The third returns for the 2013 All-Star game are in and it's not good news if you want your San Antonio Spurs to be a part of the starting lineup. These returns look similar in the Western Conference as the previous in that Tim Duncan is still in fourth place of the "big position" behind Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Blake Griffin. Here are the most recent returns for the frontcourt positions from NBA.com:
Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,088,797
Dwight Howard (LAL) 716,671
Blake Griffin (LAC) 593,024
Tim Duncan (SA) 352,534
Pau Gasol (LAL) 239,440
While Durant is having an MVP caliber season, At 36 years old, Duncan's production this season is unheard of, especially when he has seemed to wind down by now like in past years. Duncan's numbers are similar to Griffin and Howard's with one huge difference: the Big Fundamental is doing his work while averaging less minutes than both of the men ahead of him. Duncan's is averaging 17ppg and 9rpg in 30mpg while Howard's stats are 17ppg and 9rpg in 36mpg and Griffin's stats for this season are 17ppg and 8rpg in 32mpg. The minutes are different but also consider this: Duncan has played in 34 games while Howard has played in 31 games and Griffin in 33. Spurs fans always say the mission for the season is an NBA championship, but it's a shame Duncan's contributions are not getting noticed by the fans who decide to choose players from a better known team or the team that has the most media attention over the most deserving. The backcourt votes don't look any better for the Spurs either. Manu Ginobili is last from the main vote getters, but Tony Parker is well behind guys who have been struggling this season or have been injured for the majority of games. Here are the West backcourt returns:
Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,177,456
Chris Paul (LAC) 651,893
Jeremy Lin (Hou) 605,624
James Harden (Hou) 337,585
Russell Westbrook (OKC) 268,558
Steve Nash (LAL) 202,274
Tony Parker (SA) 128,966
Ricky Rubio (Min) 112,352
Stephen Curry (GS) 97,761
Manu Ginobili (SA) 84,564
Jeremy Lin has been struggling this season with expectations and Steve Nash has been injured for a large number of games while Parker has stayed healthy and lead the Spurs' offense as their leader court. Parker has been having a better season so far (19ppg, 7apg, 51%FG) than Lin's by far (12ppg, 6apg, 43%FG) and leading the Spurs (26-9) than Lin's Houston Rockets (18-14). Even though the backcourt position is limited to two positions (point guard and shooting guard), the majority of the NBA's big time names are in the West are in the guard position. You can attribute Lin's popularity to his season last year and his nickname "Linsanity" to get votes over more deserving players behind him.
While its great for the resume... this is one season when I'd rather see our best Spurs get some rest... unless we get the best of both worlds with them being a coach's choice and/or playing very limited minutes.
My bigger concern is if we can get one more great year out of Duncan (under contract and it looks like he's got the right offseason formula) and Manu (can we keep him retiring and get him to re-sign for at least one more year?).
A lot of roster questions for next year... many player options and qualifying offers out there, including Kawhi, Splitter, Diaw, Neal and Mills. This is the last contract year for Blair and Cap'n Jack too. Next year is Nando's last contract year (and Bonner's). Don't think its time yet to try to bring in Bertans or Richards, though Hanga seems close. Its imperative we keep the core together... otherwise (Manu retires and we lose several folks) it could be a domino effect and we could lose most everyone... entering a full-scale rebuilding mode, which might lead Duncan to go ahead and retire.