For the Spurs fans who are wondering what basketball will be like without “The Big Fundamental” at the helm, I would advise them to take a look at the teams before they drafted Tim Duncan.
With Stars like Sean Elliot and David Robinson, the Spurs of the 90’s were perennially competitive, but it wasn’t until they drafted Duncan that they finally made the NBA Finals.This will be the year that Gregg Popovich will be more of an instructor than a coach. Almost half of the roster is gone from last year, and with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the downside of their careers, this season signals a major transition into a new era of Spurs basketball.
This begs us to ask five key questions concerning the Spurs 2016-2017 season:
1. How Much Will The Team Miss Timmy D?
Although it is true that Duncan was losing his effectiveness on offense, he was stellar on the defensive end, ranking 2nd in the league in plus/minus ratio (Only Golden State’s Andrew Bogut’s 5.45 was better than Duncan’s 5.43 rating). Duncan was the defensive anchor for the Spurs last year, and there was a discernible difference for the team when he was off the court.
Just his presence alone cut down on backdoor layups or blown switches stemming from the pick and roll. Duncan not only knew where his job, but also where the other four players needed to position themselves.
By adding Lamarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard’s steady progression, the team was already tailoring the offense away from Duncan. However, had Duncan come back for a final season (highly unlikely because a farewell tour seems a bit out of character for him), he would have played a huge part in the locker room culture.
It is immeasurable how much a veteran presence (not mention Hall of Famer) can affect wins and losses. This is where they will miss Duncan the most. When you have a player with his resume, who not only likes to be coached, but also was a de-facto assistant coach himself, it only makes the coaching staff’s jobs that much easier. It is the behind the scenes stuff–the things you don’t see on the court, that will illustrate how much the Spurs lost with Duncan retiring.