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Monday, October 7th, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  97 responses

Top 50: Tim Duncan, no. 22

TD still has some work left to do.

by Nick Rotunno

Before we get rolling on this ode to Timmy D, here’s a not-so-bold prediction for the ’13-14 regular season:

The San Antonio Spurs will be overlooked. Written off. Overshadowed by those flashier squads, the superstars in Miami and Houston and OKC.

Count on it—Timmy, Tony and the rest of those boring Spurs will be largely ignored for most of the year, flying under the national radar, even as they blitzkrieg much of the Western Conference and pile up win after impressive win.

It happened last year, and it will almost certainly happen again this year. The media-at-large will declare—and not entirely incorrectly—that San Antonio’s key players are too old, too creaky in the joints, too ponderous for this modern-age, uber-athletic NBA.

But the Spurs (and we must speak of them collectively, for the Spurs are uniquely collective) won’t give a damn. They’ll make the Playoffs, of course, and they will probably win a couple of rounds in decisive fashion.

Hell, there’s no reason San Antonio can’t climb all the way to the NBA Finals once again next June. Gregg Popovich is still the coach; newly crowned EuroBasket champion Tony Parker is still quick as ever. If Manu stays healthy and returns to his usual form, he’s a first-rate weapon. The rest of the roster is stocked with solid young talent.

And then, as always, there’s Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental will lead the way, because Duncan always carries the banner for the San Antonio Spurs, every single year, season after season.

Since the SLAM Top 50 is the definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players, I will definitively opine that Timmy D is still the best power forward in the L. Not the most “fundamental,” not simply the most decorated. The best.

Period.

The numbers speak for themselves. Last season, at the age of 36 (he turned 37 in April) Timmy shot over 50 percent from the field, averaged 17.8 points per game and grabbed 9.9 rebounds per game. In the Playoffs, against the Lakers, Golden State and Memphis, he upped his output to 18.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, to go along with 1.6 blocks per.

In the Finals versus the Heat, Duncan toyed with a vulnerable Miami front line, owning the paint through seven hard-fought games. He scored 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and hit 4-5 from the free-throw line in the Game 6 loss at Miami. In Game 7—another valiant losing effort—he showed up again, this time to the tune of 24 and 12. It wasn’t enough to win his fifth ring, but he sure gave it a go.

Duncan earned—or perhaps re-earned—a lot of admirers last postseason. Look no further than this here Top 50.

Last season Duncan was ranked 39th. He’s jumped 17 spots in just one year!

Those Finals performances were so spectacular, and Duncan, despite his “advanced” age and worn-out body, was so dominant, that people sort of forgot he’d been doing these things for years. His career is littered with accolades—four rings, two League MVPs (’02 and ’03), three Finals MVPs, perennial All-Star appearances and multiple campaigns with Team USA.

He has scored nearly 24,000 points in his 16-year NBA career.

Statistically Duncan is one of the best of all time. But there are other, less quantifiable ways to measure an athlete, and Duncan brings more than skill to the table. He is a leader and a winner, the kind of man who shuts up and goes about his business.

Ever since Wake Forest coach Dave Odom recruited a skinny young swimmer from the US Virgin Islands, Timmy has been leading teams into battle.

At 6-11, 255, Duncan is a big boy, but he’s no behemoth. He scores unspectacularly, and often fundamentally. The jab-step and bank shot from the low post is his calling card—no one is better off the glass.

Defenders may try to body him up, but Duncan will spin and launch a little hook shot, or drop step, or face and fire. Double him and the Big Fundamental will not be intimidated; he’ll just wait until a teammate gets open for a three or cuts into the lane. Then he will throw a perfect pass, because he is a world-class passer (3,612 career assists).

Of course, he’s also pretty good at the standard mid-range jumper from the foul line.

Duncan’s critics (you’ve heard them for years, now) argue that while Duncan is certainly a great player he is unfortunately a dull player, because he rarely dunks, he’s not very quick and he doesn’t shoot from range.

Balderdash, say I. Not everyone is LeBron or KD; not everyone can throw down a vicious windmill. And that’s OK. Because Tim Duncan, throughout his many years in the NBA, has shown us time and again that good fundamental basketball, played in synch with your teammates, played smartly and surely from the free-throw line inward, can be very entertaining and fun to watch. Maybe even beautiful.

