Tim Duncan: Is He a Top 5 Player This Season?


Tim Duncan was named as Sports Illustrated’s fifth best player for the 2014-2015 NBA season. Since Sports Illustrated’s list of top 100 NBA players for the upcoming season has been released, there has been much controversy about the rankings, especially about Tim Duncan being ranked number five.

Many NBA fans and writers do not think Tim Duncan is a top five player for the 2014-2015 NBA season. Some even believe Duncan is not a top five power forward in the league today, citing the league’s depth at the position with players such as Kevin Love and Blake Griffin to construct an argument otherwise.

What do the numbers say though? We take an in-depth look to see if Tim Duncan can be a top five player in the league this upcoming season.

Tim Duncan Compared to Other Top Power Forwards

As to not bore you with too many details, for this analysis we will be using Sports Illustrated’s next top five power forwards after Tim Duncan to determine whether Duncan deserves to be at the top of the power forwards list.

We will be using Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Bosh for comparison to Tim Duncan.

Win Shares

Our first method of comparison will be win shares. We will be using both total win shares for the previous season, since that was what the rankings were based on, and win shares per 48 to get a better idea of who is producing the most.

Below are the win shares of each player mentioned along with win shares per 48 minutes and minutes and games played in the regular season.

As you can see for win shares per 48, Tim Duncan ranked 4th among those players, beating out Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge. In total win shares, however, Tim Duncan ranked last.

That issue is more likely related to the lower amount of minutes played since you cannot earn win shares if you are not on the court enough. However, since what we are trying to find out is if Tim Duncan is a top five player and top five power forward, we have to take those numbers into account. The more you can produce for your team is important and therefore we will still rank that category.

For the purposes of making these comparisons simple to read we will be assigning ranks in these categories.

For these ranks, we will assign a number 1-6 to each player, one being the best and six being the worst. This will put the best power forwards into lower score numbers.

Here’s our first round of ranks after analyzing win shares:

We will hold onto this table and add more to it as we go through some more major categories.

Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

The next categories we will be looking at are offensive rating and defensive rating. This is another great advanced statistic to base comparison off because it is another statistic that takes into account the player’s performance on the court and does not hurt a player when he’s on the bench.

What we are interested in here is ranking the difference between offensive and defensive efficiency, that is, the net rating. This is what we will add when we update our table.

Below are the same six players and their offensive and defensive ratings.

The differences between the two numbers are listed below for your convienience.

As we take a look at these tables we some interesting things occurring. The most easily noticeable is that Kevin Love is an offensive juggernaut, as is Dirk Nowtizki. Also, Tim Duncan is the best defensively, differentiating himself from the rest of the crowd by being the only player to post a defensive rating under 100.

One takeaway from using this model as a means of comparison is that it helps to eliminate some bias. That is, even if a player is great offensively he will not be ranked as highly if his defense is poor in comparison.

We will go ahead and add these ranks to our table from below to give us a more accurate model of how these all-star power forwards compare The best rank (No. 1) will be given to the player with the highest net rating. (Note, since Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh have tied for 4th, we will be awarding 4.5 points to each of them)

Looking at our table we can see Tim Duncan is starting to lag against the competition. Can he make it up? Let’s go to the next category to find out!

Player Efficiency Rating

Player efficiency is a great tool to add to our comparison as it combines all advanced statistics and puts out one number that describes how efficient a player is.

Below is table of how these six power forwards stack up in player efficiency.

Our first look at the table shows that Chris Bosh may not be as elite as some fans think. Remember, player efficiency rating is a measure of per minute production, the higher your PER the more production you’re offering for your team.

This may just be an issue of playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. We could look into this more but that is probably served best for another piece.

Another noticeable fact from the table is that once again, Tim Duncan ranks towards the bottom end of the list. This is not good news for someone who is considered to be a top five player for the 2014-2015 NBA season.

As we analyze this list, lets take an updated look at our table below.

Per 36 Minutes Numbers

Our second to last category that we will take a look at is per 36 numbers. Per 36 numbers allow every player to be put on the same level as their averages are adjusted to averages per 36 minutes. This statistic is even more valuable for elite players.

Why is this statistic more valuable for these players you may ask?

The statistic is more valuable because it these players are already playing minutes close to 36 per game. This statistic is not very valuable for players who seldom play because usually their per 36 minutes numbers are inflated because of how much of an impact actual minutes played has on this statistic.

For example, if a player played one minute per game and averaged two points per game, their per 36 points would be 72. Now it’s very doubtful this player can average 72 points per game were he playing 36 minutes which means this statistic is basically useless in determining how good of a player this is.

Anyways, back to our numbers for these power forwards. For the simplicity of this model, we will only be using five per 36 categories. Those categories are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.

Below are the per 36 numbers for these players in the aforementioned categories.

Once again, we will be assigning ranks for these numbers.

After ranking these players in these five categories, we now have a more accurate comparison as we continue to try to determine whether Tim Duncan is actually king of all power forwards for the 2014-2015 NBA season.

Team Ranking

The final category we will use to asses these players is how well their team did. Part of being a great player is being able to translate elite ability into positive results.

For team rankings, we will simply use team standings to rank these players.

The record for each team from last player for each player is listed below.

Checking out this final category, we assign ranks once again.

The final rankings are shown below.


Tim Duncan is still a great player. These numbers clearly show that Tim Duncan was at the top of the best power forwards last season even in his 17th season.

However, the numbers do show that Duncan is not the top power forward in the league headed into the 2014-2015 NBA season.

We used numerous advanced statistical categories to come to this conclusion. Although we did use a bunch of categories that does not necessarily mean our conclusion is right.

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These statistics can be manipulated in an array of different ways. You could give more weight to certain categories and take away weight from categories you think are less important.

This is just one way to measure whether Tim Duncan is a top five player this season.

Some other notable results that can drawn from this data is how far and away Kevin Love and Blake Griffin are from the rest of these members on the list. Love and Griffin clearly seem to be the best power forwards in the league based on these numbers.

What’s even more special is that Griffin was able to translate his statistical dominance into wins.

What do you think about the notion that Tim Duncan is a top five player headed into the 2014-2015 NBA season? Let us know in the comments!

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