This week, the ESPN Insider page – courtesy of Project Spurs’ Trevor Zickgraf – is running a series on prospective 2012-2013 free agents. San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan made the list as Duncan’s deal will expire after the 2011-12′ season, should there be an season or not.
ESPN writer Kevin Pelton analyzes Duncan and gives his opinion on what has caused Duncan’s production to decline, and Duncan’s deteriorating use in the Spurs’ offense. Pelton discusses Duncan’s offense, defense, and at the end, he gives a surprise consideration Spurs fans will hate to read.
Pelton first said analysts and fans must stop comparing Duncan to his days when he was in his MVP form. As stated in my Room for Improvement column on Duncan, Pelton agrees age has caught up to Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich limits Duncan’s body to preserve what he has left for a high level each season to fully use in the playoffs.
Pelton then dives into Duncan’s play by method of advanced statistics.
On a per-minute basis, Duncan’s defensive numbers remain just as good as they were in his prime. Duncan no longer can make multiple defensive plays on the same possession — such as stepping out to thwart the pick-and-roll before recovering to defend the basket — but then again, neither can most big men.
On offense, Duncan has dropped off. The key difference is that he no longer gets to the free throw line on a frequent basis. Historically, about 15 percent of Duncan’s offense has come from free throws. That dropped to a career-low 11 percent in 2010-11. Without those easy points, Duncan’s scoring efficiency has slipped below average. His role in San Antonio’s attack — already smaller than it had ever been — might need to shrink again next season.
Despite those caveats, Duncan remains one of the league’s top big men. He ranked seventh among post players in Basketball Prospectus’ wins above replacement (WARP) statistic last season. His per-minute performance put him as the league’s 10th-best player. Duncan probably has another season or maybe two as an All-Star-level player as he ages gracefully at 35. Fittingly, his closest comparison at the same age is former teammate David Robinson, who made his last All-Star team at 36 and started on a championship team at age 38 before retiring.
Here is where Spurs fans cringe, Pelton suggests for the benefit of the Spurs’ future, the Spurs should look into trading their greatest player to ever wear the silver and black.
Presumably, Duncan will join his predecessor in retiring as a lifelong member of the Spurs. In the unlikely event he looks elsewhere, his game and temperament would be a perfect veteran complement to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won’t have cap room in 2012 but could offer some young prospects to San Antonio as part of a sign-and-trade deal.
I enjoyed reading the piece by Pelton, butin my opinion, there are two Spurs players that should never be considered for a trade, their initials are T.D. and M.G.