Aaron Curry: The Tim Duncan Effect?

Casey McLain@caseymclain34Senior Analyst IMay 26, 2009

For months, Aaron Curry was heralded by some experts as the best prospect in the NFL draft. When he fell to the Seattle Seahawks, having traded Julian Peterson, they drafted the Wake Forest standout.

There have been comparisons to guys like Derrick Brooks and Lawrence Taylor, but their may be another comparison, in another sport, more applicable for the optimistic Seahawks fan.

The Seahawks went into the 2009 draft with the fourth overall selection, after suffering their first losing season since 2002.

Though the team had traded the Pro Bowler Peterson, the linebacking corps was still among the team’s strongest units. Franchise player Leroy Hill may have performed better than both Peterson and Lofa Tatupu in 2008, and Tatupu is a former Pro Bowler also.

Even with the retraction of the unsigned franchise tender to Hill, and his subsequent discounted return, the team has a ton of money allocated among the squad, and Curry may become the highest paid member when he signs his rookie contract.

However, undoubtedly, the Seahawks front office felt that while Curry didn’t necessarily fill an immediate need, he was the best player available at the fourth slot.

In 1997, the San Antonio Spurs drafted Tim Duncan. The team already had a future hall of famer playing center in David Robinson. However, Robinson had spent most of the previous season injured, and the Spurs were in an unfamiliar position, drafting at the top of the draft.

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The team hadn’t drafted in the lottery since 1989, when they drafted Sean Elliot, and both Elliot and Robinson would make their NBA debut, though Robinson was drafted in 1987, spending two years finishing his military duties.

Duncan was by far the consensus top pick. The Spurs, awarded the top pick in the NBA’s draft lottery, had no choice but to pair the then Wake Forest standout with another future hall of fame big man.

Duncan was a high character guy, and a fundamentally sound big man in a league full of unrefined athletes at the position.

While multiple championship rings would be an excellent future parallel, Curry will have some work to do to get there.

There are however, some very profound similarities between Duncan and Curry.

Obviously, the two were both high picks from Wake Forest, they were each heralded as the top players in their respective drafts, and each was drafted by a team not accustomed to losing. That however, is not where the parallels end.

The NBA has treated the center position very similar to the 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Rather than drafting players who fit the position ideally, teams draft either athletes or “tweeners,” let them develop into the position, and cast them off at their next major pay day.

Both Curry and Duncan are nearly ideal fits for their position in their respective pro leagues.

Duncan is one of few “complete” big men in the NBA. There is a phrase, or series of phrases that accompanies the scouting reports of most fours and fives: “Little to no post game,” “Needs work with back to basket,” “Poor fundamentals.”

Duncan has since been dubbed the “Big Fundamental” a play on Shaquille O’Neal’s nickname, the “Big Aristotle.”

Duncan is not flashy. He rarely dunks, though he’s seven feet tall, he’s not a high flyer, and he’s not a major threat on the fast break.

Curry has been criticized for his lacking blitz skills, something he wasn’t asked to do much of at Wake Forest. His coverage skills have also been questioned, something he may not have to do much of in Seattle, depending on where he’s played. He’s got the athletic ability to do both, but not extensive experience in either.

Duncan is a quiet craftsman, a solid passer, a team-first big man in a league full of isolation plays and too much dribbling.

Curry has been praised for his athletic ability, but perhaps the most impressive part of Curry’s offseason came during the combine.

“When you watch him in drills, you want to tape it and show high schoolers,” said Jonathan Hull of Fantasy Football Jungle in a radio interview on my show a few weeks ago. “That is how it is supposed to look.”

Curry enters a league sharing a position with the likes of Joey Porter and James Harrison. Harrison won the Defensive Player of the Year award last year, and Porter was a strong candidate, however each has been victim to their own brand of verbal diarrhea.

Porter is one of the most quotable players in the NFL, usually for all the wrong reasons. He talks trash, he picks fights, and he’s a me-first player in a 22-man game. Harrison, though something of an unknown until recently, has recently made news for refusing to attend the White House.

Curry by contrast, is quiet. He’s humble, and a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy.” This may be where the Duncan-Curry comparisons reach their pinnacle.

In an offseason that saw Hill pass out at the wheel of a vehicle while possessing marijuana, following an offseason where Tatupu, a fan favorite, was arrested for DUI, Curry may be the most fan-friendly and relatable linebacker on this team.

When Tim Duncan returned to Wake Forest for his senior year, he did so to fulfill a promise he made to his mother before her death when Duncan was a teenager. The perspective and maturity Duncan showed, delaying a multi-million dollar payout was admirable.

Similarly, Curry was leaning toward entering the NFL draft a year early in 2008. After discussions with his mother, for whom he’ll have a room in his Seattle home, he decided to stick around and finish his degree at Wake Forest.

I’ve been critical of the drafting of Curry. The Seahawks linebacking corps will have a grossly disproportionate amount of money allocated to the position, even with the more-palatable contract under which Hill returned.

However, one thing I’ll never criticize is the combination of character and ability the Seahawks acquired. Curry’s a top-notch citizen to this point in his football career, with no indication of a future change. He’s a tremendous athlete and a fundamental football player.

Duncan entered a team that didn’t need him to be successful, but ultimately needed him to be the best. The team won four championships in Duncan’s first nine years, including two after the retirement of Robinson.

We can only hope that Curry’s future is as similar to Duncan’s as is his past, and that the Seahawks will be hoisting a Lombardi trophy soon.