Oh, and yes, his game also wins Championships.

So go ahead, write off the Spurs. Tell them they’re too old.

Just remember that Timmy D, 37 years young, is still roving that paint, and he’s still got some work left to do.

Where should Tim Duncan rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Hum

    FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hum

    Again.

  • Dundler

    No comment of mine will do justice here. Nor any other.

  • shockexchange

    Timmy’s a tough person to rank. You have to discount his regular season numbers because he and the Spurs are built for the playoffs. He should be ranked a lot higher. Riddle the Shock Exchange this, if Timmy converts that stickback late in Finals Game 7 does he get ranked in the top 10?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    probably.

  • Saleem Rainman

    NO!

  • Sérgio

    If we apply the shockexchange concept of “hunting dogs” here, this guy is a wolf.

  • LakeShow

    ??

  • LakeShow

    Deserving.

    Crazy to go from #39 to #22 as a 37 year old.

  • shockexchange

    Exactly. How many players in SLAM’s Top 10 will have proven the ability to perform on the big stage the way Duncan did last season? Each of these guys have to also pass the “Shock Exchange grandma test.”

    If gramma gotta eat and she has to choose a dog to come back with a rabbit, who does she choose? Duncan, Harden, CP3 or Lopez? If it’s the difference between starving or not, gramma grabs Duncan by the collar and exclaims, “There’s a rabbit out there somewhere boy. Go! Go boy!”

  • Junior Taylor

    This has to be by FAR Slam’s worst ranking of all-time. There is no way in hell that TD’s only considered the 22nd best player in the NBA after the Season and Playoff run he just had (4 freaking months ago). This is a guy that one could make a case for was the best big-man last season. The guy ranked 1st in Defensive Rating, 6th in PER, 3rd in Blocks, 4th in Defensive Win Shares, came in 7th in MVP voting and was voted All-NBA First Team and 2nd Team Defense. All that sounds like a Top 5-10 player to me.

  • Omar

    Worst ranking so far. Tim is the beat power forward right now. He has to be at least in the top 15. He deserves the benefit of doubt until we see the wheels rolling down the street.

  • Conor

    Nice Breaking Bad reference, SLAM. Walt and Duncan really are the reserved mad scientists of their respective realities, hahaha

  • whooo!

    The hell?! How do you write about other people foolishly writing him off, and then do the same thing with the ranking?! Doesn’t 1st Team All-NBA at least get you in the top 15? I think Sports Illustrated ranked him Top 10. What gives Slam?

  • datboyfear

    1 before bosh..that is disrespect…he should b in the top ten

  • i_ball

    He is still the best PF in the game, yet he is the 5th best in the ranking. And why is Bosh now considered a center while Timmy is still a PF?
    Anyway this leaves the following PFs infront of him, in no order – Dirk, Aldridge, Blake, Love. If healthy probably all of them will have slightly better PPG and RPG but even at 37 he will have more APG and BPG, this are the normal stats. Someone already posted about TD’s advanced stats(He’ll be on par at least). Timmy is still the best defensively out of that group. And the there is winning Spurs vs. Mavs. Blazers vs. Wolves vs. Clips. Add the mental aspect of the game that’s not measured by stats – who would you want leading your team out of the five?

    In total the only thing any of PFs ranked higher will be better than him are PPG and RPG. He should be higher!

  • http://www.netstakeover.com/ JetSkiJohnson

    lol nice

  • Dundler

    Anyone kinda of think Dirk is doing really, really well here?

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Yes and top 7 if he rebounds the ball that ended up passed to Ray Allen for that shot..

  • Heiskanen

    I didn’t say nothing when Damian Lillard got ranked 20 spots ahead of Conley (I should’ve though, that was a disgrace), but this is just f*cked up. I also realized that David West will not make this list, this was a sad day…

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Yeah…. are the Mavs going to be that good…..?

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    …. steve nash feels your pain.

