One of the names who is quietly remaining on the open market is, quite possibly, the most significant name there. He's a four-time NBA champion, two-time League MVP, three-time Finals MVP and 13-time All-Star. He also won the Rookie of the Year award.
The man being praised is one of the all-time greats. For some, he's one half of the storied "Twin Towers," while others simply know him as "Timmy."
If the name eludes you, I'm referring to Tim Duncan.
Very few have impacted the game of basketball in the way Duncan has managed. Duncan came into the time of aging legends and took in valuable lessons no matter where he turned. By the end of his second season, Duncan was a key player on an NBA champion.
Entering the 2012-13 season, Duncan is looking to fill his hand up with a fifth ring. The question is, where will he go? In all likelihood, he will remain with the team who drafted him in 1997.
Just ask the man himself if he disagrees. He told Yahoo Sports' Johnny Ludden:
“Though I shouldn’t say that; I have to threaten them that I’ll leave,” [Tim Duncan] joked. “No … I’m not going anywhere. You can print that wherever you want to. I’m here and I’m a Spur for life.”
Well, so much for that.
While we all saw the outcome on the horizon, there is one thing we can't predict: the price the San Antonio Spurs will be willing to pay their future Hall of Famer. At 36, Duncan is far from the player he used to be. He's on aging legs, and head coach Gregg Popovich often protects his stars by resting them during the regular season.
With that being said, Duncan remains one of the most efficient players in the NBA. He's as close to mistake-free as you'll find and maintains his unmatched chemistry with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. We'd be naive to forget his consistently brilliant postseason performances, as well.
But what's he worth?
While some San Antonio loyalists will claim Duncan deserves a max contract, it's important that we look at the man without a name attached to him. Is Duncan really worth a mega-deal at this age? Is it worth sacrificing major funds on Duncan that disable the Spurs' ability to bring in the young talent necessary to maintain their level of success in a post-Duncan era?
In an act of honesty, the answer is no. But he's worth damn close to it.
Under the current CBA, the most Duncan could make on a yearly basis is just over $18 million a year. While he may have earned his place amongst the greats, it's hard to justify a contract of such magnitude for a player at his age. While one would not argue if the Spurs gave him such a deal, he simply shouldn't be bringing in that much cash at this point in his career.
Even if he has put together a career that deserves it.
The length may seem absurd to some, but the best deal for Duncan is in the ballpark of what Roy Hibbert was offered by the Portland Trail Blazers: four years for $58 million. While we can't place a number on how many years Duncan has left in the tank, he's done enough for the franchise that this type of deal is warranted.
Duncan still has enough postseason performances left in the tank to warrant some hefty cash. It simply becomes a thoughtless endeavor once you tack on the years of wisdom and fundamental genius that he has to offer the Spurs as a franchise as they attempt to win now and build for the future.
One must put biases aside and evaluate Duncan as he is: a 36-year-old player with a questionable amount of years left in the tank. Once they do that, they must dig deeper.
Tim Duncan is a leader, a personification of greatness and the most fundamentally sound big man of our generation. If that's not enough to warrant some cash, I'm not sure what is.