Tim Duncan’s Legacy

On Monday afternoon, Tim Duncan finally announced his retirement from the San Antonio Spurs. After 19 great years, the big power forward out of Wake Forest decided to start the next chapter of his life.

Tim Duncan’s on court performance makes him the best power forward and one of the best players in the history of the NBA. Duncan was drafted with the number one overall selection in the 1997 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were blessed with the opportunity to draft Duncan because of an injury to David Robinson. Even though Duncan could have left after averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds during his sophomore year in order to better himself, he committed to the school and stayed two more seasons and eventually won the John R Naismath Award during his senior season. During his rookie year, Timmy won the Rookie of the Year Award by averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game while leading the Spurs to 56 wins. After a remarkable rookie season, Duncan took a step forward and led the Spurs to their first title in franchise history. Even though he played alongside Hall of Famer, David Robinson, Duncan won the Finals MVP Award by averaging 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game against the New York Knicks.

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Over the next three seasons, Duncan and the Spurs continued to win over 50 games per season, but fell to O’Neal and Bryant’s great Lakers teams of the early 2000s. During the 2001-2002 season, Duncan won his first MVP Award by averaging 25.5 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Even though Duncan could not overcome the Lakers, he averaged a mere 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game. The following season, Duncan took another step forward and won his second consecutive NBA MVP Award. Unlike the previous seasons, Duncan was able to defeat O’Neal and Bryant and led his team to his second title and Finals MVP. Over the next four seasons, Duncan would win two more titles, a Finals MVP, and maintained a level of excellence by averaging over 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.

After his fourth Finals victory at age 30, Duncan began to evolve his game and realized that it would be in the team’s best interest if he sacrificed his minutes and statistics for the betterment of the team. Duncan would never again average more than 20 points nor 35 minutes per game in a season. Duncan would frequently defer to his teammates such as Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Even though Duncan’s offense took a step back, he would continue to play incredible defense and was voted to five more All-NBA Defensive and remained one of the best defenders in the entire league. No player in league history has been selected to more All-NBA Defensive Teams than Tim Duncan, 15. The decline of the San Antonio Spurs was caused by the decline of Tim Duncan, even though they continued to win over 50 games per season. After their victory in 2007, the Spurs would not return to the Finals until 2013. Even though Duncan’s team ultimately fell to the younger and talented Heat, he averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds at age 36 while shooting 49% from the field. Duncan used the defeat to motivate himself and his teammates for the following season. The San Antonio Spurs achieved revenge and defeated the same Cavaliers team to help Duncan win his fifth title. During his career, he was the epitome of a winner by winning over 1,000 NBA regular season games and winning the second most playoff games in NBA history.

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Duncan’s ability to play at a high level and enable his team to become a model for consistency places him as the best player in between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. The two players that rival Duncan in terms of success and talent is Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant. In terms of championships, O’Neal has four, while Bryant is tied five championships. O’Neal and Bryant’s success does not rate as impressive as Duncan because Duncan never played with the same caliber of player. Duncan was able to win championships alongside very good players, but no great players. During Duncan’s first championship, he was the leader of the team and Robinson was merely a side piece due to his age and past injuries. In addition, Ginobili and Parker are very good players and will be future Hall of Famers. However, they were second round picks and developed because of Duncan and Popovich’s coaching and motivation. Unlike O’Neal, Duncan never left his team in the small market, although he flirted with the idea of leaving San Antonio for Orlando. In addition, Kobe has not experienced the same consistent success as Duncan. After the departure of O’Neal and Gasol, Bryant’s Lakers played for numerous Lakers’ teams that did not even make the playoffs. Duncan’s easy nature and ability to play alongside any type of player allowed the Spurs to win over 50 games during every full season of his career. Although Duncan did not have the same peak as the Los Angeles duo, Duncan was able to maintain his success on both sides of the court for the entirety of his career. Even during his 19th and final season in San Antonio, Duncan was rated as one of the best defenders in the league by many different metrics.

