For the vast majority of his career, during which he won the award twice and finished among the top five in voting seven other times, that statement would have been a given.
But coming off a campaign in which he failed to make the All-Star game for the first time since his rookie season the 1999 game was cancelled it was fair to assume that Duncans best years were behind him.
Gregg Popovich recently downplayed the notion of a Duncan resurgence, saying hes playing the same way great as he has for the past decade and a half. Theres some truth to that, especially when you consider the metronomical consistency of his per-36 minute statistics.
At the same time, its fairly clear, both from studying the stat sheet and watching him play, that the 36-year-old Duncan is playing at an unexpectedly high level in his 16th NBA season. A look at his statistics:
18.9 points per game, highest since 2008-09.
9.7 rebounds per game, highest since 2009-10.
2.4 blocks per game, highest since 2006-07.
1.4 turnovers per game, fewest of his career.
5.4 free throw attempts per game, highest since 2008-09.
53.1 field goal percentage, highest of his career.
78.9 free throw percentage, highest of his career.
Per-game stats have become passe among the NBA cognescenti, and with good reason. But Duncans superior production is also reflected in his advanced numbers. Some of the highlights (all figures taken from BasketballReference.com):
28.9 player efficiency rating, best of his career.
.271 win shares per 48 minutes, highest of his career.
114 offensive rating, tying the best of his career.
91 defensive rating, best since 2003-04.
.586 true shooting percentage, highest of his career.
31.5 defensive rebound percentage, highest of his career.
6.0 block percentage, highest of his career.
8.1 turnover percentage, lowest of his career.
But wait, theres more.
While Duncan is taking more long jumper than ever (4.7 attempts between 16-23 feet, the most in seven seasons charted by HoopsData.com) hes rediscovered his aggressiveness in the paint. Not only only is he averaging 5.2 shots at the rim, the most in five seasons, hes converting at a ridiculous 80.6 percent. Thats almost 10 points better than any season in Hoops Datas database.
A couple of grains of salt.
* Sample size, sample size, sample size, sample size. (Did I mention sample size?) The Spurs have played only 8.5 percent of their 82-game schedule, meaning that a downturn is pretty much guaranteed as Duncan grinds through the marathon that is an NBA season.
* Theres also Duncans average of 30.1 minutes per game, knocking his value down just a tad from those capable of shouldering a heavier load. (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, etc.)
But when you hear people wondering if Duncan can compete for an All-Star berth, its clear we need to think about setting the bar even higher.
It's doubtful that Indiana Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas(206-F-91, college: Syracuse) has been to an amusement park lately even though the past few weeks have seen him ride a roller coaster of call-ups and demotions. He's currently being shuttled back and forth as Indiana struggles with injury issues. On November 17th, Christmas was sent down to play for the Pacers' D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. That was where he played most of last season and had seen little playing time for... [read more]
It's doubtful that Indiana Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas (206-F-91, college: Syracuse) has been to an amusement park lately even though the past few weeks have seen him ride a roller coaster of call-ups and demotions. He's currently being shuttled back and forth as Indiana struggles with injury issues.
On November 17th, Christmas was sent down to play for the Pacers' D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. That was where he played most of last season and had seen little playing time for Indiana up to that point.
Just four days later, Christmas returned to Indianapolis because of injuries to both Paul George and C.J. Miles. That tenure was brief, when the second-year player was returned to Fort Wayne on November 25. Just three days later, the continued uncertain status of George and Miles, coupled with knee issues for Kevin Seraphin brought back Christmas following the end of Thanksgiving weekend.
George's health problems have been focused on his sore left ankle, while Miles' is attempting to get through soreness in his left knee. Those two players are vitally important to Indiana's fortunes, with George being a strong defender besides his talent on the offensive side of the ball. Miles helps give new head coach Nate McMillan a key reserve in the lineup, averaging over 14 points per game.
Christmas somewhat helps fill the void of Seraphin's absence, since the Pacers' other alternative is to give major minutes to Al Jefferson. The problem with that strategy is that while the soon-to-be 32-year-old Jefferson gives Indiana a presence in the paint, the aging process doesn't allow him to be effective over the entire course of a game.
