The San Antonio Spurs will continue to be the darlings of basketball betting sportsbooks even in a post-Tim Duncan era, thanks to a strong core of players. In fact, they will probably be better off without him – call it addition by subtraction. And before anyone takes that the wrong way, let’s get a few things straight. Hands down, Duncan was one of, if not the main reason that the Spurs were continual favorites – on the court, on basketball betting websites, etc. He’s one of the reasons that the team has won 50 or more games per season for 17 straight years, as well as five NBA championships along the way. But was he instrumental in the Spurs finishing last season with franchise records for most wins and best winning percentage?
In a career that started in 1997 and spanned 19 seasons, Duncan recorded 19.0 points, 2.2 blocks, 3.0 assists, 10.8 rebounds, 34.0 minutes per game in 1,393 regular season games, and 20.6 points, 2.3 blocks, 3.0 assists, 11.4 rebounds, and 37.3 minutes in 251 postseason games with the Spurs. Those are Hall of Fame numbers, and Tim Duncan is a guaranteed first-ballot HoF inductee – so, personality-wise, he’s as generic as the Times New Roman font, so what? However, he did post his worst numbers during 2015-16; 8.6 points, 1.3 blocks, 2.7 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 25.2 minutes per game in 61 regular season games, and 5.9 points, 1.3 blocks, 1.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 21.8 minutes per game in 10 playoffs games. Those are great numbers if you’re Kevin Love, but for Duncan they were his cue to exit stage left – and timelier it couldn’t have been.
Now compare those stats with those of Pau Gasol – the Spurs’ new big man (well, not so new; at age 36, he’s only four year Duncan’s junior) – for the same season. The Spanish power forward/center had 16.5 points, 2.0 blocks, 4.1 assists, 11.0 rebounds, and 31.8 minutes per game in 72 regular season games, and 14.4 points, 2.1 blocks, 3.1 assists, 9.4 rebounds, in 2015-16 with the Chicago Bulls. Not as good as his heyday in the mid-2000s with the Memphis Grizzlies, but still pretty competitive. In fact, both the Spurs and Gasol will be more competitive, basketball and basketball betting-wise. At the same time, with 16 seasons of experience, Gasol can also take over from Duncan’s only other viable role – that of mentor to younger big guys such as LaMarcus Aldrige and Dedmon Wayne. Similar to what declining veterans like Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker can do for smaller men; i.e., Kawhi Leonard and rookie Dejounte Murray.
Aldrige needs little encouragement to excel. He registered 18.0 points, 1.1 blocks, 1.5 assists, 8.5 rebounds, and 30.6 minutes in 74 regular season games, and 21.9 points, 1.4 blocks, 1.0 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 33.7 minutes in 10 playoffs games with the Spurs last season. Dedmon, on the other hand, could use a little more polishing, especially on offense, but he protects the rim well, and the Spurs could use a skill like that one. The Oklahoma City Thunder out rebounded them in the Western Conference semifinals, and they ranked 15th in the league in that category. All things considered, the Spurs will continue to be the darlings of basketball betting sportsbooks even in a post-Tim Duncan era.