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NBA Finals 2013 Preview: Who is Guarding Tony Parker?

Well, here we are again. We’re down to one last series in the NBA season. What a series it will be–two of the absolute best teams from each conference will go at it head to head.

These two teams are the top in the league when it comes to aesthetically pleasing basketball. The “Spurs are boring” narrative died years ago when Tony Parker became the focal point of their offense and they changed their attack to a spread variety.

Since 2010, the Miami Heat have consistently been a team that will attract fans, both positive and negative. They may be the most polarizing team in the history of the NBA.

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard someone talk about the LeBron “revenge” narrative. LeBron James had the worst moment in his NBA career when he was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in his first NBA Finals appearance.

Now, in ultimate poetic fashion, James is back in the Finals for a third consecutive year. He’s taking on the San Antonio Spurs along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at his side, stellar complimentary pieces unlike anything he had when he was a Cavalier.

We’ve got two of the best minds in basketball coaching these teams in Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich. These two are complete innovators of the game. They have both chiseled down players who were rough around the edges and put them in fundamentally sound environments.

This series should be one of the best we have seen in quite some time. It’s a completely even series where the edge is going to be given to the team that has the best strategy throughout.

There are certain key points that I think will impact the series immensely. The most important of which is who is going to guard Tony Parker? The Heat need to find a player, or combination of players, that will slow him down.

Once the Heat find that combination, it’ll be interesting to see what the Spurs come back with as an adjustment.¬†Guarding Tony Parker is key in this series for the Miami, but fortunately for them, the Heat have multiple options on the defensive end when it comes to guarding the point guard position.

The way I see it, the Heat have four options for Parker:

  • LeBron James
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Norris Cole
  • Mario Chalmers

They can stick LeBron James on Parker if they’d like. He’s their best all-around defender, obviously. We’ve seen Parker struggle with size, length and athleticism in the past and I think Erik Spoelstra may try to defend him from that angle again.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a wise decision to put James on Parker at this point. Parker will be able to wear James out because of his ability to play off of the ball. The Spurs will run Tony Parker through scenarios like this:

With Parker going through single-double screens and pin-downs, I don’t think I would put LeBron on him. James is going to be required to perform his best on the offensive end, serving as the fulcrum for his team. He can’t sustain his energy if he’s guarding Tony Parker and expending critical energy on the other end.

I wouldn’t guard Parker with Dwyane Wade either. Wade’s knee still worries me from the last series. I’m not sure how healthy he is, though his recent performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals has me optimistic.

Still, he couldn’t handle Paul George for a full series and George does a lot of the same things. George didn’t work well off of screens last series, but when he did he was open.

If Wade is guarding Parker, he’s going to be chasing him all over the floor on a bad knee which will limit him offensively. Then we’ll see the same Wade that we saw against the Indiana Pacers and that isn’t good for the Heat. If Wade plays like that, they have no shot at winning the series.

What I would do is guard Tony Parker with the point guard defenders that they have. During the last game that all of their starters played in the 2011-12 season, the Heat defended Parker with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.

It wasn’t especially effective–Parker had 18 points on 12 shots–but that was over a year ago and Chalmers and Cole are better players now, especially Cole.

Cole held Parker to only 12 points on 14 shots earlier this season when he started for the Miami Heat. Parker was hampered by injury at the time and it really turned him into a jump shooter.

That’s another thing about this series: these two teams really haven’t had the best of each other just yet. They haven’t played both starting units since the 2011-12 game and at that time, the Spurs roster was significantly different. Danny Green wasn’t a starter and DeJuan Blair played huge minutes. Richard Jefferson was playing a pivotal role in the starting unit as well.

It’s really hard to gauge who will guard who without getting into the minds of each coach, but I suspect that Spoelstra sample everyone on Parker. If they can shut him down then they’ll be able to significantly deter the Spurs offense.

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