Over the duration of the San Antonio Spurs’ longstanding history, some extremely noteworthy power forwards have planted roots in the Alamo City.
Although its oftentimes overlooked, the power forward position can make or break a professional basketball team. Tasked with defending and switching on multiple positions, the power forward provides a link between the versatile small forward and anchoring center in a frontcourt. With the highest pedigree that a professional sports organization could ask for, the San Antonio Spurs have had some interesting power forwards in their ranks.
The obvious choice is franchise cornerstone and fashion icon Tim Duncan, who established himself as the greatest player in the history of his position. There’s not much that can be said about Duncan that hasn’t already been noted – his poise and supremacy on the court was matched with quick wits and relentless leadership on the bench.
However, San Antonio has been home to a handful of elite power forwards since the seventies when the team transitioned through the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. Even with stars at the helm of the position, the Spurs have had plenty of role players like Boris Diaw and Robert Horry step in and play major roles for contending teams.
Some of the players in this top five could be debated based on their full careers, but we’ll only focus on these players’ careers in the Silver and Black, so accolades and accomplishments elsewhere will not be counted toward these rankings. Without further ado, the five greatest power forwards in Spurs franchise history.
Next: No. 5 - Dennis Rodman
5. Dennis Rodman
For better or for worse, Dennis Rodman is one of the most recognizable power forwards in the game for his unwavering intensity, colorful personality and long list of accolades accumulated over his 14-year playing career. He only lasted two seasons in the Alamo City due to contract disputes with Gregg Popovich, who was general manager of the Spurs at this point, and a shifting dynamic of the team’s makeup.
From 1993-1995, Rodman etched his name into Spurs record books by posting franchise-highs in offensive, defensive and total rebounding percentage while averaging a franchise-best 17.1 boards per contest in this limited timeframe. Although he didn’t crack the top 10 for total rebounds in team history, Rodman dominated the backboards and complemented David Robinson better than any power forward before Tim Duncan.
In no way shape or form was Rodman an outstanding offensive contributor, but he knew when and where to choose his shots. The self-aware Rodman utilized an arsenal of putbacks, dunks, layups and short hooks to score when opportunity presented itself, but he never had a consistent scoring role in San Antonio. He averaged 5.6 points on 55.1 percent from the floor across 126 games as a Spur. Rodman also contributed 2.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks during that span.
His status as an all-time great is unquestioned, Rodman is a respected enforcer that served as the backbone of the five teams he played for throughout his career. The innate toughness that he brings to the table instantly elevated the players around him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a great fit for Spurs culture because of his expressive and explosive personality, but Rodman will always be remembered for his short run of excellence in San Antonio.
Rodman also served as a transitory piece for a franchise that drafted their greatest player at the same position only two years after The Worm’s departure.
Next: No. 4 - Terry Cummings
4. Terry Cummings
The potential of Terry Cummings’ career in San Antonio far exceeded the final outcome due to unforeseen circumstances, but the 6-foot-9 power forward gave the Spurs some great memories from 1989-1992. He was the heart of the San Diego Clippers for 2 seasons before emerging for Milwaukee. The Spurs thought he’d make a great fit for their team and traded for him after reaching his second All-Star game in the 1988-89 season.
Cummings averaged 19.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 2.2 assists and 0.5 blocks over the course of 218 games in his first three seasons with this franchise. He led the team to 50-win seasons in back-to-back years and was the backbone of a 48-win season after that.
In terms of playstyle, Cummings fit best into the role of traditional faceup four with a killer pump fake matched with a jump shot that keeps defenders on their toes. His mid-range game was exemplary, especially for a player of his size and stature at the time. He was also an exceptional athlete with the vertical leap and enthusiasm needed to catch defenders off the dribble and attack the rim for strong dunks or acrobatic layups.
Furthermore, Cummings was pivotal in introducing a young David Robinson to San Antonio. As a duo, Cummings and Robinson gave fits to the opposition by operating in synchronicity on the low block. He finished his Spurs career with a 24.8 usage percentage, ranking ninth amongst all players in franchise history. He also ranks eighth in total offensive rebounds for all Spurs with 943.
Next: No. 3 - LaMarcus Aldridge
3. LaMarcus Aldridge
While he may not have the hardware or accolades to solidify it, LaMarcus Aldridge has been exceptionally important to the last four seasons of San Antonio basketball. Signed in the Summer of 2015, Aldridge became a link between the Spurs of the past and the Spurs of the future. As the team shifted away from Tim Duncan and the Big Three, Aldridge held his ground and thrust the Spurs back into the limelight by stabilizing the franchise through difficult times.
