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San Antonio Spurs: Where Does Tim Duncan Rank Among Current Big Men?

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Dec 25, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (right) is defended by San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (left) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan is old.

Let’s be honest, that’s why everyone continues to count out the San Antonio Spurs year after year in preseason predictions.

He’s 37 years young, and through his 16 years in the league, he has morphed from a superstar power forward into a second-option center.

Duncan may have recently surpassed Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon on the all-time rebounding list, but his (usually impressive) 10.0 rebounds per game doesn’t look nearly as good when compared to Kevin Love‘s 12.6, Dwight Howard‘s 12.3, LaMarcus Aldridge’s 11.1 or even Blake Griffin’s 9.8.

Those four—Love, Howard, Aldridge and Griffin—all also average much higher points per game than Duncan, too. Love at 26.3, Howard’s 18.5, Aldridge’s 23.4 and Blake’s 24.3 dwarf Duncan’s 15.2 this season, even if it’s the 10th best among power forwards.

Nov. 10, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) battles for a rebound with San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) during the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Spurs won the game 112-109. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Love, Howard, Aldridge and Griffin are all better than Duncan right now.

I’d definitely take Tim Duncan over Blake Griffin in a layup contest.

— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) May 16, 2012

Howard and Aldridge are in the middle of their prime at age 28; Griffin and Love, though already superstars, have yet to fully blossom (we hope); both still relatively (Anthony Davis is 20) young at age 24 and 25, respectively.

Love hasn’t yet seen the playoffs, people only now started noticing Aldridge or admitting Griffin a true superstar, and Howard has gone from hero to villain faster than Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.

Where was Duncan at their age?

Winning his third Finals MVP and second regular season MVP.

Mar 2, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs players (from left) Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan during the national anthem before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No big deal.

Feb 26, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) ad Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) battle for the rebound during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Houston Rockets 101-93. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

But we fans only care about right now.

Right now the younger four have better athleticism and offensive numbers than Tim Duncan, but do they have a better offensive game overall?

Unfortunately, the numbers might say yes.

According to BasketballReference.com, Timmy’s offensive win shares this season are the lowest of his career at 1.9.

Of the other four, Aldridge has the lowest win share at 6.4. Duncan has lower numbers in offensive win shares and defensive win shares than the foursome, as well. Duncan and Aldridge average the lowest effective field-goal percentage of the five players, a stat which takes into account that a player gets an extra point when shooting a two over a three-point shot. Howard surprisingly ranks the highest of the five at .590, but it’s essentially because all he does is dunk.

Duncan’s free-throw attempt rate is also much lower than last season; he doesn’t take as many free-throw shots per field-goal attempt. Similar to effective field-goal percentage, Duncan and Aldridge are both ranked the lowest of the five. Aldridge is known for shooting outside and around the elbow, while Duncan likes to play closer to the rim—so this low stat is more of a telling sign for Timmy than it is for Aldridge.

Mar 2, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) shoots the ball past San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan may no longer be statistically vital to the Spurs, but that doesn’t change anything. Everyone says those four are better, but who would you rather have on your team come playoff time? Who do you trust the most out those five?

@JuneJoseph When you’re no.1 in any positive stat in Playoff history, hard to argue the greatness involved. Tim Duncan is one bad cat.

— NBA Philippines (@NBA_Philippines) May 22, 2013

The answer is Duncan.

As a Phoenix Suns fan, I understand Tim Duncan’s wrath more than anybody.

And if you’re taking Love, Aldridge, Howard or Griffin in the playoffs, then you didn’t watch the playoffs last year—or perhaps the last fifteen years. **All stats courtesy of NBA.com

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