Tony Parker received was a talented but sometimes maligned player at the start of his career with the San Antonio Spurs, particularly with their pursuit of Jason Kidd. As the Kidd pursuit disappeared, Parker helped the Spurs again win titles in 2005 and 2007 and has fully earned Gregg Popovich’s trust and praise more than ever this season.

With the loss of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to injuries, Parker has shouldered much of the offensive load for the Spurs. Parker leads the Spurs in points (20.7), assists (7.7) and minutes (32.9).

“Fortunately, Tony Parker has been playing beyond an All-Star level,” said Popovich. “He’s been unbelievable carrying the burden.”

Playing beyond an All-Star level implies that Parker has ascended to an All-NBA and MVP level. When asked to clarify his remarks, Popovich gave Parker his highest compliment.

“I think he should be in every conversation for any award that’s going to be given,” said Popovich referring to Parker’s All-NBA and MVP candidacy. “I don’t think that it’s very tough to see. I mean you know there’s a group of guys, but he should be in that group as one of the guys that’s playing the best in the league.”

Parker leads all guards in field goal percentage (.535), ranks second in PER (24.7) and field goals made (8.22), third in true shooting percentage (.595), fourth in points per game (20.72), fifth in effective field goal percentage (.549) and total shooting percentage (175.2), and sixth in assists per game (7.66) and assists percentage (40.94).

Despite approaching the age of 31 and in the midst of his 12th NBA season, Popovich is not surprised Parker is having arguably his finest season.

“I’m not surprised because he’s played well every year, he’s helped us win three championships,” said Popovich. “He’s been a heck of a player since we got him at age 19, but the last two to three years he’s been really special and more special each year because he’s become a leader. He’s a heck of an assist guy now. We always talked to him about wanting to be a scoring guard, because that’s what he is, but we want to infuse a little John Stockton into him. He’s done it, big time. I’m not surprised, but I’m thrilled for him to see the progression.”

Parker is having the most efficient season of his career. Parker has posted career-highs in true shooting percentage (.595), total shooting percentage (175.20), free throw percentage (.824), assist percentage (40.94) and PER (24.70).

With that in mind, Popovich hinted that Parker has reached his highest ceiling as a player.

“I don’t know how much more I can ask of him,” said Popovich smiling. “He’s scoring the way he is, he doesn’t turn it over, and he gets double-digit assists. That’s pretty tough.”

However, Parker’s longtime teammate with the French National Team, Boris Diaw, still believes we have yet to see the best of his good friend.

“He keeps getting better year after year and he is doing good again this year,” said Diaw. “With (Tim) Duncan and Manu (Ginobili) out, he is doing everything on the court. I have watched him play for years now and he just gets better. He is very consistent. I don’t know when he is going to stop getting better.”