The San Antonio Spurs have lost two games in a row, and Spurs fans are beginning to worry about a possible championship run.
Let’s be honest.
The San Antonio Spurs have been overachieving this season. Why? They have been able to amass the second-best record in the NBA despite having an average backcourt.
If you think about the best teams in the league, all of them have a stellar backcourt.
The Golden State Warriors? Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Cleveland Cavaliers? Kyrie Irving and JR Smith (or Kyle Korver).
The Houston Rockets? Patrick Beverly and James Harden.
The Boston Celtics? Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.
The Washington Wizards? John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The San Antonio Spurs? Tony Parker and Danny Green.
@JMcDonald_SAEN after the season ideally like to part ways with Tony & Danny to re up Patty & sign a new SG & let Murray take over
— SilverNBlacEveryThng (@Robblocc31) March 19, 2017
Spurs fans took to Twitter last night to voice their disappointments, and their concerns regarding the future of both Parker and Green.
@JMcDonald_SAEN Danny Green needs to be replaced, he's been horrible the last 2 seasons and his defense has not been good either!
— Ken (@K_Syotos111k) March 19, 2017
Two losses in a row, and fans are willing to part ways with both Parker and Green.
Is there cause for concern? Yes, there is. However, these back-to-back losses do not justify the benching of both Parker and Green because doing so, does not make the Spurs better.
Parker is 34 years old.
This season, Parker has been battling injuries, and has played in 50 of the 68 total games. In those 50 games, Parker is averaging 10.3 points per game (lowest since rookie year) on 46.6% shooting (lowest since the 2003-04 season), along with 4.7 assists (lowest since rookie year).
According to NBA.com’s Real Plus-Minus scale of available point guards, Parker ranks 40th with a rating of -1.52, just behind point guards like Raymond Felton, Spencer Dinwiddle, and Chasson Randle. Patty Mills is ranked 14th at 1.80, just behind Irving and Eric Bledsoe.
Defensively, he hasn’t been as bad as people may have thought. In terms of defensive win shares, Parker ranks 64 among all NBA players this season. The teammates ahead of him? Dewayne Dedmon at 51, Mills at 42, Jonathan Simmons at 36, Kawhi Leonard at 29, LaMarcus Aldridge at 21, and Green at 18th.
Stats are here to supplement our arguments, but don’t tell the whole story. You can attribute Parker’s struggles to his injuries and age, and that would be fair. However, 34 years old is not 40 years old.
Let’s remember that Manu Ginobli (39 years old) and Pau Gasol (36 years old) that are still playing effective and efficient basketball despite their age.
Is Parker the point guard he once was? No, he isn’t an all-star caliber point guard.
Should he be benched in favor of Mills? No.
Parker has been the engine of Gregg Popovich’s system for years now, and he still knows how to run it with effectiveness. Granted, Parker should definitely be playing less minutes to maximize that effectiveness, but benching him doesn’t solve the issue.
Mills is a great backup point guard, but he doesn’t facilitate the way Parker does, and when you play alongside Leonard and Aldridge, facilitating becomes more important.
Parker’s first game back came against the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, so let’s cut the man some slack. Give Parker some games to find his rhythm, and we can assess his effectiveness at that point.
Green seems to be the focal point of Spurs’ fans frustrations.
Green is still just 29 years old.
Unlike Parker, Green has stayed relatively healthy, playing in 60 of the 68 games so far this season. In those 60 games, Green is averaging 7.5 points (higher than last season) on 39.7% from the field (higher than last season), including 38.9% from beyond the arc (higher than last season).
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Offensively, those numbers don’t stand out, nor should they. Green has never been known for his offensive prowess, outside of his three-point shot, which he is shooting more efficiently than he was last year (to everyone’s surprise).
Defensively, however, Green’s presence cannot be ignored. Green is ranked 18th in defensive win shares, the highest of any Spur, including two time defensive player of the year Leonard. In terms of defensive rating, Green ranks 11th at 103.6. Leonard is 8th at 101.5, and Gasol is 9th at 101.7.
Green is a top-15 defender in the NBA, including big men like Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis.
If we removed forwards and centers from that list, Green is the top defender on that list!
So, to anyone requesting Green be traded/let go/benched should take a step back.
Fans who do not watch the Spurs on a nightly basis are under the impression that Leonard guards the opposing teams perimeter player. He does, but that usually comes in the fourth quarter.
In the first three quarters, that responsibility is bestowed upon Green. If Leonard defended the opposing teams perimeter player all four quarters, there is no way he averages over 26 points a game.
There's really no way to replace what Green does for the price, though. He's vastly underpaid compared to others at his position. https://t.co/xzDALSSlar
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 19, 2017
Oh, and let’s not forget that Green is getting paid $10 million/year. He is currently in the second year of his four year contract ending at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
So, $10 million a year for one of the best wing defenders in the NBA? That is what you call a steal.
There are fans who are worried about Parker’s durability and consistency. To those fans, you have a right to feel that way. Parker has not been consistent this season, and his durability is beginning to break down in front of our eyes.
However, there is a reason the Spurs have Mills, Dejounte Murray, and Bryn Forbes on the roster. Give Parker some time to get back into form, and find his confidence. When he does, Popovich can play Parker in spurts with certain lineups, maximizing his efficiency on the floor.
Call me crazy, but down the stretch of a close game, Parker should still be in the game.
@JMcDonald_SAEN but can we count on him (Parker) to be that guy when it matters? I'm not sure we can right now, based on what I've seen.
— Richard Streeter (@richie_streeter) March 19, 2017
There are also fans requesting Green be traded or relegated to the bench. To those fans, you are living in the heat of the moment, and need to re-evaluate Green’s importance.
Green is shooting higher percentages from the field and beyond the arc than he was last year. Defensively, the statistics prove, he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
As far as point guards and shooting guards, he is the best in the NBA this season.
Green has cemented himself as the starting shooting guard for the Spurs, and has proved himself to be a lethal part of a championship team. This year, he can do it again.
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Do the Spurs have an elite backcourt? No, in comparison to the other elite teams.
Offensively, clearly Parker and Green are not cream of the crop. Defensively, Parker isn’t as bad as people give him credit for, and Green is elite. Overall, the Spurs are still the number one defense in the NBA in terms of efficiency, something those other elite teams can’t say.