Who is the better player between Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan? Despite playing the same position and being recognized as two of the best talents we have ever seen at the power forward position, which player is truly better by taking into account all the main attributes?
Tim Duncan, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history, and he has 5 NBA championships to show for it. Anthony Davis has just won his first NBA championship and is most likely on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Both players dominate on both ends and are special talents, therefore sparking conversation as to which player is more skilled.
To compare all attributes and settle who is the better player, it is time to compare two franchise players to see which power forward comes out on top.
Scoring - Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is a special player mainly due to his ability to shoot and score the ball at a very high level. He can create space with handles and athleticism, back down players, or shoot the three. Davis has zero weakness on offense, which means he might be one of the greatest scorers at the power forward position ever. AD averages 24.0 PPG over his career, including 51.5% from the field and 31.9% from three.
Tim Duncan scored in a different way to Davis. He was strong and was great at post-ups, and could score at the mid-range with his patented off-the-backboard jumper. In his prime, Duncan could be the first option on offense as he required double teams constantly on the block. As he got older, he slowly ventured away from scoring although could be trusted to make shots when needed. Duncan averaged 19.0 PPG on 50.6% shooting, while only making 17.9% of his very limited three-point attempts.
Both players are excellent scorers, but AD has a varied arsenal with a 3-point shot, and that gives him the edge here.
Athleticism - Anthony Davis
This one is not very close because although Duncan was a powerful player who could move well, AD is a special talent. He is very long, has great hops, and can move exceptionally well for a big man. Duncan often played below the rim, and he was hardly remembered for throwing down jams as Anthony Davis can. AD is an alley-oop fiend and he can also sky high above the rim.
Duncan is a stronger player, using his body to back down players and also contest shots one on one. But he could be beaten by quicker players at times, something AD doesn't have to worry about as much. Duncan's strength is an advantage, but Davis is a special player with his athletic ability. This one goes to AD.
Defense - Tim Duncan
A no-brainer, considering how Duncan is a Hall of Famer mainly because of his incredible defensive ability. Duncan made 15 All-Defensive Teams and has been the defensive cog for the Spurs every time he played. Duncan's defense is a major reason why he has 5 NBA titles and his stats also back it up.
Davis is a great defensive player, although he needs a lot more time to prove he can accomplish what Duncan did on the defensive end. Davis has the length and athleticism to bother shots, but he has shown he doesn't have Duncan's natural instincts. Davis has made 4 All-Defensive Teams so far in his career.
Duncan takes this one easily as he averaged 2.2 BPG and made 15 All-Defensive Teams compared to 2.4 BPG with 4 All-Defensive Teams for Davis.
Clutch - Tim Duncan
Davis is a better scorer, Duncan the better defender. When crunch time comes, both players have shown they can get it done. But who gets the nod?
Anthony Davis is a special offensive player, and he most recently hit a game-winning shot in the Western Conference Finals this year against the Denver Nuggets. Davis has every tool in the bag to be a dominant clutch player, and he will only improve as he continues to mature as a man and as a player. Especially by playing alongside the likes of LeBron James, Davis has a very high ceiling as a player in the clutch as he will take on more responsibility going forward.
But Tim Duncan has proved to be a big-time player in big-time moments again and again. Whenever the Spurs played in crunch time, the ball would always go to Tim Duncan. He would either look to score, draw a foul, or pass out of a double team because he could do it all. There probably wasn't anybody smarter than Duncan at the power forward position, and he always made the right play for his team.
Anthony Davis still needs to complete at least 8 more seasons before we can compare him to the great Tim Duncan in this regard because Duncan did it time and time again either on offense or defense. In terms of getting timely stops, Duncan was the man and therefore takes this one.
Leader - Tim Duncan
This one is also not very close. Tim Duncan never looked like much of a leader because of the dull look he always had on his face, but he was a killer and a leader. As the great Greg Popovich always said, Duncan was the undisputed leader of the Spurs and he led by example every single night. Nobody perfected his craft as Duncan did, and that is why he was able to play at a high level much later on in his career. Even when Duncan could no longer be the first or even second option offensively, he was still the best paint defender in the league.
Anthony Davis has shown improvements in his game as both a leader and an overall player, but he still has yet to show that he can lead a franchise to success. While he led the Lakers in scoring in the regular season, there is no doubt that the Lakers was LeBron's team. LeBron was the leader and set everybody in line as they won it all. AD has plenty of time to develop as a leader, but he isn't there yet and Duncan takes this one.
