This week, the ESPN Insider page - courtesy of Project Spurs' Trevor Zickgraf - is running a series on prospective 2012-2013 free agents. San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan made the list as Duncan's deal will expire after the 2011-12' season, should there be an season or not.
ESPN writer Kevin Pelton analyzes Duncan and gives his opinion on what has caused Duncan's production to decline, and Duncan's deteriorating use in the Spurs' offense. Pelton discusses Duncan's offense, defense, and at the end, he gives a surprise consideration Spurs fans will hate to read.
Pelton first said analysts and fans must stop comparing Duncan to his days when he was in his MVP form. As stated in my Room for Improvement column on Duncan, Pelton agrees age has caught up to Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich limits Duncan's body to preserve what he has left for a high level each season to fully use in the playoffs.
Pelton then dives into Duncan's play by method of advanced statistics.
On a per-minute basis, Duncan's defensive numbers remain just as good as they were in his prime. Duncan no longer can make multiple defensive plays on the same possession -- such as stepping out to thwart the pick-and-roll before recovering to defend the basket -- but then again, neither can most big men.
On offense, Duncan has dropped off. The key difference is that he no longer gets to the free throw line on a frequent basis. Historically, about 15 percent of Duncan's offense has come from free throws. That dropped to a career-low 11 percent in 2010-11. Without those easy points, Duncan's scoring efficiency has slipped below average. His role in San Antonio's attack -- already smaller than it had ever been -- might need to shrink again next season.
Despite those caveats, Duncan remains one of the league's top big men. He ranked seventh among post players in Basketball Prospectus' wins above replacement (WARP) statistic last season. His per-minute performance put him as the league's 10th-best player. Duncan probably has another season or maybe two as an All-Star-level player as he ages gracefully at 35. Fittingly, his closest comparison at the same age is former teammate David Robinson, who made his last All-Star team at 36 and started on a championship team at age 38 before retiring.
Here is where Spurs fans cringe, Pelton suggests for the benefit of the Spurs' future, the Spurs should look into trading their greatest player to ever wear the silver and black.
Presumably, Duncan will join his predecessor in retiring as a lifelong member of the Spurs. In the unlikely event he looks elsewhere, his game and temperament would be a perfect veteran complement to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won't have cap room in 2012 but could offer some young prospects to San Antonio as part of a sign-and-trade deal.
I enjoyed reading the piece by Pelton, butin my opinion, there are two Spurs players that should never be considered for a trade, their initials are T.D. and M.G.
I think what Spurs fans should take away from this is that Duncan is still a top notch defensive post players in the league. He struggles in the pick and roll because he's not as quick as he used to be. So basically they need a guy who can guard pick and rolls and make some jump shots. Duncan's not going anywhere.
For many years TD is the heart and soul of the spurs. He still is. While nba is a business, some components are left unmoved until the service is no longer relevant to the team. The spurs promotes loyalty to its players more so to those who gave their better years and a cog of their machinery that netted them 3 nba championship. He should be allowed to retire on his terms.I suspect that his expiring contract was not renewed because both parties agreed to it and perhaps it was the will of TD to retire while he is still a factor looked upon - while he is still ahead. I am sure he will be inducted to the Hall of Fame after his retirement. I will miss TD and I am thinking of choosing a new nba team to root for after he leaves the spurs. Good Luck TD and God Bless!
@rtesoro440 I for one will not miss you, as you are a fair weather fan, i will be , always , a San Antonio Spurs fan.
@DavidWood Help your team then. Advise them to be proactive not reactive. They lack planning. They are aware than TD is not getting any younger but, they seem not to care. At least four of their players should have viable subs because of age issues particularly power foreard and center. I appreciate your loyalty but, they are lukewarm at best toward their fans. Proof? Threir draft system. Just look at their latest draftees. None of them in the forseeable future could take the place of TD. Basketball means height. Hey, friend wakeup!
