Why ESPN Should Have Ranked Tim Duncan Ahead of Kevin Garnett

Garrett JochnauCorrespondent IIOctober 1, 2012

SAN ANTONIO - MARCH 17:  Forward Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs moves the ball against Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics at AT&T Center March 17, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

ESPN has recently concluded their annual edition of rankings, in which they order the top 500 players in the league from 500 all the way down to No. 1.

It is safe to say that the ratings have given rise to endless debates, and brought forth inevitable criticism. Every fan believes his favorite player was ranked too low, even if the case has no validation whatsoever.

At the same time, some of the mistakes made by the ESPN crew are too illogical to overlook.

One of the biggest blunders made during their quest was the placement of Kevin Garnett in relation to that of the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, and while it was certainly not the biggest travesty committed, Duncan frankly deserved a placement higher than the aforementioned. 

Garnett and Duncan's careers have been interlinked, as both entered the league around the same time, and have hit their primes as well as their declines together. Many will argue them the two greatest power forwards to ever step foot onto the hardwood, and their location in the league's upper echelon of all-time great players.

However, its hard to dispute that Duncan has always been the superior power forward, and while a case can be made for Garnett, its not nearly as strong as Duncan's.

Yet, in a tale all too familiar to the San Antonio legend, Duncan has once again failed to receive the respect that he deserves.

His decline is undeniable, but even as his clock ticks, you can not disagree that Duncan is still one of the league's most talented players. ESPN agreed in a sense, as they placed him in the top 30, a ranking not too shabby for someone on his last legs. 


He clocked in at No. 27, and at first that may seem fair, as there are arguably 26 players better than the Big Fundamental at this point in his career.

However, when comparing him to Garnett, who finished six spots higher than the San Antonio big man, it's hard to neglect the fact that Duncan was underrated.

Garnett is still a wonderful player, and is still extremely close to Duncan in regards to talent. Despite what the ESPN rankings may suggest, however, he in no way has surpassed Duncan. 

Had this list taken into account the entirety of their careers, then Duncan would have been the easy choice, as he is among the best top active players in NBA history. 

Unfortunately, this list does not hold precedent on one's past, but focuses more on what the player can contribute as of the present. This leaves some gray areas, as the two careers have reached a point where one is far better than the other. Still, Duncan has managed to stay a step ahead of Garnett, even as of late.

Physically, Garnett may appear to be dealing with the age issue better, but Duncan is still more productive, as well as a more valuable asset to his team.

Duncan and Garnett finished fairly close statistically, as Garnett's 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds clock in at a similar rate as Duncan's 15.4 and 9.0. What makes Duncan the more impressive player, though the statistics may match up evenly, was his ability to do so with less playing time. He finished with a 22.60 PER, obviously superior to Garnett's 20.47.

He also is much more important to his team than Garnett, who is only the team's third option behind guard Rajon Rondo and forward Paul Pierce. He still remains the team's defensive anchor, but the same can be said of Duncan, who also is a more vital component on offense.


Behind Tony Parker, Duncan is the next best player. Manu Ginobili is too injury-stricken to be considered a consistent scoring threat, and he, more so than Duncan, has seen a major decline in his role.

The Boston Celtics also have the luxury of having a deep frontcourt to supplement the Big Ticket, and while many of them suffered injuries last season, at full health the C's have a solid bench to support Garnett.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are extremely thin at the position, with the next best player being Tiago Splitter, who can not be counted on at all times, as demonstrated in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

The Spurs without Duncan—at least for now—would find themselves in trouble, as they would not only be missing one of the most intelligent players in the game, but one of the most talented.

Kevin Garnett is certainly a top player, but he is yet to pass Duncan from a talent standpoint, and neither his intellect nor his value measure up to that of Tim Duncan.