Although Tim Duncan will be remembered for his incredible play on the court, his demeanor, leadership, sacrifice, and work ethic has affected the entire NBA. As mentioned earlier, Tim will be remembered for his play, but who will ever forget his stare at officials, his arm rapped around his teammates, or his ability to win or lose with grace.While other stars would scream and try to make the game more about the team than themselves, Duncan’s actions would never overshadow the importance of the team. During wins he would acknowledge the accomplishments of teammates and coaches, while accepting blame and motivating his teammates to improve during his losses. Although superstar players in today’s NBA will take a me first approach and play for multiple teams and coaches, Duncan played for one team and one coach throughout his 19 year career. Duncan is the first player in NBA history to stay with a small market team throughout his career and lead them to multiple NBA titles. In addition, Duncan has instilled a culture in San Antonio, which has allowed them to attract big time free agents to a small market.

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While many leaders, such as Kobe and Michael, displayed leadership by vocally communicating with their teammates on the floor, Duncan quietly motivated his teammates through his actions and behind the scenes comments. Duncan’s most important leadership quality was his drive to win and ability to accept criticism and coaching. Whether it was Popovich, assistant coaches, or his peers, Duncan would value their input and incorporate their recommendations into his game. When his teammates noticed that Duncan was willing to accept Popovich’s comments and occassional verbal insults, they had no other option, but to listen to coach because their leader was willing to do the same. In addition to his willingness to improve, his determination to enter the gym early and stay late allowed him to improve different levels of his game later in his career. Even though Duncan lost his athleticism during the twilight of his career, he was able to be effective on the offensive side of the ball by improving his range and passing ability.

It is unlikely that we will ever see a player such as Duncan due to the entitlement and luxuries that many of today’s stars are offered by the owners. In addition, Duncan’s willingness to remain in a small market and win championships without requiring super teams displays the team’s and his greatness. The Big Fundamental may not have been anyone’s favorite player outside of San Antonio, but every fan will reminisce and miss seeing number 21 on the court.

The Impact of Kevin Durant’s signing with the Warriors

Little did Danny Ainge know that he would trade the NBA forever, when in he acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join forces with Paul Pierce during the summer of 2007. For one of the first time in NBA history, a team decided to build a superteam by acquiring established star players in their late primes instead of obtaining young players and allowing them to develop. Whether it had been Russell’s Celtics, Johnson’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, Jordan’s Bulls, or Duncan’s Spurs, each of these teams were naturally developed by either drafting players or trading for them at a young age. Since the 2008 Celtics’, there have been numerous attempts at the creation of superteams, Lakers with Howard and Bryant, Clippers with Paul and Griffin, Knicks with Stoudamire and Anthony, and Spurs with Aldridge and Leonard, but the only teams that have yielded championship have been LeBron’s Heat and Cavalier teams.

In addition to the Celtics acquiring stars, one of the biggest reasons for the change in team development is the role of Olympics and FIBA World Championships in relationship building. Prior to the Dream Team in 1992, NBA players were not allowed to play in the Olympics so they never had the opportunity to play with one another. However, since the Dream Team, the relationships created during these international competitions have led to numerous superteams, especially in recent years. James decided to join Wade and Bosh in Miami because of the connection he built with them during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. It has been well documented that Kevin Durant formed a strong bond with Curry and Iguodala during FIBA Championships in 2010.

