The NBA is filled with stars who can amaze fans with raw athleticism, above-the-rim highlights, and incredible stat lines. The players that tend to get the most attention are those who have a flashy game or outgoing (or controversial) personality. Tim Duncan does not really have any of those things, yet he has been one of the more successful players in the history of professional basketball. With Duncan’s time in the NBA likely reaching in its twilight stage, now is a decent time to put his career in review.
Since Duncan entered the league in 1997, numerous players have come in and dazzled the fans and media, yet Duncan has continued to do things, mostly out of the media spotlight. Consistency has been one of the major things to define Duncan’s career. His current career average is 19.9 points per game, which in itself is not exactly going to blow people away. Yet this number has mainly decreased simply because of the length of time that he has been in the league. As one would expect, he was more of a scorer earlier in his career.
From a statistical standpoint, one of Duncan’s greatest strengths has been the ability to affect multiple areas of the game. He has been able to score, rebound, block shots, and even pass well for a big man. This was perhaps best illustrated in the 2003 NBA Finals, when Duncan averaged about 24 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, and five blocks for the series. In fact, in the deciding sixth game, he nearly came up with a quadruple-double.
Duncan’s per game averages for this season are decent, but not spectacular. He is scoring well under 20 points per game. However, if one looks at his points per 36 minutes, Duncan’s averages have been remarkably consistent throughout his career. Certainly, Duncan is not as quick and mobile as he once was, but any lessening of effectiveness seems to have more to do with decreased playing time than and actual decrease in ability. Duncan is simply not able play for as many minutes each season than he once was. Duncan has averaged less than 30 minutes per game in three of the last four seasons.
A review of Duncan’s career shows how he has adapted his game over the course of his time in the NBA and has gradually adjusted to a different role. In the early days, Duncan was the person that the Spurs ran their offense through. As Duncan started getting older, and players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili came on to the scene, Duncan started sharing the load. The past few seasons, the Spurs’ offense has mostly been run through Tony Parker. Duncan has taken on a secondary role and become more of a jump shooter.
Of course, the thing that really sets Duncan apart from many players is championships. Duncan’s Spurs have won the NBA championship four times and been a strong contender several other seasons. In addition, Duncan has three Finals Most Valuable Player awards to his credit.
When people review Tim Duncan’s NBA career, he will likely go down as one of the best players to play the game. Duncan has never had amazing athleticism, but his consistency and results speak for themselves.
Commentary by Zach Kirkman