My colleague here at Project Spurs, Jason Rogers, recently wrote a fantastic post on Manu Ginobili and how the proverbial torch has been passed to him this season. Well, I just had to chime in with my thoughts on this topic.
For more than a decade, the San Antonio Spurs have leaned heavily on their defense and half-court plays to win ball games. Such strategy worked wonders for the Spurs, it gave them four NBA titles. At the center of it all was Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ superstar who always seemed to shy away from the spotlight.
During his prime, Duncan was a lock for 25 points and 12 rebounds every night with the Spurs’ offense and defense relying on him. Now at 34, he is no longer the center of the offense as it now revolves around moving the ball more and giving more freedom to their deep backcourt to score more.
Now into his 14th season, Duncan is averaging 13.6 points and 9.4 rebounds, both career-lows, while shooting 49 percent from the field. That decline could be blamed on his 28.9 minutes per ball game, which is also at an all-time low. After 33 games the Spurs (29-4) remain on top of the NBA standings and doing so with Duncan currently the third-leading scorer behind Ginobili, and Parker.
But at this point of his career, Duncan has clearly become a supporting cast member in a Spurs’ scheme dominated by guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
In fact, the Spurs’ offense has gradually drifted away from Duncan since 2007 but he has accepted this and adapted on the transition while still continues to provide the things to help the team win. On most nights he seemed content on providing the Spurs some needed rebounding, interior defense and making everybody involved on offense and on some nights he can still take over, score big and lead the Spurs to victory.
Like David Robinson once did for the team, Duncan has stepped aside, recognizing his new set of limitations and finding other ways to contribute. He has taken the back-seat, but it doesn’t mean the Spurs need him less. In fact come playoff time, the Spurs can’t contend for another NBA title without him.
Yes, Ginobili is making the big plays for the Spurs for the most part this season and a healthy Parker appears to be more consistent and is running the team a lot better.
However, Duncan remains one of the game’s smartest and is still the anchor of the Spurs’ defensive schemes and it’s no secret the Spurs’ recipe for winning four NBA championships has been always been on the defensive side of the floor.
With all things considered, I believe it is fair to ask, are the Spurs still Duncan’s team? Tell us what us what you think.