  • Dundler

    Simply…no. I don’t really see anyone taking Dirk over Duncan for this season

  • shockexchange

    LOL. Pop got exposed for not having Duncan in the game at that juncture. Pop cost the Spurs that series. However, since he’s popular, everybody wants to pretend it’s not true.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this is really bad. i’m sorry guys, but are the people voting people who actually watch games during the season like it’s their job? or just casual fans who have a journalism degree? and why aren’t they using their ability to write, to at least try and fool those of us who don’t know what is going on?

  • Dundler

    I say we grab our pitchforks

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Is it just me or is this ranking bases PURELY on last season when the objective is to factor in last season…. but project for next…. ideally Tim should never drop or peak he just gives more of the same every year…. for 14 years.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Ha haaaa…..
    Its like if Monta said after playing for 8 years, okay now I’ll pass…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    if this was purely based on last season Duncan would be no lower than #8…….i understand assuming he regresses a little bit, but this just doesn’t make sense. and it in no way justifies why he is this low. but then again, it seems like big guys in general are underrated, so it may just be the trend with the guys that vote.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    This problem really started when he was projected from 14 to 30 because of “decline and aging” and now he’s expected to do more…..? Really??? Tim has always given what he’s got – he should have just ben ranked between 8-16 every year since being a rookie and left it at that…. at least your journalistic ability wouldn’t be in question…. or whether you watch games.

  • Dundler

    I don’t think he was number 8 in those MVP years. Or a couple more

  • Heiskanen

    Lets say you’re Doc Rivers and you want to win a chip next year ,do you take Griffin (probably nro.1 of on the list right, although I disagree) or Duncan for 13-14?

  • Heiskanen

    No 1 Power forward I mean

  • i_ball

    Actually it was Manu, Kawhi and Pop. But nobody is pointing fingers and everybody believes in the system, that’s why the Spurs are great. They even gave Manu a really fat contract after the finals disaster.
    If you look at it from a bit of a different angle it is all Rondo’s fault. Giving Ray Allen to Miami on the vets minimum is just not fair to all other contenders…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i’m not up in arms about it, i just am used to how it normally goes. this seems like they kind of mailed it in. well, more than usual.
    .
    i’m well aware this list is 100% irrelevant, and the purpose of it is to generate traffic. so let’s not worry too much about it.
    .
    i just wish it felt like at least some f*cks were given.

  • Dundler

    Well you have to take in how they individually fit team style or whatever, but straight up…I probably still take Duncan. Griffin is yet to really prove anything since his first year, whereas you know what you’re getting. Duncan is smarter, a better rebounder, light years ahead on defence and fundamentally better on offense still, even if lightyears behind on athleticism.
    Duncan is actually athletic, really athletic. Athleticism isn’t just jumping, Duncan is strong, runs the court well, has the ‘re-jump’ ability, and can still go even at his age

  • shockexchange

    Rondo’s fault. Good one. But whose decision was it to take out the team’s best low post defender and rebounder at that juncture? As the theme from “Jeopardy” plays ad infinitum …

  • Dundler

    It should be better. There’s no community online akin to SLAMonline, and nothing generates our interest or argument more than these lists (other than the all-time ones they did).
    This deserves to be a better rationalised lists and there’s never an excuse for the bad write-ups.

  • danpowers

    hmmmm the best 4 of all time who just anchored a team to 7 games against the miami heat is expected to be the 22nd best player in the league this coming season. uhm…. lol?

  • davidR

    the same monta that is always top 3 in assists for SGs?

  • i_ball

    I don’t disagree with that the decision was wrong. But what the Spurs is take collective responsibility.
    If they managed to get that rebound or even to foul Bosh everybody was going to say “Brilliant – leaving outside players to defend the three…”

  • https://twitter.com/jasontichenor Mr. Wet

    at least he isn’t ranked 39 again

  • i_ball

    It appears we have two Mavs on the list. I don’t see them making the playoffs. Does anyone have a take on this?

  • Evan Boland

    Same with Lakers.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well doesn’t that just ignore context.

  • Evan Boland

    SI got him at 6 and SLAM at 22 lol

  • Evan Boland

    Duncan. Def.

