When Tony Parker arrived into the NBA as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, his credentials as a "true point guard" were always in question.
He was mainly known for his speed and quickness to the basket (along with what's now his trademark tear drop as his main weapon), but wasn't known for his passing up until the Spurs adapted a fast paced offense that offers more open looks. While Parker has been a top tier point guard in the league, that question still seemed to shadow him throughout his career. Now that he's considered a top point guard, there's a new question that's being asked of Parker, and that's if he can "compete with the new breed" of point guards in the league?
The "new breed" being discussed is the more athletic point guards in the league in this new era of basketball than the traditional distributor of long ago. There's a huge difference from the current point guards in the league to the ones that we still remember in their prime not too long ago.
The Jason Kidds and Steve Nashes of yesteryear are said to be a dying breed to the new look point guards in Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. These superstar point guards tend to have a more athletic game in the molding of a shooting guard who are looking for highlight reel material over setting up an offense and looking for a high percentage shot.
Parker has been known to have some athleticism, but rarely shows it on an every day basis (maybe something he learned from Tim Duncan?). Parker hasn't been flashy, but you can probably credit that to the system he plays in than the actual player. Even though the Spurs play at a higher tempo than before, they're still looking to get a high percentage shot as quickly as possible instead of throwing up a shot in 7 seconds or less.
The question is still being asked, and that's if Tony Parker can keep up with the flashy point guards of the league. At 31 years old, Parker is averaging an impressive 17.6 ppg and 6.3 apg this season. He's shooting 51 percent from the field and an impressive 55 percent from inside eight feet from the basket. His career high 44 percent 3FG shooting this season is also a huge mark for him while he's expanding his game at this point of his career. Those statistics are impressive to say the least, but it doesn't answer the question if Parker can keep up with the athletic flashy point guards since it's not a matter of stats.
The question if he can keep up should actually come from Parker's counterparts instead of Parker himself. This breed of athletic point guards may be fun to watch, but they're showing that they may not be able to keep up with the veteran Parker for now.
Westbrook has been hampered by injuries that have stalled his progress this season. He came off a knee injury after a collision with Patrick Beverly of the Houston Rockets during the playoffs last season and is currently out until after the All-Star break this season with another surgery.
Derrick Rose is another casualty of knee injuries this season that has possibly ended the year for him while only playing 10 games this season. Rajon Rondo is another point guard who's also been discussed in the top tier of players for his position and has an athletic game with his long arms and speed who hasn't played this season yet with an ACL injury that occurred last season.
This isn't to say Parker has not found himself with an injury bug or two during his career in the silver and black, but very rarely has that kept him out of action as long as his opposition in the discussion. He found himself with a light hamstring strain during the NBA Finals last season, but still saw him put up an impressive 15.7ppg and 6.4apg in a seven game series against the Miami Heat. That series also saw LeBron James taking his turn on guarding Parker for long periods.
From a coaching standpoint, Parker's game is far more superior than those mentioned because it's more versatile. Parker's shooting touch makes him equally as dangerous as his quick step to the basket or his tear drop. There's no one way of guarding him like the aforementioned point guards as we've seen throughout the postseason when the defenses tend to clamp down. Although teams want Parker to shoot mid-range jumpers, that's only because he's equally as dangerous as driving to the basket or throwing up a tear drop a few feet away. The flashy points don't have that luxury and have found themselves coming up short in the postseason for that very reason. They may be the best players on their team, but they also become a huge liability with their one dimensional flashy game close to the basket when a center or power forward is waiting for them to contest a dunk.
Parker's injuries throughout his career and his ability to keep playing through them is a testament to how much his game is under appreciated and how it makes it more valuable than the flashy point guards we see now in the NBA. His game is well rounded enough to conserve his body for the majority of the season while still keeping the attention of the defense.
Tony Parker's "unflashy" game is what has the younger point guards who are looking for Top Ten plays on the outside looking in the posteason. At this point in the season with the injuries stacking up against the athletic one guards, the question might be "Can the new breed keep up with Tony Parker?" instead.