Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker missed Monday's game with a "knee contusion," but we suspect it was just an excuse to get Parker some well-deserved rest after all the good work he has been doing lately.
The biggest concern for fantasy owners has to be how many more days off will he get for things like knee contusions in the final six weeks of the season.
Parker played just 25 minutes per game in April last season and sat out three of the 16 games in the month so he could be fresh for the postseason. The Spurs own the NBA's best record at 41-12, so another postseason berth will be locked up soon.
San Antonio still went 14-2 in April last season despite Parker, Duncan and Ginobili playing reduced minutes, and we saw a team led by Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal beat the Chicago Bulls by 14 points on the road just one night ago. So coach Gregg Popovich knows he doesn't have to get 35 minutes out of his top guys in April to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Parker is at the peak of his value right now. He has been the last member of the Spurs' "Big 3" standing this month, as Duncan and Ginobili have dealt with ongoing injuries. Duncan has missed nine of the last 11 games with knee and ankle injuries, and Ginobili hasn't played in nine of the last 13 contests due to a hamstring injury.
Prior to sitting Monday night along with Duncan and Ginobili, Parker had helped the Spurs to an 11-1 record over the last 12 games while producing 24.6 points, 9.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 34 minutes per game. Parker shot 57.9 percent from the field in that span, unheard of for a point guard.
Even when Duncan was healthy and having his best season in a few years, Parker was the team's offensive leader going all the way back to mid-November.
Following a three-game slump from November 5-9 in which he scored a high of six points and averaged 5.0 ppg, Parker has scored in double figures in his next 44 games while shooting 55.1 percent from the field.
Before getting a rest Monday, Parker put together his best three-game stretch of the season by scoring 31, 31 and 29 points with an average of 9.0 assists, a .550 shooting percentage and .960 free-throw percentage on 8.3 attempts per game.
Parker's .535 shooting percentage for the season ranks 17th in the NBA among qualified players, but among the 16 players in front of him, only LeBron James has taken more field-goal attempts per game than Parker's 15.4. James and Parker are also the only two of the 17 players whose games aren't completely rooted in the paint.
Parker currently ranks fourth at the point guard position in Yahoo! leagues, behind only Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
But fantasy owners need to start preparing for Parker's expected drop in production, even if it means selling him at the height of his production.
Due to the lockout last season, the playoffs didn't begin until April 28. The tournament will start eight days earlier this season and the Spurs have only nine games in April, so Popovich might start slashing minutes in the last few weeks of March instead. That means fantasy owners have about 15 or 16 more games of Parker playing at full capacity, compared to 28-30 for other top players.