In Sports Illustrated's Top 100 NBA Players rankings, Tony Parker came in at No. 15, a drop-off from last year's spot.
Heading into last season, SI ranked Parker as the fourth best player in the league. Of the top five players last year, he is the one who suffered the biggest decline to start the 2014-15 season.
Though Parker was a key part of bringing San Antonio the championship in June, last season did seem like an off year for him. His minutes per game were a career low, he sat out for an extended period of time in February to treat a "variety of maladies" as Gregg Popovich put it, and the breakthrough performances of his teammates seemed to push Parker out of the postseason spotlight.
On that last note, however, it seems to be more of a case Parker not needing to carry as big of a load as previous years than not being able to. With Duncan refusing to age, Kawhi Leonard's MVP performance, Manu Ginobili's redemption and Boris Diaw spreading the floor and breaking down defenses, that was clearly enough for the Spurs to regain the title.
Can Parker have another career year that puts him into the league MVP discussion? It's definitely possible. While Duncan and Ginobili are expected to have more resting time than ever as they enter a year that will be full of questions regarding if it will be their last, Parker is fresh off agreeing to an extension that will keep him with the Spurs through the 2017-18 season. Obviously, the team intends to move into the post-Duncan era with Parker and Leonard leading the way, and next season may be a good opportunity to see what the offense can look like with those two getting the bulk of the shots.
It feels like he's been in the league for ages, yet Parker is just 32 years old. He's clearly in the discussion of top point guards in the league and his summer of rest could indicate an increase in minutes. The team may need him to step up more than ever as the leader on offense, and I expected him to be motivated to take on that task and succeed.