San Antonio Spurs Free Agency

Spurs free-agent predictions: Tony Parker

By Rob Wolkenbrod
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 4: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 4, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 4: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 4, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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The San Antonio Spurs will have a number of free agents this offseason, including Tony Parker. Could this partnership remain for another year?

Among the San Antonio Spurs’ 2018 free agents, there’s just one player with unrestricted status: Tony Parker. This is the second-to-last player from the organization’s golden years in the 2000’s, with four championships on his résumé from 2003-2014.

However, after Parker’s age-35 season, his contract expired and places him on the open market. In the past, that has not been anything to note of, as the Frenchman never suited up for another NBA team. But could the 2018 offseason prove otherwise?

Parker’s comments

Parker has 17 years under his belt with the Spurs — two shy of Tim Duncan, who played all 19 of his seasons in San Antonio. 20 years is the goal, though, which would eclipse Duncan’s franchise mark. However, those final three years may happen elsewhere.

Parker has every intention to play 20 years, but is willing to play elsewhere if the Spurs can’t make it happen. It’s a situation unknown to this franchise and any of its greats, all of whom have remained with them for the entirety of their respective careers (Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, mostly George Gervin).

There has not been any indication of how the Spurs will handle Parker this summer, but if he’s willing to go elsewhere and the team does not want to match whatever his asking price is, could this be the end of the road?

Diminished role

The 2017-18 season became a realization for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who moved Parker to a bench role for the first time in his career, playing more games off the pine (34) than in the starting lineup (21). Dejounte Murray became the starting point guard on Jan. 21 and never looked back.

Why the switch? Murray flashed upside, before Parker returned from a torn quadriceps, as the point guard of the future. The 2018-19 season will be his first full campaign, but with athleticism, an ability to defend the perimeter and a nearly 7′ 0” wingspan, the tools are there to like.

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Not only that, but Parker averaged just 8 points, 4 assists per game and just 23.1 percent from 3-point range in 21 minutes upon return. Four of his final five games as the starter resulted in a shooting percentage of just 37.5 or lower.

Defensively, Parker’s 109 Defensive Rating was tied for the worst of his career, which happened one season before. His 103 Offensive Rating was a career-low, as well, so the Spurs saw the writing on the wall and made the move for the younger option (even if his own offensive game did not produce).

Familiarity

Despite the diminished stats and the comments, it’s still the only NBA organization Parker has known since 2001. Going anywhere else, especially at this point in his career, would mean moving, learning a new team and potentially less roster stability.

If the Spurs allowed Manu Ginobili to return deep into his 30’s and into his 40’s, despite a regression, they should also be keen on the familiarity and desire to bring their long time point guard back. With almost anyone, though, it will depend on the money and length of the deal.

Prediction

Parker is not the player he used to be, but that should not stop the Spurs from bringing him back. They kept the franchise’s core in tact for years, and even if he’s not a main player on a playoff team, there’s still the ambassador and leadership roles to play on a team that does not have vocal superstars.

Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery

Look for a short-term deal to keep Parker around for at least one more season and go year-to-year until retirement.

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