Saturday, April 7, 2012

Old Reliable: Tim Duncan

Kevin Garnett isn't the only oldie with game.

Tim Duncan and KG ruled an era together, and while we were robbed of seeing the two face off with even supporting casts in an epic playoff series- thank you, Minnesota management- at least we get to see them age together, and gracefully at that.

Tim is one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history.
Duncan's Spurs have the second-best record in the tough Western Conference thanks in part to Tony Parker's MVP-contender season, league-best depth, and Duncan's ability to be a presence inside. Timmy is the second-leading scorer on the team at 15 points per game, and while he isn't the post scorer he once was, he has gradually shifted into a role that resembles present Garnett: a stretch big man. Duncan could always hit the occasional jumper to keep defenders honest- his bank shot is an all-time classic- but he's evolved into a center who is the recipient of his slashing wings setting him up for shots.

According to, TD is taking 4.4 shots per game in the 16-23 feet range and making them at a 45 percent clip, both personal bests since morphing into an offensive role player. This change affects San Antonio in two ways: it allows Duncan to be an offensive threat without S.A.'s wing players needing to throw risky post-entry passes, and it spreads the floor for Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Gary Neal. These effects have contributed to the Spurs' ability to take care of the ball (second-best in the NBA at Turnover Percentage) and make shots (best in the NBA at eFG Percentage).

On the other side of the ball, Duncan's presence is still felt. He can't control the paint or block shots like he used to, and his pick-n-roll defense has reached Shaq-levels, but he can defend big centers and boasts the second-best defensive rebound percentage in the league (28.9 percent). As a result, the Spurs are the best in the league at cleaning the defensive glass.

If the Spurs have any shot at coming out of the West- I think they're a clear underdog against a few teams- they'll need a Big Fundamental throwback. They'll need Duncan to contend with Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph and make those frontcourts play both sides of the ball.

After 15 years of watching Timmy D, we probably don't have much time left with him. Post-All-Star break, he's giving us nearly 17 points, 10 rebounds, and a glimpse into the past every game. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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