Debate: Passing the torch (Part 1)

As the Tim Duncan era is nearing the end, staff-writers Robby Lim and Jason Rogers will be having a debate on which current San Antonio Spurs player will most likely be the one to carry the torch for the team post Duncan era. Up first is Robby Lim.

I know it’s a little too early. Tim Duncan is not retiring tomorrow. But hey it’s the offseason, the NBA Draft is over, Tiago Splitter finally signed with the Spurs, the major free-agents are signed and the 2010 NBA Summer League is winding down so why not have some fun and try to look into the future of the franchise.

Let’s be realistic, the Duncan era is slowly coming to a close but he still has two to three good years in him. Maybe four? However, with the current roster makeup, who do you think will be the best player three years down the road? My best bet — DeJuan Blair.

Surprised? Let me explain.

Blair had one of the most successful rookie seasons as a Spur. He ranks third in points per game among rookies (behind Duncan and Tony Parker) since the 1997-1998 season and he managed to do this despite averaging just 18.2 minutes per ball game.

Not only that, last year he was one the most efficient player in Spurs uniform. His PER was 17.8 third behind Duncan (24.8) and Manu Ginobili (22.5). As he averaged 7.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and .61 steals while shooting 55.6% from the field in 82 games. Now think long term and as he gets better, his numbers could possibly be even better.

It’s also worth noting that despite falling into the 2nd round as the 37th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft amidst concerns of his ACL-less knees, Blair was able to play all 82 regular season games without suffering any serious injury.

More importantly, he was a solid rotation player who did a great job as Duncan’s backup. Who can forget his 28 points and 21 rebound performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder when the Spurs chose to give Duncan the night off.

The most important part is Blair still has a lot to improve and all his deficiencies are correctable. Another year in the Spurs’ training camp can do wonders for him. Most new players are better during the second season. After his impressive rookie campaign there is a great chance he can do the same.

I know skeptics will say that he is too undersized to be a dominant force someday but he already proved that he can compensate his lack of height. He scores on put backs and grabbed rebounds using his wide body and 7’2″ freakish wingspan. He even covers the passing lanes pretty well getting some steals on defense.

Charles Barkley, another undersized power forward became an All-Star during his days and if Blair keeps on improving, he might project to be similar to Barkley down the road of his career. Of course by no means am I stating he will be on the level of a Hall of Famer like Barkley. More like “Barkley lite.”

blairreverse2On and off the court, #45 also has set a great example being a good role model and setting up basketball training camps for kids. He was well liked by coaches and players and was an instant fan favorite because of his nice demeanor. He also has a wide grin that can certainly light up the day of Spurs fans. So what’s not to like?

And with Parker being open to leaving San Antonio next season and Ginobili not getting any younger, Blair is a promising young player that could be the face of the Spurs’ franchise in the future.I mean the guy is a hard worker and is very coachable.

He also has some lofty expectations about himself, having mentioned recently that he wants to win an NBA title and league MVP someday.

Young, talented, confident and has desire to win. How can you pass on a player like that to possibly carry the torch for the San Antonio Spurs?

Come back tomorrow for part 2 as Project Spurs’ staff-writer, Jason Rogers, will present which current Spur he feels will most likely to carry the torch once Duncan retires.