Now, I fully understand that this seems like a biased statement, considering that I write for a San Antonio Spurs website—but follow me on this, will you?
One of the big subplots of this Western Conference Finals is the point guard matchup between these two All-Star point guards. Many people believe that if Russell Westbrook had not hurt his knee in last year’s playoffs, it would have been an Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat NBA Finals matchup last year.
But is that really the case? Air Alamo has three reasons why it would not have mattered if Russell Westbrook had played or not.
1. Tony Parker has more control than Russell Westbrook.
Apr 3, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dives to the floor after trying to steal the ball from San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Man, let me tell you Spurs fans something: Russell Westbrook is possibly the fastest end-to-end point guard in the NBA.
When he goes to the basket, he’s so explosive; It’s a sight to see.
That’s the problem. When have you ever seen him control?
As a point guard, you must have more than one gear. Westbrook can get to the basket anytime he wants and can get any shot he wants, but there’s a phrase that applies here: Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.
Tony Parker has plenty of gears in his arsenal, and this is what makes him the best point guard in the league. He is complete control of how he controls the tempo of his game, and it shows in the efficiency of the Spurs offense. This is a tribute, obviously, to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
When Parker came into the league, he had only one gear—kind of like Westbrook now, and it led to turnovers. Now, TP plays fast without being in such a hurry. Westbrook has not learned that aspect to the game, yet, and that is an important advantage Parker has going into this series.
Maybe the reason Tony Parker is in so much control is because of…
2. Tony Parker has a better offensive system.
Mar 26, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
There’s a reason why the San Antonio Spurs always goes deep into the playoffs even though most think that they are too old. There’s a reason why the Spurs are so successful even though most think they are boring.
The reason is because the Spurs nave a motion-offense system that is executed extremely efficiently.
Duncan, Parker and Leonard combined for 44 pts in the 1st half. Durant, Fisher, Westbrook and Jackson combined for 45 pts. Conclusion?
— Spurs Dynasty (@saspursdynasty) May 20, 2014
As this series goes on, pay attention to how all the players on the floor move in unison and how the ball moves on offense. The reason why the shooters are so wide open is because the ball moves so quickly, the defense can’t catch up to them.
Naturally, all of this starts with Tony Parker who is the engine to this offense. His hamstring issues will affect the fluidity of the offense but not by much.
Remember, San Antonio sent the Portland Trail Blazers packing, and Tony Parker didn’t even score a point. The Spurs are one of the only teams in the NBA that doesn’t have to run the pick-and-roll offense every single damn time down the floor in the half court.
Oh, and if all else fails, they have that Tim Duncan dude. I heard he’s fundamentally sound, too.
3. Tony Parker makes his teammates better.
Feb 19, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) looks to pass against Sacramento Kings power forward Jason Thompson (34) and small forward John Salmons (5) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Sacramento Kings 108-102. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Westbrook is an amazing talent, but he’s not a good point guard.
What do I mean by that?
It means that your point guard shouldn’t be shooting the ball 30 times a game. Parker reads the defense and runs the offense both efficiently and effectively.
He took Damian Lillard to school in the last series by running him through screens and knocking down the mid-range shot. Understand that Parker did all of this within the frame of the offense.
Westbrook is a shoot first, second and then look at Kevin Durant to pass if he is double teamed, and then look for the ball back. In a series where Serge Ibaka is out, the Thunder will struggle to score at times. Also, the Spurs will try to eliminate all of the scorers that are a threat, like Reggie Jackson
and James Harden
coming off the bench.
If the Spurs are smart they will use Westbrook’s lack of ability to run a half-court offense against the Thunder throughout the series. With Ibaka gone, the Thunder must speed up the tempo with the lack of a low-post scorer.
If that happens, Westbrook will look for his shot and freeze out his teammates.