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Tim Duncans phenomenal start - Nov 12, 2012

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Tim Duncan
by Dan McCarneyin Spurs

Tim Duncan (211-F/C-76, college: Wake Forest) is playing like an MVP candidate.

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

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 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.

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