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Tim Duncan's heir is not LaMarcus Aldridge

It's still premature to talk about Tim Duncan's heir but Al Horford is the best candidate.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how much we resist the idea, Tim Duncan will be gone at some point and the Spurs will need someone to fill his role if they intend to remain contenders. There have been plenty of rumors about LaMarcus Aldridge being on the Spurs radar to be that guy. Yet as great as Aldridge is, it's not only hard to see him join the Spurs but he might also not be the right choice.

That's why the best case scenario is for Duncan to return for one more year so that a more suitable replacement becomes available. I'm talking about the Hawks' Al Horford.

Assuming both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili return for one more year and step aside after next season the Spurs would have considerable cap space in 2016. The cap is expected to explode that offseason, so even with hefty new contacts for Leonard and Green on the books, the Spurs will be able to make a max offer and still have some room to fill out the roster to preserve their depth.

There will be a lot of intriguing free agents available then but Horford is almost irresistible because he is one of the more similar players to Duncan in the league today, both in game and attitude.


Al Horford

Tim Duncan

FG% allowed at the rim






Defensive rebound %



Assist percentage



The biggest takeaway from looking at these postseason numbers is that both of these guys play both ends of the floor very well. Are Horford's numbers as great as Duncan's, despite being ten years younger? No. But neither are their roles or, frankly, their positions. Horford's rebounding and rim protection are not elite for a center but very good for a power forward, which is his ideal spot.

What is similar about their roles is the way they are used in complicated ball movement systems. In the postseason, Tim Duncan averaged 45.3 front court touches per game and held the ball an average of 1.9 minutes a game. Al Horford touched the ball 44.5 times per game and held it for 1.6 minutes. To put that in perspective, LaMarcus Aldridge touched the ball 43.4 times per game despite playing significantly more minutes and held on to it for over two minutes.

The beauty of the Spurs' offense is often credited to their magnificent ball movement. Duncan does a great job of not letting the ball stick, which is a quality that Horford has as well. That's a trait that is often overlooked in big men but vital in the Spurs system. Unless the Spurs want to change their offense, they will need players that are comfortable passing and won't hold the ball. That just doesn't seem to be one of Aldridge's many strengths.

Because Horford is the Hawks' center, he's used in similar ways on defense as Duncan and both are effective. When defending six feet away from the basket, Horford's opponents are shooting 14.8 percent lower than average, while Duncan's postseason average is 12.8 percent lower. Horford has also been very good defender down in the post despite giving up size most nights. That's essential when playing in a Western Conference loaded with guys like Blake Griffin.

Having a seamless defensive transition when Duncan leaves is going to be near impossible, as he's proved time and time again how uniquely gifted he is on that end. Horford's numbers, however, suggest he could have a similar impact while playing center while also being able to shift to power forward. You can't ever have too much positional versatility.

Then there's the off court factor. He's a leader and the Spurs will need that as they get younger. His demeanor during interviews reminds me a lot of how so many of the Spurs players carry themselves now. Just skip to 1:36 in this video clip to watch Horford after the biggest shot of his career.

As he talks about what the Hawks did poorly in the game, I just close my eyes and envision him fitting in perfectly in San Antonio.

I know I'm talking about someone who's a year away from even becoming a free agent. It possible he's not even considering leaving Atlanta. The team made the conference finals and he seems comfortable there under coach Bud. But it's not like Aldridge is a sure thing. Far from it. So if we are going to drool about a potential heir to Duncan, I prefer to fantasize about the player I truly feel can come close to replacing him on and off the court and that's Horford.

Stats acquired from