Making this list for the third time in three years, there is very little doubt that Anthony Parker
should have been back playing in the NBA a long time ago. Hes established himself as hands down the best player in the world outside of the NBA, winning the Euroleague MVP award in each of the past two seasons, and helping his team to the Euroleague Finals for three years straight, with two Euroleague championships coming in his first two trips.
For the first time in the three years weve been talking about him, though, there finally appears to be a legitimate chance that hell actually make the jump over from Europe this upcoming season. Sources on both sides of the ocean tell us that Parker is getting serious interest from a number of NBA teams and has already informed Maccabi Tel Aviv that he will not be playing for them next year, despite the fact that he has a contract with them for next season. In view of everything that hes done for them over the past five years, its very hard to see them turning him down. Parker already has 4 concrete offers on the table, with the most serious interest coming from the Toronto Raptors, via former Benetton Treviso GM and current Raptors Assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini. The Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers are also firmly in the picture from what weve been told, and there is apparently some rumbling coming out of Minnesota and Boston as well. A report on the Israeli Sports News Channel and website Sport 5 said that Parker is considering retiring, but from what we were told by sources in Israel as well as his American agent Henry Thomas, there is no truth to that. Thomas had nothing to say in regards to our inquiries about potentially playing in the NBA next season, besides mentioning via email that he has no intentions to retire at this point
and yes, he would consider [playing in the NBA] next season. Sources tell us that Parker is said to be looking for a Sarunas Jasikevicius type contract, somewhere in the 3-year, 10-12 million dollar range.
Considering his credentials, its not difficult to figure out why. But Parker has more than just a stellar resume--he also has a versatile skill-set and unique style that is tailor-made to the NBA game, and is considered one of the most complete swingman in the history of European basketball.
Parker played his college ball for Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was drafted in the first round (#21) of the 1997 draft by the New Jersey Nets as a college senior and was immediately shipped out to Philadelphia in the first Keith Van Horn
trade. He played two very non-descript seasons on his rookie contract battling injuries, and was traded to Orlando and waived soon after. He then joined Quad City in the CBA for the rest of the year and later left for Europe after failing to catch on with the Toronto Raptors in Summer league.
His first stop in Europe was with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he stayed for two years, averaging around 14 points on good shooting and dishing out close to 5 assists in his second season. From there he went to Italy for a season to play for Roma, where he had a strong year with 14.5 points 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. In the summer of 2003 he was again brought back to play for Maccabi, where he and his wife have always said they feel at home. He helped Maccabi win the Israeli championship and cup, and put on a breathtaking performance in the Euroleague Final Four, helping Maccabi win the championship and earning MVP honors for his efforts (24 points, 5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 block per game).
The next season saw him repeat as Euroleague champion, and earned him his first regular season Euroleague MVP award after averaging 18 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2 steals per game on 56% shooting from the field and 48% from behind the arc. In the Israeli league his percentages jumped to 62.5% from the field and 56.5% from behind the arc. During the following summer, his team Maccabi Tel Aviv took a trip to the States to play two exhibitions against the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic. In Toronto Parker put on a show, scoring 24 points and hitting the game-winning basket with one second left on the clock.
This past season was a bit of a down year for Parker statistically, but was still good enough for him to be named Euroleague MVP for the second year in a row, as if to emphasize just how wide the gap is between him and the rest of the league. Maccabi Tel Aviv once again made the Finals of the Euroleague, but lost in heartbreaking fashion to CSKA Moscow behind a poor game from Parker. In the semifinals Parker put on one of the most exhilarating first half performances in the history of the Final Four, scoring 19 points to give Maccabi a 51-32 advantage at halftime and essentially finishing off the game before it ever really got started. Numerous NBA GMs were in the building at the time to watch future lottery pick Tiago Splitter
, who ended up getting hurt early on, but came away buzzing from the incredible show that Parker had just put on for the executives in attendance. Its one thing to hear about how well the best player in Europe is performing year after year after year, but its another thing altogether to see him put together such a masterful performance right in front of their very eyes. Strengths
Despite his advanced age, Parker is still one of the best athletes in Europe. He is extremely quick and fluid, featuring an excellent vertical leap and an explosive first step. He has a number of gears he can go to and has the type of wiggle to his step that all great shot-creators need regardless of the league they play in. He regularly makes highlight caliber plays with his creative and acrobatic finishes that remind of Manu Ginobili at times, but have even more oomph to them with the way he gets out in the open court and just soars.
