The newly crowned NBA champion San Antonio Spurs face an offseason of big decisions. None was more pressing than that of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who decided to accept his player option for the 2014-15 season.
The team reported the decision Monday night: "The San Antonio Spurs today announced that forward Tim Duncan has exercised his player option for the 2014-15 NBA season."
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports broke the news:
San Antonio's Tim Duncan has decided to opt into the final year of his contract at $10.3M, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 23, 2014
Duncan's player option came as part of a three-year, $30.4 million contract extension he signed with the Spurs following the 2011-12 season. He is due to make just under $10.4 million in 2014-15, according to Spotrac.com.
Duncan spoke about his decision in an interview with David Letterman:
David Robinson, who played with Duncan for six years (from 1997-98 through 2002-03) and owns a small stake in the Spurs, told ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne that he wanted to see The Big Fundamental return.
David Robinson on Tim Duncan: "He's got a lot left. So selfishly, as an owner and as a fan, I want to see him come back."— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 16, 2014
Considering Duncan's consistently high level of production, he's been a bargain for years. The five-time NBA champion has only made more than $20 million in a season three times and has made under $15 million 10 times from 1997-98 through 2013-14.
By comparison, Kobe Bryant has made more than $15 million per season every year since 2005 and is due to make $48.5 million over the next two years despite having played only 142 total games in the last three seasons due to injuries.
Duncan's decision also impacts what the Spurs will do, and are financially capable of doing, with key free agents Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard also becomes eligible for an extension this summer.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News commented on how Duncan opting in might affect the future for sharpshooter Matt Bonner:
Spit-balling: Spurs would take him at vet minimum, and I assume he'd accept that at 34. RT @WhatAboutTob Any chance Bonner gets re-upped?— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) June 23, 2014
Even though the 38-year-old Duncan is no longer in his prime, he remains one of the most effective big men in basketball, having averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 29.2 minutes per game this past season.
No one would have criticized Duncan if he opted to retire after winning a fifth NBA championship in 17 years, but his performance on the court gives no indication that his career is winding down.
Most historically great athletes don't get to hang up their jersey right after winning a title, and Duncan certainly seems like the kind of player who would want to go out on the highest of high notes.
Yet when you look at the consistency from the Spurs franchise, winning five titles and at least 50 games in the regular season every year since 1999-2000, Duncan has to know the Spurs will have a great chance to repeat.
Duncan had no desire to talk about retirement during the postseason, telling reporters, via Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk, that he wouldn't be baited into answering any kinds of questions on the topic.
I’m guessing you’re leading me into a question that I’m not going to answer. So, I will just go ahead and avoid that one...
I’ve always said, as long as I feel I’m going to be effective, I’m going to want to play. And I still feel effective.
Coming off a title and averaging nearly a double-double per game, it's safe to say that Duncan is still an effective player. He's been the heart of this San Antonio franchise for more than 15 years, so it just wouldn't seem right for the Spurs to start a season without him.
Now the only challenge that remains is whether the Spurs can break this streak of spreading out championships and go back-to-back. With Duncan firmly in the mix, they have as good a shot as any franchise to win a title.