Waking up in the morning and reading that San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker has verbally closed the window on the Spurs’ championship hopes will send you through a range of emotions from betrayal to personal angst.
After your initial emotional impulse subsides, you begin to analyze the content of what he said. Is he the Spurs most trade-able asset? Yes. Is the Spurs’ championship window firmly closed shut? That’s not clear.
Moving forward, the Spurs have some decisions to make. Do they trade Parker who, in my opinion, doesn’t appear all to happy playing the tail end of his prime in San Antonio? Will they be a better team with George Hill taking the reigns at point guard?
This has been the topic of the last two off-seasons and I believe the Spurs interviewing prospective lottery big men the last two years signals they may have been contemplating dealing him.
One objective reality in this process is that numbers don’t lie. How efficient are Tony and George on the court separately with the offense? Which point guard make teammates better all around?
Well, we can look over some advanced metrics to figure this out.
I broke this down by first looking at the bench play as a whole and who worked better with a patchwork lineup of starters and non starters. Hill, Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess were the most offensively efficient bench lineup in the league - a bench lineup is defined by a minimum of three non-starters playing together – ahead of Chicago’s Rose, Brewer, Deng, Gibson and Asik.
They had the highest offensive efficiency in the league at 129.2. A bench lineup with Parker, didn’t crack the top five. This is for multiple reasons.
Popovich likes to play Tony separately from George as when they play together their +/-’s are significantly lower then when they play apart. Both are +3.7 when they play together and Tony moves up to 4.9 when they play apart. George has a huge positive jump when they play apart rising to +5.5. George also becomes a distributor when they play separately with his assist average jumping to 4.5 from 1.9, when they play together. George’s scoring average moves up three points from nine to 12 when they play apart. Tony’s averages remain pretty much the same in either situation except his scoring average jumps three points from 18.4 to 21.1 when George is on the court. When Tony and George play together it’s pretty clear Tony suffocates George’s game.
When Manu and George play together, George’s stats explode. George’s +/- jumps to a elite point guard level of 8.7. His scoring climbs to 15.1 points per game and his field goal percentage is at 51%. Which means he’s cashing in on all those good looks Manu is giving him. Manu’s stats also jump significantly scoring at a 23.7 per game clip when he shares the court with George and 18.4 without him. Every single stat is improved for Manu when George is on the court with him. His three point percentage jumps six points when George is creating shots for him.
When Tony plays with Manu, it’s a bit of a different story. While Tony very much benefits from playing with Manu as his +/- rating is pretty high at 7.6, Manu’s production dips in scoring coming in at 20.1 and +/- falling to 7.6. Manu’s numbers almost across the board are superior when playing with Hill instead of Parker. This pattern also holds true with Gary Neal. Neal is a much more efficient player with Hill creating shots for him. His +/- goes from a negative playing with Parker to a +4.5 playing with Hill.
You can say the same about Tim Duncan, McDyess and Matt Bonner with the +/- disparities. The only wing player who seems to benefit from Tony Parker on the floor is Richard Jefferson and that is because Tony will take the offensive responsibility off his shoulders.
This isn’t taken from a small sample size. They all have played around 1,000 minutes with each other this year so it’s proved itself out through the course of the season. Hill seems to be the better fit in the back court than Parker not to mention plays better with the bench players.
I think the time to trade Parker is now. If he’s not excited about being in San Antonio, if he’s the Spurs most trade-able asset and with every metric pointing to Hill being the point guard that better meshes with the wing players, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot.