Don't even get me started on LeBron James
Yes, LeBron didn't have Duncan's stability, but that was at least partially his choice, right? LeBron has exercised creative control and player empowerment more than any star in NBA history, to the point where "GM LeBron" is a universally understood term even among casual fans.
And while that's genuinely amazing, are we really going to say he didn't have near-complete control over choosing his entire roster throughout his career? Because for all the hypothetical “if Bron had Pop'' arguments, who's to say he would have let Popovich even coach him and last long enough to evolve under Pop?
He had Mike Brown in Cleveland, Pop’s top assistant prior to joining the Cavs. He had Erik Spoelstra in Miami, who has since shown he is one of the NBA’s top coaches. Last year’s Finals proved that. But LeBron left both of those guys on his own accord and canned David Blatt, who had a great reputation and led the Cavaliers to a Finals appearance in his first season as coach.
Frank Vogel lasted, sure. But that is because those two went up against each other for years in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and also because LeBron was far more focused on replacing his teammates in his first year in L.A.
Because guys like Brandon Ingram, Lamelo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma were not enough of a supporting cast for LeBron, instead he recruited the absolute perfect second star alongside him. But Anthony Davis wasn’t the only top-five caliber player he played with during his time.
When they first joined forces in South Beach, Dwyane Wade was considered top five too. And while the world doesn’t seem to remember this, people were talking about prime Chris Bosh, prime Kevin Love, and prime Kyrie Irving as top 15, top 10, and sometimes higher players at their time of acquisition too. It's pretty uncanny how their stats dropped tremendously while playing with LeBron and their sacrifices resulted in the blame for the failures. All of a sudden, these guys are not enough “help.”
This narrative holds even more water when talking about LeBron’s role players. By role players, I mean Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Dwyane Wade (in Cleveland), Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O’ Neal, Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Mike Miller, and Kyle Kuzma.
I chose bigger names here, but you can go deeper to look at guys like Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood. Look at any of these players' overall production and efficiency for the year or two prior to joining the King – these guys did not miraculously age and become decrepit overnight. They had strong years right before.
Many of the ones who left LeBron and then joined other teams vastly improved. Heck guys like Brandon Ingram are proving that this year. That’s not to say that these players are better off without him -- simply that the help was there all along, just undervalued.
Everyone needs help to have success, and Duncan's case is no different than the rest.