The addition of Kevin Durant makes the Warriors one of the greatest teams on paper in NBA history and the greatest shooting team in NBA history. The combination of Curry, Durant, Green, Thompson, and Pachulia will easily form the best starting rotation in the NBA this season. For the first time in NBA history, a team will have 4 players that were members of the 2015-2016 All-NBA teams. Last season, the Warriors starting five of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, and Bogut formed the best starting five in the NBA, but there current starting rotation is even better. Kevin Durant is astronomically better than Harrison Barnes and Zaza Pachulia is a competent replacement for Bogut. During the NBA Finals, the Warriors needed an extra scorer that could alleviate the pressure from Thompson and Curry. Although Iguodala, Barnes, Barbosa, and Livingston are quality players, they do not have the ability to create their own opportunities or chances for others without the assistance of Steph and Klay. Durant will immediately solve this dilemma because he may be the best offensive player in the NBA. Durant will complement Thompson and Curry because he can drive the ball more effectively than the Splash Brothers, which will amazingly give them more open three point opportunities. The Warriors would have likely won the Finals if Barnes did not display a total inability to score the ball throughout the final four games. There is no chance Durant would come up small like Barnes. Besides for his offensive dominance, the addition of Durant will help the team’s defense because Durant provides length and size that Barnes cannot match. Besides for improving the team’s rebounding and passing ability, Durant will improve the team’s ability to switch on defense because he has the size to guard taller players, but the speed and agility to stay in front of guards. The Warriors have been able to constantly switch screens because they have versatile players, like Durant, that can defend multiple positions. During his years in Oklahoma City, Durant was always a great passer and wanted to move the ball around the court instead of playing iso with Russell Westbrook. The Warriors’ style of play will fit Durant perfectly because he will pass the ball around the arc and allow for more open looks and more slashing opportunities.

Even though the Warriors will not have the same bench due to Durant’s signing, they should be able to sign quality veterans with leadership and toughness. The loss of Barnes, Bogut, Ezeli, and potentially Barbosa and Speights will hurt the Warriors ability to blitz their opponents with their depth. However, they will keep their best bench player Shaun Livingston and still have the opportunity to sign others at below market value. The Warriors have already signed David West and are looking to acquire more veterans. West will provide toughness and an ability to rebound the ball at a high level. The Warriors have been linked to Ray Allen, which would not be a great addition because they already have incredible shooting.

While the Warriors are set to become one of the best teams in NBA history, the Thunder are set to take a major step backwards and potentially enter a rebuilding phase. The Thunder have pieces to build around such as Adams, Sabonis, Oladipo, and Kanter and they will have the opportunity to trade Westbrook for numerous valuable assets either before the season or trade deadline. Even though Westbrook is free agent after the season, he should net the Thunder a great return. A perfect partner for the Thunder would be the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics and Lakers did not sign Durant, but they still have a haul of draft picks and young players to trade for Westbrook. The addition of potentially Brooklyn’s draft picks and Marcus Smart would quicken the Thunder’s rebuild. Boston would be an excellent fit for the Celtics because they are in need of a true superstar. Horford and Thomas are quality All-Stars, but do not have the skill to lead a team to a Final’s appearance. Neither Thomas or Westbrook are true point guards so their games should be able to mesh together. The Lakers desperately need a star on their team and Westbrook has been one of the few players that would be willing to sign with Los Angeles. The Lakers could offer draft picks, but more importantly young players like Russell, Randle, or even Ingram. Although Westbrook alone would not be enough for the Lakers to reach the playoffs, he could assist in recruiting other free agents the following summer.

The Cleveland Cavaliers should be one of the most active teams after hearing that their biggest rival just acquired one of the three best players in the NBA. The latest reports around the Cavs is that they are attempting to convince Wade to depart the team that drafted him and sign with his best friend, LeBron James, in Cleveland. Wade would not give the Cavs the advantage over the Warriors on paper, but the Cavs would definitely add an interesting wrinkle to the rivalry. Wade is an sure fire Hall of Fame player with the ability to still score and play at a high level, especially during the playoffs. However, Wade would not be easy to acquire for the Cavs because they have no cap room. The Cavaliers would have to trade either Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. In addition, they would not be able to re-sign Smith and James would have to take a pay cut. During the postseason, Love showed that he was not a great fit into the Cavs rotation. However, he played well in the seventh game and maybe another year under the system would allow him to fit into his role. Although unlikely, the Cavs should definitely make a play for Wade and potentially trade Love to the Celtics for either draft picks or inexpensive pieces.