@rtesoro440 They lack planning? The spurs have the highest winning percentage out of all sports franchise for the last 11 years because of planning. Last year they were one game away from having the highest winning percentage of the season. You chose to criticize their draft system saying they are not finding a TD replacement? First of all when TD is still the 10th best player in the NBA you don't replace him with a lower quality player when you're paying TD 18-21 million a year. Besides that we do draft bigs, Richards, Bertrans, Loerbek, are bigs along with the 25 year old Euroleague MVP Splitter and many other bigs who have gone through our system. When a team wins this much it's very difficult to get a high draft position. Without a high draft pick you can't get one of the highest quality bigs and you're not going to waste a pick on a low quality big. You take the best tallent and all the sudden that high quality talent ala George Hill, turns into Leonard whom, in my opinion is essential against the heavy weights of the NBA. Dallas, Miami, Portland, LA, NYK, Denver, OKC. On thing all of these teams have in common is similar players. Dallas-Butler and Marion. Miami - James. Portland- Wallace. LA- Artest (<questionable). NYK-Carmelo. Denver-Wilson Chandler- Galanari. OKC- KD is not a 3 but should be guarded by an athletic 3. My point is Although I commend RJ for playing the most minutes and guarding the hardest players in the NBA he lacks size and lenght to handle everyone. Leonard was essential and an excellent pickup. Now when it comes to having a legitimate big, it's not a coincidence that we don't have a big and TDs contract is expiring soon. The spurs talk to the best bigs of every draft and they likely keep in touch. I would not be surprised at all if we pic up an experienced big for a big price when the time comes. When you sit down and look at this org there's a lot that will attract younger talent.
@CraigThomas @DavidWood I think you missed my point. All I did was react to your "complemenrtary pieces." All along I thought basketball is a team game not a one-man wrecking crew. All I was saying is the danger of depending so much on one guy. As you will recall when TD was injured, was a reliable sub? And, even if TD were younger today, did you expect him to play 48 minutes every night? You see each team is allowed a maximum of 15 players so that not only 5 will play the whole 48 minutes and to give others rest time and avoid injuries. Freak accident or not TD must be rested even for a while and to train a possible sub now and in the future. So, if TD retires now, who takes his place? None because mgnt didn't prepare for it. Since you inserted the case of RJ, would he be able to sub for TD? Even if he did, he has assimilated too much that he can no longer adjust to the spurs system.
@rtesoro440@DavidWood What would you have the Spurs do, intentionally drop into the lottery a few years ago to draft a high caliber player? Did Duncan have huge minutes on the floor last year? No, Duncan had been productive as ever until about the 2009-2010 season. Pop made the necessary adjustments to protect Tim last year he just had a freak injury that could have happened if he played only that one game in March. Whose development did we retard? George Hill or DeJuan Blair? And the only old person backing up Tim was McD who could probably start or be a backup on all of the teams in the NBA. RJ was brought in to infuse youth to an aging roster and it backfired. The Spurs don't depend on Duncan to do anything but play solid defense and occasionally score. Did you even watch last season?
@CraigThomas @DavidWood Your view of TD's role is putting too much pressure on him. You could be right that all they drafted are complementary pieces. Result? Over dependence on one player which meant long minutes in the floor, possible injury (it happened) and yes, it retarded the development of future players and as we are witnesssing the spurs signed old players to back up TD or totally forgetting that he is no longer a spring rooster.
@rtesoro440@DavidWood All of the recent picks in the draft have been complementary pieces to Duncan and they will remain that way until he retires. Duncan did not opt out of his contract because he will most likely retire next season (if we even have a season). A trade of the greatest PF of all-time and the pillar of your franchise for the past 14 seasons will do what... get us Nene? Not to be a Spurs elitest, but the Spurs value character and loyalty and we will not trade the greatest player of the past decade to play on into obscurity on a terrible team like Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter. Tim Duncan is greatest Spur there was and probably ever will be and one year of Duncan going 15/10 is not going to change that.