The 2017-18 season was not only Aldridge’s best individual season with the team, but it proved just how valuable he could be. As the lone All-Star on the Western Conference’s seventh seed, Aldridge carried an unstable franchise in the wake of Kawhi Leonard’s final nine-game season in the Alamo City. He became the primary option on a playoff contender and reached the All-NBA Second Team for it.
Aldridge’s career average through 302 regular season games with San Antonio is 20 points, 8.4 rebounds, two assists and 1.2 blocks per contest on 50.6 percent shooting from the floor.
Just below David Robinson and Tim Duncan at one and two respectively, Aldridge is third in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 22.3 in his Spurs career. He also ranks fifth in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, third in Usage Percentage and sixth in points per game. Lastly, Aldridge has shown exceptional ability and improved effort as a defender both on and off the court, resulting in the tenth spot for blocks in franchise history with 366.
With another year on his contract and a team option available for the subsequent season, it’s safe to say that Aldridge will climb these ranks and solidify himself within the all-time lineup o the San Antonio Spurs.
Next: No. 2 - Larry Kenon
2. Larry Kenon
In his heyday, Spurs forward Larry Kenon was an explosive athlete and poised scorer who spent his best years alongside George Gervin in San Antonio. He was an integral member of the Spurs’ core after the team transitioned from the ABA to the NBA in 1976 and took the league by storm.
Over the course of his five seasons in the Alamo City, Kenon averaged 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.6 steals in roughly 36 minutes per game. At 6-foot-9, Kenon had the length of a power forward with the agility of a player much smaller than him, especially compared to his competition.
As a result of his skill, received All-Star nods in 1976,1978 and 1979. He brought championship-level experience to the team after winning the ABA title with the New Jersey Nets during his rookie year. He, along with the emergence of the superstar within Gervin, surged the Spurs to a top-three seed in all five of their seasons together.
Kenon was one of the top dunkers in both the ABA and NBA. He was adept at beating defenders off the dribble or stringing together post moves to create shots for himself. Floaters, hooks, layups and dunks were his specialties along with distinct playmaking skills that were abnormal for a player at his position during this time.
Despite the absence of a three-point shot in his arsenal, Kenon would probably adapt to the modern NBA nicely because of his positionless build, ability to guard multiple positions and great passing vision out of the high/low post.
On March 30, 1980, Kenon became one of the few Spurs to ever eclipse the 50-point mark with a 51-point performance in a 144-124 victory over the Detroit Pistons. This was a career defining performance for the legendary forward whose name is etched all across the Spurs’ franchise record books. To this day, Kenon has the fourth most rebounds in team history with 4114. His 20.7 points per game is the third-highest average for a Spur.
He’s often forgotten because of the era that he played in, but this franchise wouldn’t be what it has become today had Kenon not been a part of it.
Next: No. 1 - Tim Duncan
1. Tim Duncan
The No. 1 spot on this list is a no-brainer; Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in the history of the sport and played his entire 19-season career in San Antonio.
Duncan’s name dominates the Spurs’ record books. Here’s the list of categories that Duncan ranks first in for the history of this franchise: games played, minutes played, field goals attempted and made, free throw attempts, offensive, defensive rebounds and total rebounds, blocks, total points, turnovers, personal fouls, offensive, defensive and total win shares, and Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP.
So yeah, he’s pretty much got this spot locked down.
The Big Fundamental finished his career with an average stat line of 19 points, 10.8 boards, three assists, 0.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field. His stat line doesn’t do justice to his dominance through the late-nineties and early-2000s.
Few players could even compare to Duncan in terms of accomplishments and accolades. He was the leader of a franchise through six title appearances and five championship victories. Duncan reached the All-Star game 15 times to match the count with 15 All-NBA and All-Defensive team selections. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1998 and won All-Star MVP in the 1999-00 season.
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Timmy is one of 13 players to win more than one MVP trophy and was one of 11 players to win the award in back-to-back seasons. He led the team past other historic talents like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki without hesitation on multiple occasions and treated the game with a respect and humility that his competition could only dream of replicating.
Duncan’s achievements on the court are only matched by his omnipresent impact away from the court – the city of San Antonio was forever changed by his presence. The term “leaving it all on the court” doesn’t apply to the greatest Spur of all-time because he essentially became the heart of this city. His demeanor may not have always shown it, but Duncan’s love of San Antonio, a beautiful community that appreciated and that accepted him with such unwavering affection, didn’t go without notice.
Few franchise’s get the opportunity to draft and build with a player that’d define their organization forever, but that’s exactly what the Spurs found in Timmy D.
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Not only is he the greatest power forward in the history of the San Antonio Spurs, but Duncan is the greatest to ever grace the hardwood.