Tim Duncan will return for his 19th season. He’ll play the “same boring game,” scoring efficiently from mid-range and in, grabbing rebounds and defending without fouling.
How many more years can the 39-year-old Duncan keep doing this?
Spurs teammate Boris Diaw, via Sports Illustrated:
I don’t know – six, seven.
I have no idea, but he’s always good. He’s always great. He’s just a great example for all the young kids, everybody.
He’s always 100 percent when we do practice. He’s always the first guy to the gym and working. He’s got a great work ethic.
He doesn’t jump as often, and so he doesn’t wear his ligaments and his muscles and everything. He’s just playing the same very basic basketball, but it works so great because he’s such a master at all the moves and everything. So, that makes him be able to take advantage of players who are more athletic and younger than him.
Diaw chuckled when he said that, but I don’t think it’s completely unrealistic.
Duncan is declining – not as rapidly as most players, though it’s hard to project whether that will continue. More concretely, he’s declining from such a high peak, giving him more room for error. If Duncan’s production decreases by 15% every year – and it hasn’t so far – he’ll remain a viable NBA player for a while.
There are assets that he won’t lose, namely height and fundamentals. That’s a big start.
Though he’s less reliant on athleticism than most players, he still needs some to compete in the world’s best league. He also needs to continue his good injury luck, which his training can help.
Duncan isn’t the first player to fit that profile. Most other players who do don’t play into their mid-40s due to ego. They don’t want to become role players as their talent erodes with age. At that point, they prefer retirement. I doubt, based purely on precedent of other players, Duncan is different.
But if he’s comfortable eventually becoming a backup and then maybe even a bench-warmer, it’s hardly impossible to see him extending his career well beyond the usual limits.