Air Alamo: Is Duncan still effective?

Air Alamo is in the middle of an interesting series analyzing the Spurs from various statistical angles via data from , one of the various sites catering to those who enjoy looking at basketball on a deeper level beyond the so-called “box-score stats.”

The latest entry concerns the venerable Tim Duncan, sure-fire Hall of Famer and the cornerstone of the Spurs four championship teams. A simple question is posed: (You can find links to the other entries at the bottom of the post.) It’s a legitimate query at this point of his career, especially when you look at numbers that illustrate not just what he does, but how he does it.

My favorite Duncan stat of all, albeit one with less depth than you’ll find at sites like MSS and , is the simple comparison between his per-36 minute averages as a rookie and last season, his 15th in the NBA.

1997-98: 19.4 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.3 bpg, 5.4 FTa.

2011-12: 19.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.9 bpg, 5.5 FTa.

Not even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s standard-bearer for longevity, can match those numbers. While the Captain’s scoring remained virtually identical from Year 1 to 15 (24.1 ppg per 36 to 23.6), his rebounding and free throw attempts dropped by roughly a third.

About the only areas Duncan has seen a significant declines are his shooting accuracy (.577 true shooting percentage to .531) and defensive court coverage, which has no real gauge but is easy to see with the naked eye. So it’s clear that even though the Big Fundamental is no longer the player he once was, he still brings a tremendous amount of value and utility to the court.

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