Franchise Player: Tim Duncan

Last week I presented you with the the discussion of Dwight Howard as a franchise player (click here if you missed it), this week we’re using the same format to discuss another franchise player. On with the show…

The term franchise player gets tossed around pretty easily these days. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point a few general mangers, some members of the press as well as some fans lost their mind and started giving the title to a bunch of less than worthy players. You might think I’m exaggerating but look at the list of players that were once given franchise player type of money because they overstated the talent of these guys:

  • Vince Carter
  • Tracy McGrady
  • Joe Jonhson
  • Baron Davis
  • Ray Allen
  • Elton Brand
  • Al Jefferson
  • Danny Granger
  • Stephon Marbury
  • Gilbert Arenas

And then people wonder why the owners want some significant changes to the collective bargaining agreement. Nonetheless, there really aren’t that many franchise players in the NBA. But then again, it depends on your definition of what a franchise player is. So here is my list of criteria that a player must meet in order to be considered a franchise player:

-The Tim Duncan Requirement: Barring an injury to him, his team can only miss the playoffs once after his first three years in the league (my friend Money said this one should be changed to the Kobe Exception, and he’s right; I did put this criteria here because of the Mamba, we’ll change it next time).

-The Shaquille O’Neal aka Diesel Test: If he ends up with a contract of $20 million per year, you can’t even second guess the contract because he’s actually worth it (no, the argument that he means more to his team than other teams won’t fly).

-The Kareem Standard: Multiple All-Star appearances (quick note: I originally wrote that the Kareem Standard required multiple All-Star appearances, but NBA hardware is a must as well).

-The Karl Malone Rule: If the team is going to put all of their hopes and money into one player, that player has to be able to suit up for at least 85% of the NBA season (including playoffs).

-The Magic Johnson Provision: Whether we’re talking about the 20th game of the regular season or game 6 of a pivotal playoff series, a franchise player always stands out in a basketball game because he has stage presence. It might be rebounding, scoring, defense , passing or just being a great teammate; the franchise player just stands out no matter what..

Now that we’ve established the requirements needed to make the cut, perhaps it’s time we started talking about current franchise players. I have a list of the best 10 NBA franchise players. However, I decided that I would do this piece of writing a bit differently. Instead of just listing all of the players in order, I’m doing it in Star Wars fashion. So I’ll profile a few players within the next few days (possibly weeks), but I won’t give them their ranking just yet. Once all 10 have been profiled, we’ll proceed to make a poll to rank them. That good? With that, let’s move on to our featured player of the day…..

Back in 1996, David Robinson suffered an injury and that forced him to miss 76 games (out of 82) for the San Antonio Spurs. The team struggled that season in the absence of their franchise player on their way to a 20-62 record. Although the Spurs had a miserable season, they won that year in more ways than one. First, they were going to get a healthy David Robinson the following season to help them contend for a title. Second, the Spurs had won what was known as the Tim Duncan draft. It was clear to everybody back then that Duncan had all the tools necessary to be a legit NBA big man. Hence, pairing up Duncan with Robinson would probably mean that San Antonio would have the chance to contend for several titles. Here’s the funny thing about Tim Duncan though: don’t let anybody fool you, he’s an NBA center. But the presence of Robinson forced Gregg Poppovich’s hand to start him at power forward. And it worked. The team hasn’t looked back since. In case you were curious, look at the list of players that were selected in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft:

TEAM PLAYER COLLEGE
1. San Antonio Tim Duncan Wake Forest
2. Philadelphia Keith Van Horn Utah
3. Boston Chauncey Billups Colorado
4. Vancouver Antonio Daniels Bowling Green
5. Denver Tony Battie Texas Tech
6. Boston Ron Mercer Kentucky
7. New Jersey Tim Thomas Villanova
8. Golden State Adonal Foyle Colgate
9. Toronto Tracy McGrady Mt Zion Academy (HS)
10. Milwaukee Danny Fortson Cincinnati
11. Sacramento Olivier Saint-Jean San Jose State
12. Indiana Austin Croshere Providence
13. Cleveland Derek Anderson Kentucky
14. LA Clippers Maurice Taylor Michigan
15. Dallas Kelvin Cato Iowa State
16. Cleveland Brevin Knight Stanford
17. Orlando Johnny Taylor Tennessee-Chattanooga
18. Portland Chris Anstey (Australia)
19. Detroit Scot Pollard Kansas
20. Minnesota Paul Grant Wisconsin
21. New Jersey Anthony Parker Bradley
22. Atlanta Ed Gray California
23. Seattle Bobby Jackson Minnesota
24. Houston Rodrick Rhodes USC
25. New York John Thomas Minnesota
26. Miami Charles Smith New Mexico
27. Utah Jacque Vaughn Kansas
28. Chicago Keith Booth Maryland

The players in bold are the players that are still active. We have six players from the 1997 NBA Draft that are still active; and two of them are still playing at a high level (I’m not including McGrady in this one considering the small sample size we have on his 2009-10 season).  Isn’t it amazing that Duncan has been great since day one up until today? McGrady and Billups took a while to eventually display their talent, but The Big Fundamental never disappointed. With that said, how does Duncan fare in my Franchise Player tracker?

Tim Duncan Requirement

In the Duncan era, the Spurs have never missed the playoffs. Excluding the lockout season, San Antonio has never won less than 53 games and they have lost in the first round of the playoffs only twice (Duncan was injured in the 1999-00 playoffs) since the 1997-98 season. CHECK.