  • Dundler

    Meh…its how it is. If you put Lebron, Wade & Bosh on a team with a load of NCAA Div III guys, they wouldn’t make the playoffs either. But I do get your point. I dunno if I’d have Ellis on the list, and Dirk is getting a bit high for my liking, but I get you.
    For the record, I have the Lakers making the playoffs

  • davidR

    just saying, the dude can pass. it’s just the question of if he wants to. even if he’s a ballhog, getting 6 assists a game on that bucks team (alongside jennings) can only be done by a small number of SGs

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    or any number of SG’s afforded that many possessions to initiate offense and make decisions……
    .
    Monta is a good player, and a good passer on the off-chance that he does pass or play the game appropriately. But he literally has not proven to be able to do that since he was the third best player on Golden State’s team. So unless you can think of a situation where he is the 3rd best player, while also conveniently being it’s best scorer, i don’t think the “really good” Monta Ellis will be anywhere anytime soon.

  • i_ball

    I have the Lakers going 8th too. Now that I think about it Mavs, Lakers and Pelicans all have two players on the list and two of them are not even making the playoffs.

  • Dundler

    Yeah I agree, without going into too much thought about it I’d say it’ll be (in something approaching this order)
    Thunder
    Spurs
    Clippers
    Grizzlies
    Rockets
    Warriors
    Wolves (I’m being overly hopeful here)
    Lakers

    Think Nuggets fall apart, and I reckon Blazers maybe sneak in

  • davidR

    if dirk is fully healthy this season, i’m curious to see how monta will do. i have a feeling he’ll be okay with letting calderon do what he does, and deferring to dirk on offense.

    we’ll see tho. you know me, i’m just pulling for his crazy ass to succeed again

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i respect you for it …. i just think you may be teetering on crazy too! lol

  • i_ball

    I can agree with this. So in this case Nuggets, Blazers and Pelicans go to the stacked lottery.One of them will probably have a high(ish) pick without tanking. Not a bad deal at all.

  • Dundler

    Pelicans have a decent little core forming. They could get lucky, unfortunately all of their major pieces are injury prone. For Blazers, I say its their last season looking like this. If they don’t make the playoffs, only Lillard will be safe from being traded

  • davidR

    i’ll always be partial to anyone from that we believe squad. but damn, monta sure doesn’t make it easy these days lol

  • LakeShow

    Name 5 guys who didn’t slow down after turning 37.

    Devils Advocate**

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    (before Duncan)

    Steve Nash
    Kareem

    that’s it. 35 has historically been the last great season for great players.

  • Dundler

    But the fact isn’t that he’ll slow down or be a bit worse. Of course he will, the fact is that he’ll be getting slightly worse than what was a top ten performance last year

  • LakeShow

    The only two I thought of also.

    If you wanna reach you can say Robert Parish didn’t decline too terribly till after 37.

  • LakeShow

    He could regress back minute wise like a couple years ago though.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i always do seem to overlook the Chief.

  • LakeShow

    Whoa….. No David West… I didn’t even think about him…
    Damn, SLAM!

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this is the first year i had him in the top 50 too. he was actually stellar on defense, to go with his always solid offensive output….and this is the first year SLAM left him off…..

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    I voted Duncan 31. All-time great, Hall of Famer, top 10 of all time…he is all of those things. But I think his season last year was an anomaly. He’ll be very valuable again, but with the minutes and games he will miss, there are 30 guys I’d rather have FOR THIS SEASON. If we get to game 7 of a Playoff Series I might have him top 5, but we’re ranking the whole season. In an example of how short people’s memories are, people seem angrier that we have him at 22 than they were last year when we had him 39 (http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/slamonline-top-50/2012/10/top-50-tim-duncan-no-39/). If you guys think his overall worth is RISING at this stage of his remarkable career, more power to you.

  • Nick Holden

    Yeah man, I like Dirk as much as anybody and I think he will bounce back this year. He won’t be 2011 Dirk, but he will be Dirk. However, there is no justification that he should be ranked above Timmy.

  • Caboose

    This is utterly pathetic.

  • Caboose

    So let me get this straight SLAM…

    Dirk > Duncan
    Lawson > Conley
    Randolph > Horford
    Bosh > Noah
    Pierce > Davis

    Come on now, defend these rankings. This is your guys’ livelihood, I want to hear the reasoning.

  • Caboose

    He was ranked THIRTY NINE last year. THIRTY NINE. Holy hell.

