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Tim Duncan’s ageless season

Jun 06, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) reacts to a foul call against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half in game six of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

I’m certain that if you ever came across a diary that included a list of Tim Duncan’s personal goals, you would not find “be the greatest power forward of all time” anywhere on that list. That’s just the kind of player, and person, that Tim Duncan is. But while he maintains his ever-so-modest demeanor again this season, he continues to cement his legacy of being exactly that, the greatest power forward to ever play the game.

As we inch toward the All-Star Game in Houston next month, Tim Duncan’s play so far during this season has been typical. Typical in the sense that it’s being completely underrated and flying under the radar once again.

Now, understand that Duncan’s current season statistics are of a smaller sample size of only half of the NBA season (exactly) so reasonably, as the season wears on, one would expect his numbers dip slightly as those old legs pivot their way to the finish line. Even with his increasing age, the bottom line is that what he’s doing this season is phenomenal. Simply, Duncan is having his best all-around season in years. At this current pace, he will earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team, not be given a hand-me-down spot because of his name, past accomplishments and overall “nice guy” contributions to the league.

Let’s talk numbers for a minute. In 30.1 minutes (highest average in three years), Duncan is currently averaging 17.1 points per game (29rd overall in a league filled with younger stars), his highest average since the 2009-10 season when he averaged a slightly-higher 17.9. His efficiency is still very much in tact with his field goal percentage at .501% (30th) and his free throw percentage at .815%, easily the highest of his career.

On the defensive side of the ball, there lie even more impressive numbers. He ranks 4th in the entire league in defensive rebounds per game at 7.9 (2nd in total defensive rebounds) and 3rd in blocks per game (2.78). He also ranks 10th in the league with 18 double doubles in 40 games.

One step further, the more advanced stats reveal that Duncan is 4th in Total Efficiency Points (940), 7th in Efficiency Ranking (23.5) and 3rd overall in Efficiency Ranking per 48 minutes (37.5).

Not bad for an old guy. An old guy playing in a league full of young, freakishly athletic, talented big(ger) men.

In the continuation of his legacy confirmation, there’s little evidence that can be collected among the power forwards of generations past to support the notion that Duncan is not the greatest of all time, with this year’s “twilight” season only adding to it. Tim Duncan’s numbers compare and often exceed those of his previous counterparts, whether relevant peers or not. Looking at his numbers at age 36 or older, very few have doing what he’s currently doing. Sure, for every Karl Malone (who performed exceptionally past the age of 36), Duncan seperates himself on one key stat: Championships. Hell, he’s only got 4 rings.

The major piece of criteria that seperates Duncan from the other great power forwards is winning. Tim Duncan-led basketball teams win games and championships. Of course Kevin McHale is the one exception, having won 3 NBA titles, albeit with the Boston Celtic “super teams” of the 1980′s. But in his case, he doesn’t have the individual numbers that stack up to Tim’s. Duncan has attained both individual greatness with his numbersandwon multiple titles (at a time when the league has an even greater competitive atmosphere than McHale’s era). Some might argue that Duncan played on some Spurs teams that were considered to be “super” like McHale’s Celtics. I think it’s apples and oranges really. Unless you count end-of-the-first-round French point guards (Parker) and end-of-the-second-round Agentinian enomolies (Ginobili) to be equal to a lineup full of Hall of Famers. I sure don’t. In reality, Duncan’s Spurs have always drafted extemely extremely well when it comes to value and they seems to always have a mix of perfectly fitting role players.

This season? His Spurs are rolling again with a 30-11 record, good for third best in the entire NBA. No big deal. Andhisteam is doing while having fun.

We always jump to give credit to those who reinvent themselves. Duncan is a breathing example of that. The question with Duncan isn’t whether he’s still got it, he clearly does. I challenge anyone to present a case that he’s not the greatest power forward the league has ever seen. He’s the greatest, overall, and in almost every aspect of the game. When we consider Tim Duncan’s career as whole, the question on everyone’s mind should be, “where does Tim Duncan rank all time, regardless of position?”

The answer to that question should be anything but modest.

mhallihan