MVParker?


Tony Parker(Photo: Kevin C. Cox)
Tony Parker
(Photo: Kevin C. Cox)

The NBA’s MVP award: given to the league’s Most Valuable Player—or is it?

In February, the NBA released their version of the leading MVP candidates on NBA.com’s Race to the MVP Ladder. Behind LeBron James, Tony Parker was listed at number 2. And rightfully so. Tony Parker has been tearing through the league, killing the best point guards on national television while leading the Spurs to the best record in the NBA.

Unfortunately for Parker, an ankle injury obtained on March 1 sidelined him for an entire month.

Naturally, I would expect Parker’s to fall in the rankings after such a lengthy absence. But the NBA wasted no time in dropping Parker all the way off its list. This bothered me.

But what got my blood boiling is when the NBA posted this, replacing Parker with Kobe Bryant:

NBA's Facebook account promotes its newest MVP rankings.
NBA’s Facebook account promotes its newest MVP rankings

At first, I thought these rankings were a misprint. Maybe I was having a flashback to 2008 when the Lakers were actually good. I mean… They wouldn’t put a player whose team was not even in the playoffs and struggling to reach .500 ahead of players like Parker, Durant, and Chris Paul, would they?

Of course they would. And they did.

Before Kobe fanatics start losing their minds, I acknowledge that he is having a good year. His stats are impressive, but not as impressive as Kevin Durant’s, Tony Parker’s, or Chris Paul’s—whose stats are not only better, but they’re also on winning teams.

Aside from the obvious, here’s my beef: Say roles are reversed, Kobe Bryant plays for the Spurs and Tony Parker is on the Lakers; give Tony Parker’s stats to Kobe and vice versa; the Spurs still have the best record in the NBA and the Lakers are trying to get in the playoffs. There is not a chance in hell that Kobe Bryant would be left off the MVP list and Tony Parker’s struggling team but good stats would have him at number 2.

As I mentioned, the NBA removed Parker from their MVP ladder very shortly after his ankle injury. Well Bryant has been sidelined with his own ankle injury for almost 10 days now and he still sits at number 3 behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The NBA is not worried about who is most deserving of its accolades; they care about ratings and  boosting sales. People love to talk Kobe or LeBron? Then that’s what they’ll get—regardless of who is deserving.

Tony Parker has been amazing this year. So amazing that he has managed to lead the Spurs to the best record while playing only 32 minutes a game, which amounts to less than three quarters per game.

These are Tony Parker’s per-48-minutes stats (based on a player’s average for every 48 minutes played rather than minutes per game) and NBA rank:

  • 31 PPG (7th)
  • 11.1 APG (5th)
  • 53 fg% (1st of any guard in NBA, 2nd highest of any player in top  10 of scoring)
  • 3.02 AST/TO ratio (6th)
  • *Best record in Western Conference*

Here are Kobe Bryant’s per-48-minutes stats:

  • 34.3 PPG (3rd)
  • 7.3 APG (30th)
  • 46.8 FG% (54th, 9th among guards)
  • 1.58 AST/TO ratio (72nd)
  • *Fighting for playoff spot*

Parker’s rankings all fall in the top 10 while Kobe’s range from 3rd to 72nd. Add the fact that Parker’s team has the best record in the league, and the argument kind of speaks for itself.

Tony Parker’s lack of respect of respect around the league may stem from the fact that he didn’t play college ball in the States, instead deciding to start his professional career in France. At an early age, Parker was “very close” to signing with UCLA or Georgia Tech. In an article written on yahoo.com, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich voices his opinion on Parker’s under-the-radar status:

“I’ve often thought that he didn’t have a name here,” Popovich said. “He just came in from Europe. Had he been a college player here and done what he did at 19, he wouldn’t have been the 28th pick for sure. He would have been first, second or third. He would have been high in the draft and would have been talked about here like the kids who were young studs that are just coming out.”

Popovich further elaborates on the season Parker has had:

“With such a long experience of playing so well year after year after year and winning championships, you’d think he’d be in conversations as one of the better point guards in the league,” Popovich said. “It’s funny. It’s taken all these years until now for him to get into these conversations. Name me a point guard who’s had a better season? I can’t think of one. I don’t know who has had a better season than him.”

To add to the statistically great season that Parker is having, the Spurs have the best record in the league. Add on the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, three NBA championships and five all-star selections, and you have the most decorated point guard in today’s NBA. How that résumé manages to fly under the radar, I’ll never know.

