Ranking the NBA’s 30 Go-To Guys (#10: Tim Duncan)

11.17.10 8 years ago 10 Comments

Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs
You know how I know Duncan is old? Justifying his spot as a Top-10 clutch performer in the NBA isn’t as tough as justifying his spot as the No. 1 option on the Spurs.

The descent really began in 2007. San Antonio’s championship series win over the Cavs was nothing out of the ordinary. Even the four-game sweep wasn’t too far off-script. But then Tony Parker won the Finals MVP award that seemed reserved for Duncan. Not such a big deal in the grand scheme — Joe Dumars, James Worthy and Cedric Maxwell own Finals MVP trophies from teams that clearly read “Isiah,” “Magic” and “Larry” on the label — but that was also Duncan’s last actual 20-and-10 season. His minutes, points, and rebounds have gradually decreased since then. Then playoff exits in ’08, ’09 and 2010 highlighted just how important Parker, Manu Ginobili and Fill-In-The-Small-Forward were to the Spurs’ process, and suddenly — while he still had occasional moments like the 22-and-21 stat line in a must-win Game 3 in the ’08 Western Conference Finals, or the overtime-forcing three against Phoenix — Duncan didn’t seem as dominant anymore.

This year, it’s even tougher to definitively declare Duncan the Spurs’ go-to guy. His 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game put him statistically closer to Elton Brand than Pau Gasol, while Parker and Ginobili have been producing the standout numbers. In fact, Duncan is only the fourth-leading scorer on his team, as Richard Jefferson has also put up more points. And if Matt Bonner keeps dropping threes at an 80-percent clip, he might even surpass Duncan on the stat sheet.

So how does Duncan hold claim to this spot? Because the Spurs offense still runs through him in crunch-time. Because he’s still the unquestioned leader in the huddle. Because when they really need him, he delivers. Case in point: His 25-point, 17-rebound, 3-block, 11-for-13 from the field effort against the Suns in a two-point win earlier this month.

At this stage of his career, Duncan is a playoff player. He’s more Mariano Rivera than C.C. Sabathia. The regular season is about seeding, not proving anything. Parker and Ginobili can carry the first eight innings, but the ninth still belongs to the Big Sandman.

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11. Brandon Roy (Trail Blazers)
12. Joe Johnson (Hawks)
13. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)

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