Sunday, 9 August 2015

Tim Duncan – the luckiest NBA center ever

(Originally posted on Wednesday, 10 August 2016)

Tim Duncan is one of my favourite NBA players ever, but I do NOT like it when he is called “the best power forward ever”.

Tim Duncan was very LUCKY to be drafted by the San Antonio Spurs – a team with a fantastic center David Robinson. I think that in most of the other teams Duncan would play at center, because it would be better for the team. While playing with David Robinson, it was not necessary.

Duncan was doubly lucky that he played with David Robinson - he didn't have to worry about the strongest opponents (centers), especially in defence, and he and Robinson had both easier time against most of the other teams because it's very hard to defend against two big men, especially as gifted as they were.

Robinson was smart enough to accept a different role in the franchise that was “his” in the whole previous decade. He focused on defence and let Duncan carry the San Antonio offensively, especially in clutch times – this was the only thing at which Tim Duncan was clearly better than David Robinson.

David Robinson did a great job playing as a secondary, yet tremendously gifted big man, next to Duncan, for whole FIVE years! Duncan won 2 NBA MVP awards in that time. And let's not forget that David Robinson was the NBA MVP himself (in 1995).

Overall I am against comparing players according to their nominal positions. The best players are the ones who can do whatever is needed to win games. Moreover the nominal position is the position at which a particular player starts a game, but much more important thing is how many minutes he plays at this position and how many minutes he plays at a different position.

During the 2003 playoffs David Robinson started at center, but played only 23.4 minutes per game. There was another nominal center Kevin Willis, but he played only 5.1 minutes a game. Tim Duncan started at power forward, but he played 42.5 minutes per game, so he played AT LEAST 14 minutes per game at center, not at power forward.

One could argue that a team can play without a center and that Duncan was power forward all the time. Well, I wouldn't agree with that because a power forward guarding a center is doing the center's job. And in offence if there is no center then the power forward has more possibilities to drive to the basket, so he is NOT a classic power forward either.

The most important reason I consider Tim Duncan as a ceter is the fact that since the 2006-2007 season Tim Duncan is listed as center! That's 10 seasons of his career!

Beside David Robinson there were also other great players in San Antonio when Tim Duncan started his career, most notably Sean Elliott who was the 3rd pick in the 1989 draft. Moreover Duncan played for a great coach – Gregg Popovitch. I think Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovitch enhanced each other's legacies significantly. Lastly the San Antonio Spurs organization, as a whole, was a dream come true to Duncan. He was very lucky to be drafted by such a great team. The luckiest NBA center ever!

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