That leaves Christmas with the opportunity to see what he can do. Right now, McMillan hasn't chosen to use him much. Following his call-up on November 21st, he played six minutes in garbage during the blowout loss at home to Golden State, scoring three points. Prior to these flurry of transactions, his only other court time came in nearly seven minutes at Chicago on October 29th.
Last season, as noted, Christmas primarily played at Fort Wayne, seeing his first NBA action with six minutes in the regular season finale. In that game, he scored four points and grabbed a rebound.
Christmas was originally selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 NBA Draft before immediately being dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers. One month later, the Cavaliers came to the conclusion that Christmas would see little, if any, time with a team that went on to win the NBA title. That led the Cavs to deal Christmas to the Pacers on July 23, 2015, in exchange for a 2019 second round selection.
Elegar: "I want to win the FIBA Europe Cup" KRASNOYARSK (FIBA Europe Cup) - There simply has not been a player more dominant in the FIBA Europe Cup Regular Season than Enisey star center Frank Elegar(208-C-86, college: Drexel). A fan-favourite everywhere he goes, the soon-to-be 30-year-old from Bronx, New York leads the competition in efficiency, rebounding and blocks and has quickly won over the hearts of the people in Krasnoyarsk as well. Although Siberia might seem like an odd desti... [read more]
Elegar: "I want to win the FIBA Europe Cup"
KRASNOYARSK (FIBA Europe Cup) - There simply has not been a player more dominant in the FIBA Europe Cup Regular Season than Enisey star center Frank Elegar (208-C-86, college: Drexel).
A fan-favourite everywhere he goes, the soon-to-be 30-year-old from Bronx, New York leads the competition in efficiency, rebounding and blocks and has quickly won over the hearts of the people in Krasnoyarsk as well.
Although Siberia might seem like an odd destination for an American-born big man at first glance, the well-travelled Elegar shrugs it off and says it is just a part of a job that he loves to do.
Having averaged an impressive double-double of 17.8 points and 11.8 rebounds, as well as 2.3 blocks in the Regular Season, the player points out the role of Enisey's play-caller Oleg Okulov in the seamless on-the-court transition.
"I remember meeting the coach in pre-season and I didn't realise he had scouted me as much as he did over the last year," reflects Elegar, his memory flashing back to the first chat he had with his new head coach. "A lot of what the coach has implemented to the team is based on my style of play and what I'm capable of doing. The fit was good, the team gelled and it's showing on the court."
After winning the first four games in the FIBA Europe Cup and securing early qualification in Group H, the Russian side decided to rest a couple of key players in the remaining contests and finished second in the group standings with a 4-2 record behind Demir Insaat on point difference.
"From what we showed, I think we have a pretty good team, when we're executing and playing as one unit. With the way we play, I think we surprised not only ourselves a little bit, but everyone supporting us and looking from the outside in," Elegar said.
Playing one of the most up-tempo styles in the entire competition, Enisey has one of the highest-octane offences with an average of 89.7 points per game, second-best in the league, but it is play on the defensive end where the big man feels he can have the most impact.
"The coach has been trying to have us play with more of a defensive mindset. We're still trying to figure some things out on that end. With me being as mobile as I am, the coach feels he can switch up the defensive schemes by either having me step out or switch on the perimeter. I feel my defence has been big this year," explained Elegar who has not only been the backbone of Enisey's defence with a league-best 2.3 blocks per game, but also the team's leading scorer in the competition.
"The coach is all about aggression and preaches it both offensively and defensively. The more aggression we show on one end of the court, the more benefits it will pay on the other. If we play aggressive on the defensive end, it will lead to easy fast break-points. If we play aggressive on offence, it will lead to opponents getting into foul trouble and us getting easy points at the free-throw line."
It is fair to assume the off-the-court transition has been more difficult than one on the court for the incredibly athletically0gifted Elegar.
According to Elegar, the process of acclimatization in a far-away Russian city has been made a lot easier thanks the team's starting point guard and fellow New Yorker Tony Taylor, who played in Krasnoyarsk last season as well.
"Oh my, Tony's been clutch, he really has. From getting taxis to scheduling a spa day for myself on the off-day. I don't really even have to look too much for places to eat, because Tony knows everything. He's helped with all of that, so I really have to thank him for helping me adjust so quickly," said Elegar who was happy to have his family finally join him in Russia as well. "I was excited when they came and I'm excited to have them around. I just hope they can bare the cold weather."