What’s more, Tony Parker is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points and seven assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Hall-of-famer Larry Bird is the only player to do this for an entire season (1986-87) in the history of the NBA.

In his game against fellow MVP candidate Chris Paul, Parker had 31 points, 7 assists on 12/16 (75%) in only 28 minutes of playing time. Chris Paul, who was being checked by Parker, was held to 4 points, 3 assists and 1/6 shooting (17%) in 27 minutes of play. The Spurs won the game 116-90. These highlights give a good summary of the Spurs’ season. During the game, Reggie Miller calls Tony Parker the best point guard in the league and says he should be a top candidate for MVP along with LeBron James. Charles Barkley also threw in his opinion and said Parker should win MVP.

The MVP race should be a three-man race of Parker, LeBron, and Durant. It’s hard to argue one over any of the others. What the Heat are doing with their win streak is amazing. Kevin Durant has been incredible and his team is once again at the top of the West right behind the Spurs. And Tony Parker is having his best season ever.

In fact, comparing Parker and LeBron, it’s hard to choose, really:

Stats Per 48 Min. Points Assists fg% AST/TO ratio Steals
Tony Parker 31 11.2 54% 3.02 1.4
LeBron James 33.3 9.1 56.50% 2.42 2.1
Per 48 minutes stats for Parker and Lebron obtained on NBA.com

While James edges out Parker by two in points, Parker averages two more assists than James. Two assists is equivalent to at least four points, meaning Parker accounts for at least 53 of his team’s points while LeBron accounts for 51 (the formula for this is (points+(assistsx2)=total contribution). Not to mention how many threes the Spurs shoot that would further add to Parker’s contribution. They are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the league; this is often due to Parker’s ability to penetrate, draw in the defense, and kick it out to the open shooter. LeBron and Parker both have very impressive FG percentages as well, but Parker’s is historical. No NBA guard in the history of the game has ever had a percentage as impressive as Parker has maintained his entire career.

With Miami a lock to win the East and the Spurs sitting comfortable at the top of the West, it’s a hard call on who should really get MVP.

We all know, or should know, that LeBron is the best player in the league now; that shouldn’t be debatable. Kevin Durant is a pretty distant second. But the award should not given to the best player in the league, and especially not to the most popular. If that’s the case, we should go ahead and put LeBron’s or Durant’s name on it for the next seven years and save everyone some time.

MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. What player was most valuable to their team’s success?

I strongly believe that was Tony Parker.

My last argument for Parker over LeBron is that Miami is loaded with talent: Wade, Bosh, Ray Allen, Lewis, LeBron, etc. Their streak has been amazing, but that’s not all LeBron James’ doing. Dwyane Wade is currently 4th on the MVP rankings and Miami would likely still be #1 in the (extremely uncompetitive) Eastern Conference even without LeBron.

On the other hand, Tony Parker is playing with a 36-year-old Tim Duncan and a constantly injured Manu Ginobili. Given, Tim Duncan has been nothing short of amazing this season, but Parker has played over 20 games this season without Manu and/or Duncan. To top that off, not many people outside of the Spurs (limited) fanbase can name five players on their roster outside of the big three.

Take Danny Green for example, he was cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 when they were already terrible and recovering from LeBron’s departure. Turns out, he is now the starting shooting guard for the Spurs and flourishing in his role with the team. Green’s role is pretty much a three-point specialist. Danny Green’s evolution from being cut by one of the worst teams in the league to starting on the best can be attributed to the Spurs’ system/Parker’s ability to get him involved. This is one of many examples that shows why Parker has been the most valuable player to his team this season. He has put them in a position to once again compete for a championship that they would not be in but for his presence.

But this is all, of course, my opinion. Parker has his own thoughts on the MVP race:

“LeBron is the best player in the NBA, by far. But if you want to give it to someone to change it, why not [me]?” Parker said with a laugh. “Charles Barkley had it one year [1992-93] even though M.J. [Michael Jordan] was the best player. Steve Nash got it [twice from 2004-06] even though Kobe [Bryant] was the best player in the NBA. But for me the most important thing is we win. If it [the MVP] happens, it happens. If not, LeBron is unbelievable. But for me, I don’t think about it. It’s not in my hands.”

As deserving as Parker is of the award, he will not win MVP. It’s disappointing to know that the NBA’s MVP award is a joke of a popularity contest rather than a race based on merit.

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