  • Caboose

    ” I will definitively opine that Timmy D is still the best power forward in the L”
    1. That’s not what your ranking says. Apparently he’s 5th. Behind f*cking Dirk.
    2. He didn’t play PF last season and he sure won’t this season.

  • LakeShow

    Right!
    I always ragged on West, but Indiana’s system is great for him and he beasted in it last year..

  • danpowers

    hm, didnt we all expect him to decrease even more before last season? i refuse to believe that this man is human lol.

    seriously, i think he will decrease or hold back a little. but he will always be there when it counts. that makes him still good enough / a main contributer on a contending team that refuses to bow to father time lol. based on the standards of this ranking i think itd be fair to rank him a couple of spots higher.

  • danpowers

    karl malone and mj also decreased by that age, but didnt decrease to a level that would exclude them from elite status. i mean, malone still put up 20,6ppg at 39 and if jordan counts, well…

  • Saleem Rainman

    lol. deserves to be much higher.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Thank you! This is a more than rational defense.

  • TR

    How is Kobe ahead of Duncan coming off his injury?

  • Dagger

    Well clearly Monta Ellis is better . . . lol.

    The ranking this year is insane.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    True, I mean that was elite for them, but definitely true

  • davidR

    thanks for the clarification! on a sidenote, i miss when yall used to comment too

  • whooo!

    Thanks for at least sharing your thought, but the write-ups feel completely detached from the rankings — this one says TD is the #1PF right now, period, yet is ranked 22?

    As for regular season, I think its too easy an excuse to discredit him because he’s old. Dude still played 69 games, and is consistently durable. A kid like Kyrie is young but he hasn’t topped 60 games in either of his seasons yet — doesn’t durability matter? Sure TD plays limited minutes, but does it matter if he only plays 30mpg if he puts up 18/10/2.7blks in those minutes? Efficiency based on a game and skill set that is not dependent on athleticism.

    1st team all nba, 2nd team all-defense, all-star, 7th in MVP, 6th in DPOY. Everything screams he had a top 10 season last year. Given that, it’s completely irrelevant that Slam EXPECTED him at 39 the year before and somehow this is a promotion. The real question is, will TD DROP from a proven top 10 last year to #22 — I.e. do you believe that this is finally the year he’s a borderline all-star, and not even 3rd team all-nba?

    Me, I’m siding with the 92% of folks who voted in the poll that TD should be higher (way higher imo). Comparatively, the poll for Bosh was a 40/40 split, with 20% saying his position was right. My hunch is that TD’s one will be the most glaringly lopsided poll result.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Griffin, but i’m admittedly biased

  • Caboose

    Would you agree that Duncan was Top 10 last year? If so, that means you are projecting, at minimum, a 20 spot drop. Sure, age takes its toll but I’ve never seen a drop that precipitous in one year that wasn’t preceded by injuries.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    @disqus_oxoGJMLagc:disqus Yes I think he could drop 20 places this season.
    @whooo! The rankings are a compilation of 44 different voters’ views. The write-ups are one person’s views; usually the writer is a fan of the player and voted them higher than where they placed. Hence the relative “disconnect.”
    @davidR I miss commenting more, too. We’re just busy up here! I always try to keep an eye on things tho…

  • 360

    To say this ranking is a disgrace is an understatement.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well look at his season before that…he was underrated, but after that 2010-11 season, it didn’t seem that bad.

  • 23

    Everybody says that spurs are underrated, or that nobody talks about them. I think that’s bologna. ESPN, the biggest media outlet in sports Talks about them. They show their highlights. Their analysts praise the personnel. The definitely don’t fly under the radar. Of course any team w a superstar, LA, MIA, OKC, CHI will get headlines. But I always hear talk of Parker when discussions arise of best PGs in the NBA.

  • Zabbah

    that’s if the #39 ranking was justified to begin with.

  • LakeShow

    It’s not too surprising to me that Duncan got that #39 rating.

    He put up 13-9-2 on 50% the year previous, and the SLAM writers assumed that the then 35 year old would continue to decline not have an up-rise in production.

    Hind-sight is very very good.

  • Zabbah

    Man, Duncan at 22? It’s like you guys took his last season and dumped a dragon burger turd all over it. I’m crying the tears of a rapper over this.

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  • docio

    He better than this spot Slam.

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