Manu Ginobili (no. 25 last year): The thought of Barkley retiring the "JAH-NO-BLEEEEEEEEEEE!" scream sooner than later is just plain depressing. This hurts. I can't lie. But Father Time is undefeated, and … well …
(A San Antonio reader summed it up best: "When Manu comes back, he's our backup point guard. That's how we use him now." Regardless, a phenomenal run by an incredibly entertaining player. I'm standing and applauding right now. You're right, I'm not actually doing that. But that was a bueno run.)
Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward, Danny Green, Ryan Anderson: New post-lockout NBA reality no. 1: Defenses have become so sophisticated that you can't consistently score against good teams without nailing 3s. Nine of our top-10 teams in made 3s made the playoffs (sorry, Portland). Our four best teams (Miami, Oklahoma City, New York and San Antonio) rank second, third, fourth and fifth in 3-point percentage. These aren't coincidences. The smartest teams figured out how to game the system, and here's the reality: Three points are more than two points. Check out the 2003 Finals to see how much basketball has changed in 10 years. It's mildly incredible.6
New post-lockout NBA reality no. 2: You definitely shouldn't pay $8 million a year for non-impact perimeter players (Caron Butler alert!); you probably shouldn't pay $13 million a year for Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala (sorry, fellas); and you DEFINITELY shouldn't pay Rudy Gay $18 million a year unless you're forced to at gunpoint. There's too much available cheap perimeter labor for defense and 3s. Why pay Rudy Gay $18 million when you can pay Jimmy Butler $1.5 million? Why? WHYYYYYYY????? The one exception: Anderson, if only because I don't mind spending $8 million a year on someone who takes SEVEN 3s a game and makes 39 percent of them. He's an expensive luxury, but not prohibitively expensive.
Anyway, looking through the four drafts from 2008 to 2011: Anderson went 21st. Leonard went 15th. Hayward: ninth. Butler: 30th. Earl Clark: 14th. Chase Budinger: 44th. Klay Thompson: 11th. Chandler Parsons: 38th. Paul George: 10th. Wayne Ellington: 28th. Lance Stephenson: 40th. Danny Green: 46th. Nic Batum: 25th. Brandon Rush (out for the year, but still): 13th. I just listed 14 guys who could help anyone's 2013 playoff rotation if they were healthy; all make 3s except for Stephenson, and NONE were drafted in the top eight. Meanwhile, you have Toronto shelling out $23.1 million next year just for Gay and Landry Fields. Maybe it should use its fancy camera technology to capture the motions of a smart GM.
21. Tony Parker
Brilliant offensive player, perennial borderline MVP candidate, phenomenal contract bargain (making just $37.5 million total for this season and the next two), future Hall of Famer, crucial piece for a possible finalist … but do you realize he could break a few records before everything's said and done? Amazingly, astoundingly, Tony Parker doesn't turn 31 until next month. He's already played 12 seasons and 872 regular-season games, as well as 153 playoff games and counting. He just submitted his best all-around season — 20.3 points, 7.6 assists, 52 percent shooting, 23.0 PER and .206 win share/per 48 (highest of his career) — and has shown ZERO signs of slipping.
So where does this go? Let's say he plays five more years at this level, or something close: something like 350 regular-season games and 50 playoff games, his usual 18-20 a game with 50 percent shooting, a couple more playoff runs, and all the other Parkerish stuff he does (while avoiding any major injuries). By the end of the 2016-17 season, Parker might have 16 seasons banked, as well as three rings (at least), a Finals MVP (in 2007), 1,200-plus regular-season games (only 33 players have done it), 200-plus playoff games (only six players have done it),10 20,000-plus points (only 42 players have done it) and 7,500-plus assists (only 10 players have done it). By the way …
• Oscar Robertson and Gary Payton are the only members of the 20K/7K Club for career points and assists. That's it. Just Oscar and GP.
• Even after that 16th year, you know Parker will reinvent himself as one of those cagey, Kidd-like role players on a playoff team. So this could keep going and going and going. We'll certainly remember him as the best European guard ever; it's already just about locked up.
• Fast-forward to the 9:02 mark of this clip, and as you're watching it, think of me screaming, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
2. Spurs fans are really, really, really, really upset with me. They can't believe I bumped Kawhi Leonard to honorable mention. They think I should quit writing this column. They think I might have brain damage. They think I should have sex with myself. And after reexamining it from every angle, they have a right to complain. Every reason that nudged 23-year-old Jimmy Butler into my top 50 could be used for the 21-year-old Leonard, San Antonio's resident DTA (defense, 3s, athleticism) guy. I bumped him to honorable mention because his 3-point shooting went south after the All-Star break (32 percent). I need my DTA guys to make wide-open 3s. But really, Jalen Rose is to blame — he brainwashed me over these past six months to believe any swingman could thrive within that Popovich-Duncan infrastructure. He's probably just jealous that he never played for the Spurs.