Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (left) and forward Tim Duncan (21) wait on the bench prior to game three of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Even as the Finals rage on, it is never too soon for the San Antonio Spurs to think a few steps ahead. Where should they focus in the upcoming NBA draft?
Tim Duncan nearing his end in the Spurs front court
Getting 15 points, nine rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game during a season is pretty good for a pro basketball big man. Throw in the little fact that the big man is 38-years old and it goes from pretty good to practically inhuman. That is how much Tim Duncan has meant to the San Antonio Spurs front court since he entered the league in 1999. Nobody has been more consistently excellent over the years at his position and he once again has helped his team get into position win a fifth championship. Beyond him? The grass isn’t quite as green. That’s not to diminish what Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw mean to the Spurs. They are both solid contributors, but in terms of providing an offensive counterbalance to the teams’ strong perimeter game, neither has the prowess Duncan does. That is why the Spurs may be in line to seek out a big man in the NBA draft who not only fits their system but can begin to take some of the offensive burden off their future Hall of Famer.
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Alex Kirk and Rasmus Larsen offer overlooked skills and size
The problem is the San Antonio Spurs won’t have the most ideal draft position to do something about it. Granted, it’s a pill the team would gladly swallow if they win the title but still their great draft success in the past has always worked because Duncan was their rock in the middle. Seeking out player who might replace him is something they haven’t had to consider. So what are some names to look at? Among the big men a name that has cropped up of late is Alex Kirk. A junior from New Mexico, conditioning and back issues have done a number on his stock, overshadowing his prowess as a rebounder and interior offensive presence. Another is international standout Rasmus Larsen. Hailing from Denmark, his game is built in the San Antonio Spurs style. He’s big but has perimeter skills, can shoot and handle the ball along with have the typical defense and rebounding ability. Either one of these guys can’t be considered obvious replacements for a Tim Duncan, but their upside is something ageless coach Gregg Popovich has exploited in the past and could do so again.
The NBA draft is two weeks away. San Antonio is preoccupied at the moment, but when the time comes they have a tough decision to make.