Tim Duncan: The San Antonio Spurs’ Usual Suspect


Remember during the NBA Preseason all we heard about the inevitable and rapid rise of the great Anthony Davis? The anointed one? How about the continued growth of LaMarcus Aldridge? Or the new stalwart of the paint, Marc Gasol?

I remember vividly those conversations and analyses by the sports-media elite. The ones carrying the not so subtle undercurrents of outright fandom.

Friday night marked the midpoint in this season for the San Antonio Spurs, and although not all teams are at the 41 game mark, we’ll call it the midpoint for the NBA. Would it surprise you that it is not these upstarts, these future stars, that alone carry the burden of filling the Association’s stat sheet? Frankly, it surprised me.

Jan 13, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Spurs defeated the Pelicans 101-95. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With the media coverage, Sports Illustrated covers, and the Michael Wilbon’s of the world salivating for the likes of New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Memphis’ Marc Gasol, I reluctantly moved aside my Tim Duncan bobble head to make room for these new stars to hold their place on my shelf. Much like The Young and the Restless, the NBA was moving aside the old staples for younger, fresher versions of the same.

So why is it, with 41 games remaining, do I look at the NBA stats leaders and see the same old, same old?

Sure, I see a lot of Davis, Gasol, and Aldridge across the board. But I see a lot of Tim Duncan too. Checking the total rebound percentages for these players, Duncan is ninth, with a 19% TRP. Neither Gasol, Aldridge, nor Davis show up in the top 20. Even in straight defensive rebounding percentages Tim Duncan ranks sixth in the NBA at 28.1%. Davis shows up at 17th, with 24.7%.

Duncan is the number two rated defensive player in the NBA, behind Draymond Green of Golden State. LaMarcus Aldridge is 11th. Keep that line of thinking going and check into the Defensive Plus/Minus, and you will find none other than Tim Duncan leading the NBA. Marc Gasol sits comfortably in the middle of the NBA-pack.

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Its been said that the first thing to go is defense. A player can’t move his feet and react quick enough to remain elite. What Duncan is doing is unprecedented. But, you probably knew that already.

The only place we don’t see Duncan holding his own is in total minutes played. His 31 minutes per game, trending down, doesn’t even register as statistically significant. No, the drivers for the most used lineup belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trailblazers. Each of those squads have two players averaging greater than 36 minutes per game.

That is why advanced statistics matter. A player can amass the most rebounds per game, most points, or most assists simply by being good and playing a lot of minutes. It’s also the best way to find yourself burned out come Playoff time. Efficiency while on the court is key, and the secret to why Tim Duncan, and San Antonio has failed to come off the leaderboard.

Next: Kawhi Leonard and the Most Unique Role in the NBA