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Is Tony Parker's excellent recent play sustainable?

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In the latest edition of In the Bonus, the PtR staff discusses Parker's excellent recent play, the win streak, possible playoff match ups, who should win MVP and which team we are rooting for to win the lottery.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

1 - Tony Parker has looked better recently, which suggests he might be over his hamstring injury. Is the level he's showed lately sustainable?

Michael Erler: He has his full burst back, he's as quick as I've seen him in a couple years right now, dribbling through multiple people with ease. He's found fourth and fifth gear again no question. I don't see why it wouldn't be sustainable since he's been in first or second gear most of the season and there aren't too many long road trips or back-to-backs the rest of the way. The schedule sets up well for him and everyone else.

Bruno Passos: As long as the minutes are managed, I don't see why he can't keep it up. He's still not the consistent off-the-ball, curling-around-screens threat that we've seen in the past, but the level he's been playing at and the impact it has on the team's attack should be sustainable.

Jesus Gomez: I don't think 20.8 points in 53 percent from the floor, like Parker has shot in the past five games, is sustainable, no. And I'm not even sure I'd want him to look for his shot as much as he has been doing it lately going forward, despite the results. But he definitely seems healthy and back to being an elite offensive player, which is nice.

Kyle Carpenter: I believe so. But I don't know for exactly how long. He is currently 12th among active NBA players in minutes played (figuring in his massive 7,000 playoff minutes). Even though he is only 32, he has played the minutes of a 38 year old. I imagine he can provide elite dribble-penetration for at least this year and next, but each injury will be harder to recover from.

J.R. Wilco: As long as Tony is healthy this season, I expect him to play well, although perhaps not as well as he's been playing recently because he's been absolutely out of his mind. But he still has all the tools and the last few games have silenced the people wondering whether he's still capable of being the player he's been for the last ten plus years.

2 - The Spurs have taken advantage of the schedule to get their streak going. Has any of their wins been impressive to you? Which one?

Erler: They've done certain things impressively in each game but tailed off in other areas in each game. Just looking at the four home games, each one has gotten progressively more difficult, as the quality of opponents has risen gradually, like a video game with different levels. I guess Toronto impressed me the most because they were at full strength and the Spurs got out to a 26-point lead on them even without Ginobili, but the Raptors have been slumping badly. I think more than any individual game I'd just say that the play of the starting five as a group has been very impressive. The bench is a different story.

Passos: None in a vacuum. It's more the steady, strong play throughout, which is really what I was hoping for -- even if they were against struggling teams.

Gomez: I'm not impressed by any of the wins. I'm impressed by the team's focus in making the most of the situation after dropping games to the Jazz and the Pistons since the new year. I think there's nothing wrong with taking advantage of the schedule to get ready for the big games and the Spurs are doing just that.

Carpenter: The Raptors are clearly the best team out of the bunch, but they have been trending the wrong way for a while now. If the Spurs hadn't taken their foot so completely off the gas that it required 39 minutes from Kawhi, 37 for Parker, and 36 from Duncan to finish, that would be the winner. If I have to pick one of the other 5, I'd go with the Suns. Even without Goran Dragic, they were coming off of a win over the Thunder. It was also the first time the Spurs had looked dominant in weeks. I think it reminded them that they are the champs.

Wilco: While I've not been particularly impressed, I have to admit that I'm impressed whenever they play defense to get their offense going, and whenever their ball movement and decision making makes the opposing defense scramble just to stay in front of their man. What it comes down to is that for the first time all season, we see large stretches of the game where everyone on the offense is on the same page, making the same read, and operating with that special Spurs Hive Mind that's just so much fun to watch. And that's always impressive to watch in action.

3 - The Spurs have a chance to move up in the standings if they can continue to win the easy games. What team that is above them would you pick as a first round opponent?

Erler: I guess if I had to pick one I'd go with the Blazers just because they seem the most vulnerable without Wes Matthews. The Clippers and Rockets will both likely be at full strength by the time the playoffs start.

Passos: I'd take the Blazers, happily, now that Matthews is out. It's unfortunate for them, but I think whoever gets them and Dallas in the first round are the closest thing to winners in the Western Conference white elephant.

Gomez: It's not reasonable at all but I want the Rockets. The Spurs exorcised their demons in the last championship run but they didn't have to face the team that had swept the regular season series against them. Beating the Rockets would also prepare the Spurs to deal with the Warriors and I think that would be helpful if the Spurs hope to repeat.

