Why Tim Duncan Shouldn't Be So Underappreciated
It’s not easy to be overlooked when you're a four-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA Finals MVP and a 14-time NBA All-Star. However, with all of those accomplishments and despite averaging 15 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game and 2 blocks per game at the tender age of 37, Tim Duncan has been an afterthought for basketball fans. He was barely on the radar for making the All-Star team this year, which makes you wonder how the most important player on a San Antonio Spurs team that is 35-13 (third-best record in the NBA) ends up out of the All-Star team conversation.
Most of the time people say he's ignored because there is no flash to his game. Or they'll talk about the fact that he’s playing in a small market. Although basically true, basketball fans should be able to appreciate a player that has earned the nickname, the Big Fundamental. After all, nobody takes and makes more bank shots than Tim Duncan.
The bank shot, along with the other aspects of his game, help explain how someone that is almost 38 years of age is ranked 48th in scoring, 12th in rebounding and 6th in blocks on a per game basis all while playing winning team basketball. Let's show Timmy some more love.
Duncan and the 2013-2014 Spurs
Winning defines Spurs basketball during the Duncan era. Every year, other than the 1998-1999 lockout shortened season, the Spurs have won more than 50 games in the regular season with Duncan in the lineup. That's 16 years of winning basketball, and four glittering NBA championship rings.
This year, the Spurs are ranked fourth in the numberFire team power rankings and a strong candidate to win the Western Conference and compete for another NBA championship. The Spurs are currently on pace to win 59 games in the regular season, and those wins are built on both sound offense and sound defense. From an offensive efficiency standpoint, the Spurs rank sixth according to our metrics, and fifth from a defensive efficiency perspective. And it's Duncan who remains the central piece that drives the Spurs' offensive and defensive efficiency.
Duncan is second on the team in scoring and leads the team in rebounding and blocks. Another huge improvement during the course of this season has been Duncan’s field goal percentage. After shooting 43.5% from the field in October, he has now raised his average to 48.5% after shooting 53.9% for the month of January. This also gives him a True Shooting Percentage of 52.7% for the year. The gross numbers and the Spurs' record are also supported by Duncan’s underlying metrics.
Duncan has a 6.4 nERD, good for 30th in the NBA. That's borderline ridiculous considering he only plays 29 minutes per game. Of the other 12 players that average approximately 29 mpg in the nERD rankings, eight of them have posted a negative nERD this year, and the other four are at 0.2, 1.3, 1.3 and 2.9. There is no other player in the league that posts Duncan like numbers night in and night out on such limited minutes and provides the same winning effect on his team. And yet, nobody wants to talk about the season he and the Spurs are having.
First Ballot Hall of Famer
Duncan has amassed 24,464 points (20th all-time), 13,669 rebounds (13th all-time) and 2,746 blocks (7th all-time). He has a career True Shooting Percentage of 55.1% along with career averages of 20 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.1 apg and 2.2 bpg. The statistics that he has accumulated are amazing, and clearly first ballot Hall of Fame numbers. Luckily for Spurs fans, he continues to have the drive to keep playing.
The Spurs are again legitimate contenders to win the Western Conference again this year, and they should challenge for the NBA title. They fell one game short of an NBA championship last year, but with Duncan at the helm (along with Tony Parker), nobody should look past them this year, despite other teams making runs.
Objectively, the Spurs are one of the few teams that has the front court size, depth and defensive focus to punish the Heat (who are relatively weak inside) or compete with the Pacers size and depth. We’ll have to wait and see who plays for the championship this year, but Duncan is clearly still in the game. Hopefully fans of the NBA can appreciate all that he brings to the game during his last couple of years.