In 2011-12, the San Antonio Spurs were a surprising team to many as they finished with the league’s best record at 50-16. That was the year the Spurs became Tony Parker‘s team as he had his finest season in the NBA. Parker finished fifth in the Most Valuable Player voting and was named to the All-NBA second team. The Spurs loss in the Western Conference Finals took some of the the shine off the Spurs heading into this season, but they are again are leading the NBA in wins and Parker is putting together another MVP-type season.
Parker, while not receiving the same MVP buzz this year as he did last season, is scoring more this season. Parker leads the team in scoring with 19.1 points per game and is averaging 7.4 assists per game and is doing so at a more efficient rate. Parker shot 23 percent from 3-point range last season and this year he has brought it up to a career-high 41.5 percent.
Parker is committing fewer turnovers and is still solid at the defensive end. Following Parker’s lead as one of the fastest players in the league, the Spurs are playing at blistering pace with the second-highest pace in the NBA. The Spurs have continued where they left off last year, leading the NBA with 26 wins while not having the same coverage as more high profile teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
Why then is Tony Parker not having the same MVP buzz now that he did last year? One reason for this is that longtime Spurs star Tim Duncan is having a resurgent year this season. Duncan is putting up better numbers across the board than he did last year and it’s not as clear as it was last year as to who is the Spurs’ best player.
Hurting Parker’s case also this season has the MVP award discussion being dominated by the improved play of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. All of those players play in more high-profile markets than Parker and their flashy play stands in contrast to the Spurs and Parker’s style.
Parker also plays for a team where coach Gregg Popovich does not place a big premium on regular-season success. The Spurs have finished with the best record in the league the past two seasons and come up short both times in the playoffs.
Popovich is determined to have his players rest and be completely healthy for the postseason rather than face potential injury in regular season games. The Spurs and Parker’s goal are to win a title and not to obtain regular season accolades.
Having a spectacular season one year and then putting together a similar year right after, often propels a player into the MVP discussion. Parker this season is proving the exception to that notion.
As long as Tony Parker continues to play at the pace that he has this year, the MVP talk should expand to include his name.
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