It’s nearly impossible to envisage Tony Parker, San Antonio’s stalwart point guard, in any other jersey. But league insiders have shed light on the possibility of Spurs trading the former finals MVP to make room for free agent guard Mike Conley Jr. ahead of next season.
Parker, with two years left on his contract, would always be considered a Spur and will likely have his No. 9 jersey retired by the organization. But the team is desperate for an upgrade at the point guard position with the likes of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook dominating the league.
Tony Parker on a steady decline…
The 33-year-old finished the just-concluded season with his lowest scoring aggregate (11.9 ppg) since his rookie season in 2001-02 (9.2 ppg). He struggled to deliver in clutch scenarios against Oklahoma City Thunder as Spurs got bounced out of the playoffs in the second round last week.
The Frenchman scored in single digits during four of the six games against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder – a statistical first in his career. While Parker showed flashes of his old self during the Game 3 win in Oklahoma, he couldn’t sustain it during the latter part of the series.
No longer a 3-pt threat…
Parker, once a great three-point shooter, made just 3 out of 10 shots from deep during the course of six games against OKC. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard taking the bulk of the shots, the Spurs guard became an afterthought in Gregg Popovich’s offense for most of the series. Parker was an integral member of the Spurs’ last four championship teams (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014).
It’s also entirely possible that Parker comes off the bench next season and play second fiddle to Conley. With $62 million committed in salaries for next season, the Spurs would require Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and David West to return on veteran minimum deals to sign Conley to a max contract.
To play sixth man role?
However, the Spurs would be able retool the roster with more firepower if Parker is traded. Also, it’s still uncertain if Duncan and Ginobli would return next season. In that case, Spurs would have enough cap room to sign Conley and demote Parker to a sixth man role. “Such a move (acquiring Conley) would affect the status of veteran starting point guard Tony Parker, 33, who would likely have to accept a bench role or have his contract — due to pay more than $14 million next season — moved to accommodate the younger Conley,” writes Sports Illustrated.
Again, it’s hard to imagine Tony Parker playing for another team. But winning championships takes precedence for the Spurs and replacing Parker with a younger PG is key to competing with the Golden State Warriors.