The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#5: Tim Duncan)

10.22.09 9 years ago 31 Comments

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

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#5: TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs

Figuring out where to slot Tim Duncan on this list wasn’t nearly as difficult as figuring out whether he really should be called the Spurs’ go-to guy.

Why not Tony Parker? Starting in the ’07 Finals and culminating this past season (22 ppg, 6.9 apg), TP could be considered San Antonio’s best player and top offensive threat. Beating defenders off the dribble or sticking mid-range jumpers off the pick-and-roll, he is the best scoring point guard in the NBA.

Why not Manu Ginobili? When the clock is on its final seconds, Manu will often be the one for which Gregg Popovich draws up a play. And when it’s time to hit those rally-killing free throws, Manu (88.4% FTA) is the one the Spurs want catching the inbounds pass.

Why Duncan? As if I haven’t written enough praises of the man I’d consider the MVP of the 2000’s decade, the greatest power forward to ever play the game, and one of the sport’s all-time ice-cold crunch time assassins, all you have to do is look at his consistency. While TP has only recently come into his own as a potential go-to guy and Manu’s unpredictable ankles make him something of a hit-or-miss gamble, Duncan has been a walking 21-and-11 stat line for 12 straight years without fail.

Or if you want a more specific example, go back to April 15, 2009: Must-win last game of the regular season, five minutes of overtime, and Duncan simply owned the arena and every Hornet in it. He was clutch on both ends of the floor, whether it was scoring on the block or blocking shots, hitting jumpers or hitting cutters, dominating the glass or just imposing his will like he’s done so many times over the years. Allegedly old and creaky, it was the most recent reminder that TD still sits on the throne in San Antonio until further notice.

Duncan has a Hall of Fame career’s worth of clutch moments and justifications for why he deserves this spot. Just know this much: Even if you think Parker is the Spurs’ best player, and Ginobili is the guy you’d want taking the last shot from outside 15 feet, and Roger Mason Jr. is the guy you’d want taking the last shot outside 25 feet — Duncan is the axis on which the Spurs rotate. Just watch them work. In crunch time, the ball goes to Duncan first, and they build from there. And I’m not arguing with a template that has produced four championships and is working on a fifth in 2010.

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6. Dirk Nowitzki
7. Brandon Roy
8. Carmelo Anthony
9. Chris Paul
10. Deron Williams
11. Vince Carter
12. Joe Johnson
13. Danny Granger
14. Steve Nash
15. Kevin Durant
16. Gilbert Arenas
17. Derrick Rose
18. Chris Bosh
19. Andre Iguodala
20. Tracy McGrady
21. Baron Davis
22. Michael Redd
23. Devin Harris
24. Kevin Martin
25. Al Jefferson
26. O.J. Mayo
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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