The chances of Tim Duncan retiring probably became smaller once he decided to exercise his option for the 2016-2017 NBA season, but it seems like the San Antonio Spurs are completely convinced he’ll play for them next season; a retirement is still on the table.
Duncan has just completed his 19th NBA season, playing only 61 games (his lowest since the 2010-2011 season), 25.2 minutes a night (lowest of his career), which led to the lowest averages in every category (8.6 points per game) of his career. And doing well in the per minute department, regressing impressively slowly considering his age, he became an almost defense-only kind of player this season. However, the Spurs were 4.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than without him, and his personal net rating was +14.1 points, his best since the 2004-2005 season.
Duncan didn’t opt out of the $5.5 million he’ll make in 2016-2017, but the Spurs are giving him time to make his decision about actually playing for another season. It’s getting harder and harder for the future hall of fame inductee to go through the seasons. The ‘aging like fine wine’ monicker has been true to an extent, but last season was more proof that time has no rivals, and Duncan succumbs to it like everyone else, only he doesn’t try and do things he can’t.
The Spurs are one of the teams Kevin Durant is meeting with at the beginning of free agency. Duncan’s decision not to opt out obviously has consequences on the cap situation and the things the Spurs will have to do if Durant does choose them, but the Spurs aren’t rushing him into a decision. After five NBA championships and putting the franchise at the top of the league in so many ways, Duncan deserves some patience, especially when the plans for next season involve him, but aren’t completely dependant on him.
The Spurs have other big men on contract for next season: LaMarcus Aldridge (the heir, more or less), Boris Diaw, and maybe David West, if he doesn’t retire. Pau Gasol has been linked with the team, and the Spurs extended a qualifying offer to Boban Marjanovic, making him a restricted free agent.