"The team wants to make the Play-Offs and come back to the Final Four. Personally, I'm trying to win it." However, there are workarounds and ways of dealing with the cold weather, but it is the long journeys that Elegar points out as the most taxing aspect of playing in Siberia.
Enisey qualified to the same Second Round group as Lukoil Academic, Donar Groningen and SL Benfica, which means there will be three more difficult trips to Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Portugal.
The journey to the Portuguese capital Lisbon, located on the other side of the European continent, some 8,000 km away from Krasnoyarsk, promises to be the most challenging one.
"Mentally, it's really where it gets the guys. Just think about it - you have to get up around 4-5 AM for a 7 o'clock flight to Moscow which is already four and a half hours and then from Moscow we have to go wherever it is we are going. And there's at least a four hour difference, too. Mentally, it really takes a toll," explains Elegar of the usual procedure for away games. "Every road game is going to be a challenge, but you have to take care of your body and prepare yourself mentally to just go out there and win the game. That's what really gets me over the edge."
When it seemed that no one in the FIBA Europe Cup could stop Elegar, an injury did. Having sustained a slight tear in his quad muscle, the player will have to miss around two weeks of action.
"I found something was wrong after last week's VTB League game against Zenit. I just couldn't bend my leg. Before that, I had been playing hurt for a couple of months. I felt something, but didn't think it was serious. It got worse over the last few weeks, but I just had been playing through it. The final straw was the Zenit game," said Elegar who could still potentially be back in time for Enisey's next international game on the road against Donar on 14 December.
As one of the four clubs to have reached the Final Four of the inaugural edition of the FIBA Europe Cup last year, Enisey have their minds set on returning to the final stage once more, while Elegar has even higher goals for himself: "The team wants to make the Play-Offs and come back to the Final Four. Personally, I'm trying to win it and be one of the best big men in both of the leagues that we play, the FIBA Europe Cup and the VTB League."
Having registered three double-doubles in four games, Elegar has consistently been among the best individual performers, being named to the weekly five-player Top Performer list on three occasions already.
"Growing up, I have always kind of been under the radar. I'm a late bloomer when it comes to my success, so it feels good to see the individual accolades, but I think I can do even better," the player reflected.
"Every time I step on the court, I just go out there, try be the best player I can be and try to put up ridiculous double-double numbers. Maybe I'm surprising people who are looking from the outside in, but I know I'm capable of something special. Hopefully, with a good year here, I can move up to an even higher level of competition."
The Indiana Pacers announced on Thursday morning that they have assigned Rakeem Christmas(206-F-91, college: Syracuse) to their D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. It is back to the NBA Development League for Indiana Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas. Christmas spent most of his time in Fort Wayne last year. He was a D-League All-Star and averaged 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per a game. ndiana is showing why it is important to have your own D-League affiliate close... [read more]
The Indiana Pacers announced on Thursday morning that they have assigned Rakeem Christmas (206-F-91, college: Syracuse) to their D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
It is back to the NBA Development League for Indiana Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas.
Christmas spent most of his time in Fort Wayne last year. He was a D-League All-Star and averaged 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per a game.
ndiana is showing why it is important to have your own D-League affiliate close to home, and that's exactly what the Pacers have in Fort Wayne. It's only a couple of hours drive to get to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. If they need him to fill out the rotation on a moment's notice, it won't be an issue getting him into Indianapolis by tip-off.
Christmas has been on the inactive list for most of the season. He got some run in a blowout loss to the Bulls in Chicago on October 29th, that being his only game played of the season. He played in one game last season for the Indiana Pacers - the season finale in Milwaukee. He posted 4 points and 1 rebound in 6 minutes.
Christmas was nearly cut earlier in the summer. The Indiana Pacers signed Kevin Seraphin, which put them over the limit of 15 roster spots. The decision came down to the wire, but the Pacers ultimately decided to cut Jeremy Evans and keep Rakeem.
Christmas is trying to stay patient despite his tough situation, as you can tell from a recent Instagram post he uploaded. Patience is key for NBA players, but no doubt about it, it can get frustrating watching from the sidelines every night.
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are 1-0 this season, with their next game coming on November 20th against the Sioux Falls Skyforce at 5 p.m. on Facebook Live.
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