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Tony Parker's decline is the biggest problem with the Spurs

The Spurs have lost three games in a row and haven't looked quite right for much of the season. Parker's subpar performance is a big reason why.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs have now lost three games in a row after a listless 90-81 defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Monday night. This latest loss dropped the Spurs to 34-22, which is seventh in the Western Conference and three games ahead of the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.

When it comes to San Antonio struggling during the regular season, it's easy to pay no mind and assume everything will be ok once the postseason rolls around. However, there could be a real problem festering here: The subpar play of Tony Parker.

Parker signed a three-year, $43 million contract extension in August, a worthy commitment considering his contributions during the last few playoff runs. The 32-year-old was in fine form to start this season, averaging 17.3 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 51.0 percent from the field and a scorching 66.7 percent from three over the first month. Sure, that high three-point percentage was on very low volume, but the veteran picked his spots well and made his opponents pay dearly.

The strong November was followed by an injury-riddled December and Parker hasn't been the same guy since. He averaged just 11.0 points and 4.1 assists in January, and shot only 40.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent from three. The veteran showed some signs of turning things around prior to the All-Star break by registering a double-double in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game after the long hiatus. But his last two games have been an utter disaster.

First, Parker was torched by Stephen Curry, scoring just two points to Curry's 25. Parker didn't make a single shot, with his only points coming on two free throws. Not surprisingly, San Antonio was destroyed by Golden State.

Then, Parker put forth another wretched effort in the loss to Utah. He scored just five points on 2-of-9 shooting, and he turned the ball over four times. The Spurs had a whopping 22 turnovers on the night.

Parker's erratic play has been a big reason for San Antonio's regression on offense this season. The Spurs' offensive rating sits at just 103.6 this season, which is a pedestrian 12th in the league, per NBA.com. That mark is down from 108.2 in last year's regular season and a whopping 112.7 in the postseason, when Parker was excellent.

The picture gets even uglier for Parker when you look at how San Antonio has performed with him on the floor. The Spurs have an offensive rating of just 101.6 in Parker's 1,213 minutes this season, the lowest of any regular rotation player, per NBA.com. San Antonio's net rating is a poor negative-2.5 with Parker on the floor, compared to 8.2 with him on the bench, a stunning difference.

When you look at Parker's shot charts the last two seasons, there are some significant differences that can help explain why he hasn't been as effective this year. Here's last year's shot chart:

Parker last year

38.2 percent of Parker's shots came at the rim last season, and he made nearly 60 percent of those attempts. In total, nearly 57 percent of his shots came in the paint, an excellent number. Furthermore, he was solid from mid-range, knocking down 44.8 percent of his mid-range jumpers.

Now, here's his shot chart from this year:

Parker this year

Notice that Parker's attempts at the rim this year account for only 28.3 percent of his shots, down from that superb 38.2 percent mark last year. Those shots have mainly been redistributed to mid-range jumpers and threes, and while he has shot better from three this season (thanks to that hot start), he's at only 39.2 percent from mid-range.

Not only is Parker taking significantly fewer shots at the rim, but his current free throw rate would be a career low. His assist numbers are down and his turnover rate is up, and his effectiveness running pick-and-roll has taken a dip. The point guard is putting up .788 Points Per Possession as the pick-and-roll ball-handler this season, which is in the 59th percentile of the NBA, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That's down from .925 PPP in 2013-14, which was in the 89th percentile.

It's clear that Parker's inability to get in the lane at will and create is hurting the Spurs' offense. He needs to find that part of his game again if San Antonio is going to make another deep playoff run. But the veteran point guard isn't the only one who needs to find his game. Kawhi Leonard has dealt with injuries this season and hasn't found a groove when healthy. Manu Ginobili's efficiency has naturally dipped at age 37, and Boris Diaw's shooting has fallen off a cliff.

We know better than to count out Gregg Popovich's Spurs, but it's perfectly fair to question if this truly is the end of the line for this wildly successful group. The Western Conference Playoffs will be a gauntlet, and these guys might not have another deep run in them against a string of elite teams. The way it's going, it'll take quite the turnaround for San Antonio to reach a third consecutive NBA Finals.

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