Parkers bread and butter starts and ends with his outstanding mid-range game. He is a phenomenal ball-handler and is excellent and breaking his man down off the dribble before pulling up for a smooth mid-range jumper. He elevates high off the floor and shoots it with great mechanics, on very good percentages due to his highly efficient shot selection. Parker can also get to the basket and either finish emphatically, get to the free throw line or find the open man off the dribble spotting up on the wing. In transition is where he truly excels, as his superb instincts take over and his decision making is nearly flawless.
His ball-handling skills allow him to bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offensive smoothly as his team does not play with a traditional point guard. As you can tell by his assist numbers (just under four per game), he is an extremely unselfish player who possesses terrific court vision and knows how to find the open man.
Possibly the best thing about Parker is the fact that he makes everyone around him better at all times. Whether its with his passing, fundamental off the ball movement or the way he willingly sacrifices his numbers for the betterment of his team, nothing is more important to Parker than winning basketball games. Hes your rare athlete who not only possesses the physical attributes to separate himself from the pack, but also the mental fortitude and outstanding feel for the game to actually take advantage of his wonderful tools.
Hes also an excellent defender, using his quickness to stay in front of defenders and his length to come up with numerous steals and even the occasional block at times. His footwork is just as good here as it is on the offensive end, and his terrific understanding of where to place himself does the rest. Parker is not your traditional superstar in the sense that he has no problem whatsoever sticking his nose in to take a charge. Weaknesses
Parker does everything well, but nothing really outstanding, besides possibly winning. In the NBA he would probably be considered a 6th or 7th man depending on the situation, and when you a coach is reaching into his bench most of them really want to have one specific skill they know they can count on.
While he shot the ball very well from long range in 2004/2005 (55/104 or 50% in 51 games last year) he is not a volume shooter by any means (2 attempts per game) as he really only takes the open 3-pointers the opposition gives him. This past season his percentages dropped to 36% (45/125 in 54 games) on the year, partially due to nagging injuries. There were question marks about his long-range shooting going into his NBA career, and on the cusp of his second stint in the league, these question marks remain, particularly when you consider the fact that the NBA 3-point line is 3 feet and 3 inches further out than the FIBA 3-point line.
A more substantial concern these days would be the fact that Parker just turned 31 years old a year ago, and did not have as good of a season last year as he did the year before. Parker is clearly a late-bloomer who made incredible strides in his game from age 25-28, but for a team investing a more than decent share of their mid-level exception for multiple guaranteed years, this is a bit of a concern. Teams had a chance to sign him for much less 2 summers ago just as he was in his prime, but they all passed and embarrassingly decided to offer him nothing more than an invite to summer league. Now that the interest is finally there, you have to wonder if its come a few years too late. Why sign him?Anthony Parker
is the best player in Europe right now, and has proven himself against every level of competition he has gone up against, including NBA talent. There is absolutely no doubt that he can contribute to a number of NBA teams, the only question is whether they will have the guts to compensate him enough to draw him out of the cozy confines of Tel Aviv.
Parker is not only the best player in Europe, he is also the most complete.He slashes, finishes, creates for himself and others, rebounds, passes, plays defense, shoots from outside and mid-range on great percentages, and does it all in an extremely unselfish, yet very exciting manner. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and always stays within the context of the offense. He has a great demeanor as well both on and off the court. Does he have what it takes to do that in the NBA? There is really only one way to find out.
If teams were going gaga over Brandon Roy
(and rightfully so) these past few weeks, they have to look at a more polished and experienced version of him. Parker is no rookie and he doesnt need to be developed or brought along slowly, hell essentially be paid lottery pick type money but will step onto the court and contribute immediately from day one.