Carpenter: It's obviously the Mavs, but the Spurs would need to be the #1 or #2 seed. So realistically, I'll go with the Rockets. They are a talented team, but I have my reasons:
  • Pop and Kevin McHale are both "coaches" in the same way that a member of the Russian Ballet and your 4-year old niece are both ballerinas.
  • James Harden leads the league with 13.0 Win Shares...the next Rocket has 8.3 less. That's a bigger disparity than Anthony Davis has with the next guy on the Pelicans! And I had forgotten his #2 was even on the team (Asik)! If the Spurs shut him down, or he picks up even a minor injury, the Rockets are done.
  • I live in Houston.
Wilco: Aside from not looking forward to playing Golden State in the first round (or OKC at all) I think the Spurs need to be ready to play any of the Western playoff teams at any point of the post season. The way the Spurs are playing right now, it isn't hard to imagine them getting past the rest of those teams.

4 - Westbrook, Curry, Davis, Harden, James. Who is the MVP?

Erler: They all have good cases but I'll go with Curry, the best player on the best team. He's made strides defensively despite his size and he creates more of the team's overall offense than he gets credit for.

Passos: LeBron doesn't make my list since whatever success he sees this season wouldn't have happened without the January reshuffling of his team's roster. I think I'd understand either Curry or Harden winning it, and the Beard is obviously carrying the heavier load of the two. If the Rockets finish in the top three in the West, I think he should get it. If not and the Warriors win out the West by a substantial margin, I'd give it to Steph.

Gomez: I change my mind every day. I thought Harden should be it because he has been durable and has carried his team. Watching Westbrook play it's hard to deny that he's been the more impactful player when healthy. Curry is just ridiculous. My love for Anthony Davis is no secret. But I'll go with LeBron. His numbers are as impressive as the others' and I still think he's the best player in the league.

Carpenter: Russ is putting up NBA2K numbers (including usage rate), and High Brow is my favorite non-Spur and the #1 pick in the "steal one player from another team draft," but for me this is Harden vs. Steph Curry. I still lean Curry, though Harden playing remotely passable defense this year makes it tough. Curry is the better ball handler, better shooter, better defender, and is the best player on the best team in the league. Harden has almost 150 more free throws than anyone else and has the faaaaar superior facial hair, fwiw.

Wilco: I've got to go with Curry. Sure everybody in the conversation has been impressive, but the Cavs have only looked good lately, Westbrook has missed a good stretch of the season, and Harden's game is still too difficult for me to cheer for. But Curry's been the best player on the best team all year long. That's not always my definition of the MVP, but it works this year.

5 - The Spurs have benefited from winning the lottery twice. Which team in the bottom five (LAL, NYK, MIN, PHI, SAC) would you like to see win it this year?

Erler: I don't really have a preference but seeing as the top two prospects are bigs, it doesn't make much sense to me for the Kings or Sixers to win it. I guess I'd go with Wolves one, Knicks two, and then the Sixers can get Mudiay with the third pick.

Passos: Anyone but the Sixers, for obvious reasons. I wouldn't mind seeing some excitement return to New York City, with the Knicks winning it, but I worry they'd just mortgage their future and trade it away in the interest of winning now.

Gomez: Minnesota and it's not even close. I think Towns would be perfect there. Okafor could be good too. They wouldn't be forced to produce early on since there are veterans in place and could form a fantastic core with Rubio and Wiggins. Also, Wolves fans deserve to have something good happen to them after the dark ages.

Carpenter: Oooh, this one is fun. I enjoy their misery, so immediately rule the Lakers and Knicks out. Suffer on. I don't hate the 76ers, but if they successfully "Shill for Jahlil" after "try not to succeed for Embiid" AND have Nerlens Noel? That's just an embarrassment of riches for an embarrassment of a franchise. Though I'll always love the Kings from those halcyon 2000s days (and even some of the current Boogie ones), I'm going with Minnesota. I've secretly always wished for them to be good since Kevin Garnett left. I wanted them to achieve so much in spite of him. With Rubio, Wiggins, and the eternally-awesome Pekovic, they become a no-brainer League Pass Top 5 team. Even with the pick, they won't be a contender in time before Garnett retires, which is a nice bonus.

Wilco: Gotta get LA and the Big Apple out of that conversation first of all. Then Minnesota already has so many young and promising players. Seems like Philadelphia's been tanking since the 1990's, so I don't want it going to them. So I guess that leaves Sacremento ... huh, I can't believe I want the Kings to win the lottery. Are you sure I have to choose one of these five?