Tim Duncan is using defense to re-ignite his Hall of Fame career.
At the tender age of 36, Duncan has been magnificent thus far this season. From his balanced scoring attack to his work on the glass, there has been little room for criticism when it comes to Duncan's production.
With that being said, it is defensively that Timmy has been at his best.
Duncan may not be the first name to come to mind with the word "defense," but he's been one of the best in the league in said area. Regardless of age, team affiliation or athleticism.
In fact, Duncan is outperforming the likes of Serge Ibaka, Tyson Chandler and even Dwight Howard. So how is it getting done?
If you ask his peers, it's all about balance.
Chris Bosh called Duncan a "timeless classic" earlier this season, effectively making Duncan the "Citizen Kane" of basketball. The Heat center has a point; it feels like we can always count on Duncan for a good ol' 20-and-10 and a few swats on the side.
The praise from his peers will always be present. After all, Duncan is the reason most of today's big men are even in the NBA.
He's a role model and active icon. At 36, he's also an MVP candidate.
Whether you call him a "timeless classic" or an ageless wonder, Duncan is on top of his game. And it all starts on defense.
Crunching the Numbers: With and without
Tiago Splitter has displayed a significant amount of progression on both ends of the floor. DeJuan Blair and Boris Diaw don't receive enough credit for their well-rounded contributions.
Even Matt Bonner has stepped in to hit clutch shots.
The fact of the matter is, the San Antonio Spurs would be nowhere without Tim Duncan. Allow the numbers to speak for themselves.
Thus far in 2012-13, the Spurs are allowing 93.9 points per 48 minutes with Duncan on the floor. That number hits 99.6 with Timmy on the bench.
Elite with, helpless without.
Crunching the Numbers: Individual
If Tim Duncan's impact on the Spurs as a unit isn't enough for you, how about the dominance he has displayed individually?
Thus far in 2012-13, Duncan ranks third in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game. Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao are the only two ranking above him, and Love has only played 14 games.
Regardless of what you consider to be qualified numbers, Duncan has been one of the top three players in the league at controlling the defensive glass.
Aside from rebounding, Duncan is also altering shots at an outstanding rate. Yet another top-five ranking, in fact.
Duncan sits at fifth in the NBA with 2.54 blocks per game. He ranks first in the league at 1.45 blocks per personal foul.
Second best is Brook Lopez at 1.10. To put this simply, let us acknowledge a simple fact.
Tim Duncan is the most responsible interior defender in the NBA. Period.
If we truly need more evidence, Duncan is also ranked ninth amongst power forwards in terms of steals per game at 0.9. He ranks second amongst 4s in terms of steals per personal foul.
Responsible, dominant and an unquestioned leader.
How It's Getting Done
We know Tim Duncan is having a significant impact on the quality of San Antonio's team defense. We also know that Duncan is performing at a rate which should slot him an All-Defensive Team appearance.
The question is, how is Duncan able to do this at the age of 36?
As any great defender or coach will tell you, it all starts with footwork. The art which Duncan has mastered since coming into the league as the top pick in the 1997 NBA draft.
Such has led to Duncan swatting shots and coming up with steals.
As displayed in the video provided, Duncan maintains a solid base and keeps his body parallel with the ball-handler. This enables Duncan to maintain positioning on younger and more agile scorers, thus utilizing his length to alter shot attempts.
The same can be said for his approach to rebounding.
Duncan is one of the greatest of all time at keeping himself between the basket and his assignment. Duncan's ability to box out is legendary, and his fundamentals in the paint are Hall of Fame worthy.
His work at the age of 36 simply solidifies his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
The only question now is whether or not maintaining this pace would establish Duncan as the best of his generation. Regardless of if it does or not, his work on the defensive end of the ball has the race between him and Kobe Bryant tighter than ever.
The pursuit of a fifth championship just got a whole lot more interesting.
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