It’s strange to say, but this post-season really feels like Tim Duncan’s coming out party. No matter where you turn, people are trying to assess how Duncan should be rated, which seems pretty bizarre since he’s been in the league for 10 years now. Between Bill Simmons fawning over him in a recent column, or the discussion on Mike and Mike this morning about where Timmy stands on the historical list of power forwards, this is the first time that I can remember that the media has recognized how good Duncan really is. And, seriously, he’s amazing. Like best ever at his position amazing.
When you think about it, the other possible candidates for GPFOAT fall short of TD in one category or another. The main competitors are usually Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, and to a lesser extent, Charles Barkley. Let’s examine each of their cases individually.
First, for comparison’s sake, here are Duncan’s stats:
Stellar stats, not to mention that he clearly steps his game up when it really matters. Now on to the competition.
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Obviously, these are out-of-this-world statistics, but I think it’s very obvious the one area that Baylor falls short of Duncan: titles. I don’t think it’s fair to totally disregard a player simply because they are one of the hundreds of players to never win a championship, but when you’re trying to decide who is the best power forward of all time it certainly is an important variable (and one that will continue to come up).
Once again, wonderful stats but no rings (although it should be noted that Duncan is a significantly better defender). Until recently, the case for Karl Malone for best power forward ever was pretty strong. However, because of Michael Jordan, he couldn’t break through to become a championship player. And while losing out on titles to The GOAT isn’t anything to be ashamed of, he still couldn’t win one while he was chasing a title with the Kobe and Shaq led Lakers. However, Karl Malone’s Rogaine commercials are legendary.
Of the 4 top contenders, McHale is the only one with any championships to his name. However, his statistics don’t even come close to touching Duncan’s. Clearly this is a product of playing on the best frontline ever (Bird, McHale, and Parrish), but it’s still a fact. Just as you can’t discount the fact that Malone, Baylor, and Barkley don’t have any rings, it is impossible to ignore that McHale has definitely inferior stats to Tim Duncan. Also, he’s a terrible GM (FREE GARNETT), but that’s another story for another day.
Another of the no championships club, Barkley is a once-in-a-lifetime player. Listed at a generous 6’6” (more like 6’4”), Barkley was an absolute terror. Unfortunately for him, Barkley also was continually thwarted by Michael Jordan in his quest for a title (maybe this disproves the theory that basketball is a big man’s game, but we can figure that out later). I don’t really think Barkley is in the upper echelon of power forwards, partly because I’m not sure if you can actually consider him a power forward. Nonetheless, for the purposes of this discussion, he’s still not close to Duncan.
Between his stats and his titles (not to mention the fact that he’s got probably 5 more good years in the league), I think it’s an easy argument for Tim Duncan as the best power forward of all time. And for that matter, I can’t really see anyone displacing him. The “next” big mean, Dwight Howard and Greg Oden, will certainly be considered centers; and most seven-footers these days are more perimeter focused than Duncan. Amare’s talent and athleticism could allow him to challenge Duncan for the throne, but I think it’s almost impossible to truly evaluate him as an individual until Nash’s back finally gives out and Stoudemire is forced to create rather than react to Nash’s playmaking.
It’s nice to see that people are finally taking notice of how fantastic Tim Duncan really is, and it’s unfortunate that some people might see his (possible) fourth title as tainted due to the Stoudemire-Diaw suspensions in round 2. Ultimately, we have the pleasure of watching one of the NBA’s 20 greatest players ever in action all this month. Enjoy it while you can.