal was in the bad spot of having to make up for Danny Green's disappearance and was really only one of two role players that Pop showed any faith in. To Neal's credit, he tried hard, but really could never get it going against the Thunder. When Neal is used properly, I think he's a good fit for this team. We all know he's limited, but that doesn't mean he can't contribute.
SfS: Gary Neal is not a point guard. He's J.R. Smith. He can dribble well enough to get his own shot, and he can score. Occasionally, he makes a pass that you wouldn't expect from him. As a creator and initiator of the offense, though, to me his play is inadequate. His struggles with full court pressure became obvious in the playoffs, and his inability to get the offense started early in the clock threw off the teams rhythm.
Regular Season: C+
Regular Season Grade: Incomplete
T.J. Ford was looking like he might actually be the backup PG the Spurs have been missing since the days of Speedy Claxton. However, it wasn't to be when Ford retired mid-season, due to an on going neck injury that threatened to end his life. I thought Ford would have been a great floor general for our second unit and I was sad, both for his sake and ours, to see him have to hang it up. Who knows what might have been.
SfS: I was probably the most excited out of anyone for the TJ Ford signing. I thought he was a perfect fit, especially in a shortened season, to lead the backup unit and give Tony nights off if necessary. I think he showed that in the few games he played, I was right. While I doubt his play alone would have gotten us past the Thunder, make no mistake about it, it would have helped. And the passing- when you talk about "court vision" TJ Ford should be one of the guards that comes to mind.
Regular Season Grade: Incomplete
It's shocking to me that Joseph actually played in 29 games for the Spurs this year. Of course he didn't do anything in any of those games that I can remember, so I'm going with "incomplete" on his grade. I have no idea if anything will ever come of Joseph, but he is a Tea-Sipper so there's always that.
Regular Season Grade: Incomplete
Patrick Mills is a poor man's Tony Parker. Sorta. He can score and stuff the stat sheet, but he's not your prototypical PG. He only played in 16 regular season games and barely saw the floor in the playoffs. He looked good when he was the main scorer, but I'm not fully sold on his ability to run the point. I'll be interested to see how he does with Nando DeColo and a running mate with the 2nd unit.
SfS: Patty didn't get enough time, but he did play enough that I'm convinced he should be the primary backup point. He's a more confident ball handler, a slightly better passer, and just as good a shooter and scorer as Gary Neal. Ultimately, though, he didn't get enough time to earn a grade. Hopefully this season is different.