Welcome to the 2017-18 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of all 15 Spurs from this season (excluding two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello) and looking towards the future. If you’ve missed any you can click here to catch up.
Before we get started: yes, it is entirely a coincidence that Parker’s review is coming out on his birthday. It would have been up yesterday but time didn’t permit me to get it done until today. Regardless, Happy Birthday, TP! With that out of the way:
2017-18 stats: 7.7 points, 3.5 assists, 1.6 rebounds
2017-18 salary: $15.45 million
Contract: unrestricted free agent
The day was May 3, 2017, and the Spurs were recovering nicely from a Game 1 loss to the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs. Out of nowhere, their starting point guard of 16 years, who was having a resurgent postseason run, dropped to the floor in agony. He would be carried off with what was diagnosed as a torn quadriceps that required surgery. It was one of the scariest injuries Spurs fans had witnessed, and there was no telling if this was the end of the line for their greatest point guard of all time.
But Parker was determined that this wouldn’t be it. He returned surprisingly early in Game 20 of the next season, but it still marked the first time since 2001 that someone other than himself opened a season at point guard for the Spurs, and even after his return he would only hold on to the job for 21 games before Gregg Popovich decided it was time to make the change.
He accepted Pop’s decision graciously and did all he could to mentor Dejounte Murray for the future. By his own admission Parker had hit the recovery wall as his performance grew stagnant, and that would remain the case as he came off the bench for the rest of the season.
He still had some vintage moments, but it was still a career-low season across the board for him (games played, minutes, points, assists, field goal attempts, and so on — although when looking at his per 36 minutes stats he was still better than his rookie season.) His main advantage had always been his burst of speed to get by defenders, and with that no longer a weapon at his disposal he had to rely more on his mid-range game to contribute.
His numbers between 10 ft and the arc were average for his career (better than his early seasons but not as good as his All-Star years), but that wasn’t enough for him to overcome his inability to get to the rim at times. Parker’s days as the Spurs’ starting point guard have likely come to an end, so where does he go from here?
As mentioned last week, Parker’s ultimate goal is to play for 20 seasons, and he still has three more to go. He would prefer to do that with the Spurs, but he is open to change if that’s what it takes. The question now is what will he require to stay with the Spurs, and is it anything more than their just desire to have him?
Even if his career-low season can be mostly attributed to recovering form his injury (it can take up to a year to feel 100% after tearing a quad) and a comeback of any sort is in order for next season, he seems to understand that he is no longer a starting-calibur point guard, at least on a playoff team. Surely he is also knows a large drop in pay is in order, maybe even as low as the veteran’s minimum.
Perhaps his biggest concern is dropping out of the main rotation all together (very possible if Patty Mills returns to a bench role next season) and feeling unneeded, even if his knowledge and mentor-ship is invaluable to the Spurs. Knowing the Spurs and their level of loyalty, an offer will likely be on the table for him, maybe even for more than the minimum. The question is if it will be enough to keep prying eyes away since Parker will likely receive other offers (and possibly more opportunity) from teams looking for a veteran presence with championships and a Hall of Fame resume.
Only time will tell if the Spurs’ GOAT point guard has played his last game in silver and black. Hopefully not, because as always, Tony must dominate Fisher. (I had to, just in case there are no more chances...)
March 5 vs. Grizzlies: 23 points, 4 assists, 10-14 FG
Final Grade: C-
Up next: Bryn Forbes