Diesel Test

Have you ever at any point felt as though Duncan’s been overpaid? The question seems ridiculous right? Duncan is making a reportedly $22.2 million this year and no one even blinks at it because he has earned every penny and continues to produce. CHECK.

Kareem Standard

Tim Duncan has participated in 12 All-Star games, and also won the 1999-00 All-Star game MVP (co-MVP with Shaq). In addition, the Big Fundamental has won the NBA MVP trophy in 2001-02, 2002-03 and also the Finals MVP in 1998-99, 2002-03 and 2004-05. Think he qualifies? CHECK.

Karl Malone Rule

Tim Duncan has appeared in 950 out of a possible 1,085 regular season games. In case you wanted to calculate, Duncan has appeared in 87.6% of NBA games. For some reason, we don’t talk enough about his durability. CHECK.

Magic Johnson Provision

Tim Duncan is boring, lacks personality, does not seem to be all that interesting and has little to no sex appeal (I have said it before and will say it again, he’s an all right looking guy but I can’t possibly imagine him walking around with tons of groupies following him around begging to see his Big Fundamental). But if there’s one thing about Duncan that stands out, it’s his consistency. No matter the game or the season, you can practically bank on TD giving you a 20-10-3-1. Look at his career numbers:

Season G FG% RPG APG BPG PPG
1997-98 82 0.549 11.9 2.7 2.5 21.1
1998-99 50 0.495 11.4 2.4 2.5 21.7
1999-00 74 0.49 12.4 3.2 2.2 23.2
2000-01 82 0.499 12.2 3 2.3 22.2
2001-02 82 0.508 12.7 3.7 2.5 25.5
2002-03 81 0.513 12.9 3.9 2.9 23.3
2003-04 69 0.501 12.4 3.1 2.7 22.3
2004-05 66 0.496 11.1 2.7 2.6 20.3
2005-06 80 0.484 11 3.2 2 18.6
2006-07 80 0.546 10.6 3.4 2.4 20
2007-08 78 0.497 11.3 2.8 1.9 19.3
2008-09 75 0.504 10.7 3.5 1.7 19.3
2009-10 51 0.515 11 3.1 1.7 19.1
Career 950 0.508 11.7 3.2 2.3 21.3

Not only has Duncan been consistent his whole career, but for some reason people seem to forget that he owns four championship rings. We are quick to point out that Shaq and Kobe have four apiece but Duncan’s lack of fanfare and glamour makes us forget that he should be in that conversation as well.

Indeed, if we look back at the past decade; we have been treated to great performances by great players, and yet no one stood out more than Tim Duncan without standing out. Look at some of the elite players of the past decade that have failed to make the postseason at least once from 2000 to 2009:

  • LeBron James
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Dwyae Wade
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Dwight Howard
  • Tracy McGrady

What does this all mean? Well if you had seven elite porno actors and their success was solely based on always making it to their shoot, with a money shot being an added bonus (money shot represents championship, yes I have issues); wouldn’t the guy who appeared at every porno shoot and gave you four money shots be considered the best of all your adult entertainers (by the way, if we push this analogy even further, Tim Duncan’s is probably the equivalent of the missionary position; simple, effective and gets the job done)? Mookie Schiralli wrote about this last week (click here), but is it at all possible that we got the Player of the Decade wrong? There’s room for debate on that question but ultimately it’s probably a toss up. The most important thing we need to know and remember about Duncan is that he always brought it, and keeps on bringing it. He always shows up for big games and saves his best for the postseason. His career playoff numbers are

23.3 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.63 BPG and 50.1 FG%.

Quick fun fact: Can you guess how many times Tim Duncan has fouled out of an NBA game in his career (regular season and playoffs combined)? Give up? Five times! And not because he stopped playing after getting his fouls; he has just always been smart about his fouls. He’s fouled out twice in the regular season and three times in the playoffs.

The next time someone is busy arguing the merits of one superstar at the expense of the other, please take the time to remind them that only a handful of NBA players were truly franchise players like Tim Duncan was (and still is).

This entry was posted in Spurs by J.M. Poulard. Bookmark the permalink.

About J.M. Poulard

When we talk about great rappers (think Eminem and Jay-Z), we talk about them because of their ability to describe over the top situations and yet still make you relate on a topic you know perhaps nothing about. I wish to bring that same type of artistry and creativity here. I just hope that you are able to enjoy the basketball albums that i will create and share along the way. In the end, my platinum status relies solely on you...

2 thoughts on “Franchise Player: Tim Duncan

  1. Wow, 1. Kenny “The Jet” Smith was one of the few pushing for a Tim Duncan Decade award. I, being a huge Spurs fan, believe this article presents the best arguements I’ve ever seen for Duncan. People may hate on his “lack of emotion” but truth be told, basketball is a business, don’t mix personal emotions with business. He is a shining example of what an NBA star should be, well most of the Spurs are, with the small exception of the hill picture hiccup (i personally checked the pics, not really that big a deal, just saying) it seems that these other players of the decade candidates were all more popular for more than just the business of basketball. Honestly I’d rather have a player about his business and being a respectable member of the community than getting headlines for other things… for example, criminal activies.. The man is an amazing player and has been for a very long time. If he doesn’t get the recognition her deserves because of how humble he is and because he know how to keep his nose clean, then I guess he (and we) are better off without it. I guess i merged all the thoughts into #1, so #2 Go Spurs Go.

  2. Pingback: Franchise Player: Steve Nash | Stacheketball, an NBA Blog

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