The San Antonio Spurs list 18 players on the roster heading into training camp, and Air Alamo will break down each of the current players, their strengths, weaknesses, chances to make the roster and expectations for the 2015-16 NBA season.
Although saying “this could be Tim Duncan’s last year” has become an annual preseason exercise, this really, really, really could be the future Hall of Famer’s final season with the Spurs.
Who Is He?
Duncan’s story is widely known, but it’s such a good one. A native of the Virgin Islands, Duncan was on track to become an Olympic swimmer. However, Hurricane Hugo destroyed the pool, and he ultimately followed basketball to Wake Forest University.
The center was a two-time first-team All-American and earned National Player of the Year honors as a senior when he racked up 20.8 points and 14.7 rebounds. San Antonio selected Duncan No. 1 overall in the 1997 NBA draft and has achieved nothing but success since then.
Pop reveals secret to Spurs’ lasting success: “Get the No. 1 pick in the draft every 10 years and make sure it’s a franchise player.”
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 8, 2014
Duncan has collected 15 All-Star bids, 15 All-Defensive nods, 15 All-NBA honors, five NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, two NBA MVPs and a Rookie of the Year. His trophy case is pretty full.
Although the 39-year-old isn’t the dominant player he once was, Duncan has steadily adapted to fit San Antonio’s strengths. He’s a complementary piece to the roster’s youth, but Duncan is still a star.
Strengths and Weaknesses
At this point of Duncan’s playing days, his all-around efficiency is what stands out the most.
Duncan attempted a career-low 10.6 shots per game in 2014-15, but he connected on 51.2 percent—the fifth-highest mark of his 18-year tenure. Although the 6’11” post player never developed a left-handed shot, Duncan still uses his right hand to finish at an elite level.
He also posted averages of 9.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while Duncan’s 2.0 blocks per outing were the sixth-most in the league. Additionally, the power forward recorded a 113 offensive rating, 96.9 defensive rating (third in NBA) and a 22.6 player efficiency rating (12th).
TIM DUNCAN ROBOT SUCCESS
— Lang Whitaker (@langwhitaker) December 18, 2014
Duncan doesn’t have a major weakness, but Father Time has robbed The Big Fundamental of something that helped alter the Spurs 2014-15 season: athleticism.
Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul hit a the series-clinching shot in Game 7 over the outstretched arm of Duncan. A young Duncan easily blocks that shot. The 39-year-old didn’t have the springs.
What to Expect in 2015-16
For the first time in a long time, Duncan will officially be a center. Or maybe he’s always been a center, but the NBA has routinely and erroneously considered him a power forward.
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Regardless, Duncan will cede control of the frontcourt to LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio’s big-name free-agent signing, on the offensive end. Though Duncan will continue contributing as a scorer, his role will decrease a little more because of Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
However, the defensive side is where the Spurs need Duncan to shine. He’s the only true rim-protector—perhaps on the entire roster, but certainly the lone post-playing shot-blocker in the rotation.
Duncan won’t be flashy. But when San Antonio needs reliable production, expect them to look directly toward the best player in franchise history.