Basketball I.Q. - Tim Duncan
Basketball I.Q. might be Tim Duncan's best attribute. Which makes this one a no-contest. Duncan knew how to defend even the best bigs of all time including Shaquille O'Neal and often could read plays before they happened in real-time. Duncan was the defensive mastermind for a Spurs Dynasty that won 5 NBA titles, and even Greg Popovich had to give it up to Duncan as the key to their success. Offensively, Duncan was calm and very methodical. He knew whether to attack the rim, face up with a jumper, or hit a hook in the post. Duncan was simply a basketball genius.
Anthony Davis has a high basketball I.Q. because he dominates the game on both ends. David has already led the NBA in blocks 3 separate times and is improving as a defender which is scary. Davis also has every tool in the bag offensively, including a low post game or outside scoring. AD is already an all-time great talent and a very smart player, but Duncan was just a basketball savant and takes this one as well.
Impact - Tim Duncan
When looking at impact, both offense and defense must be judged. And it is already mentioned that Anthony Davis has a better offensive game due to his outside scoring while Duncan was a defensive phenom. So how does one distinguish?
By looking at the impact on the most important of games. As great as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and even Greg Popovich were; it was Tim Duncan who often had the biggest impact on games. Beyond his defensive impact or his cool offensive game, Duncan was a leader on the floor. He knew where to be at all times to make a difference, and would do the little things that don't appear on the stat sheet either. He would tip passes, get key rebounds, make a crucial hockey assist, and just play the game at a genius level. His impact was undeniably great.
Anthony Davis is unstoppable offensively and has a defensive game that rivals the best in the game right now, but he has not mastered the game as Tim Duncan had. AD can do much more considering his talent, and, likely, this is not the best that we have seen from Davis. Overall, both players have tremendous basketball I.Q. and can completely control the game at a high level. But Anthony Davis could not impact a franchise like Tim Duncan, as shown by his play with New Orleans.
As soon as Duncan arrived at the Spurs, he was the best player on the team. Duncan impacts the game with his leadership and defense much more, giving him the edge.
1 on 1 - Tim Duncan
When looking at one on one ability, defense and scoring have to be taken into account in one on one situations.
There is no question that Anthony Davis is one of the best offensive power forwards ever. He shoots 51.5% from the field, 31.9% from three, and 80.2% from the like over his career. These are exceptional numbers for a big man and he doesn't get enough credit for how deadly of a scorer he is. Davis now has 7 straight seasons of averaging over 20 PPG and he will likely continue this for the rest of his career. Defensively, he has the length and awareness to be impactful in one on one situations although he has been known to get bullied by more aggressive players and can often shy away at times.
While Tim Duncan can't shoot as high a percentage from three or from the line, he has a deadly mid-range jumper that he can pull off against smaller or bigger players. Duncan has never been shy about taking contact in his career, able to take bangs from stronger players, and still score with an And-One. Defensively, there are few players better than Duncan in NBA history in one on one situations. He can bother even the best players ever and is strong enough to take hits. Whenever there is a great big man on the opposing team, the Spurs never worried because they had the great Tim Duncan.
Anthony Davis may have a higher ceiling in terms of scoring in one on one situations, but Tim Duncan was much more methodical on both offense and defense and takes the edge.
Career - Tim Duncan
This one is a no-brainer. Duncan is considered the GOAT of power forwards for his successful career. He won 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVP Awards, 2 MVP Awards, Rookie of the Year Award, and has made 15 All-Star Teams. Not to mention, Duncan made 15 All-Defensive Teams and 15 All-NBA Teams. In a nutshell, there probably won't be a greater player than Tim Duncan at the power forward position.
Davis has done exceptionally well so far in his young career by making the All-Star Team 7 times, All-NBA Team 4 times, and also making All-Defensive Team 4 times. AD has led the league in blocks 3 times and was most recently crowned the 2020 NBA champion due to his dominant performances in the postseason. Davis is the best big man in the game right now, but he falls short in the career aspect to Tim Duncan.
Anthony Davis is a special player and has the opportunity to win multiple NBA titles, but Duncan has had the greatest career of any power forward ever and takes this one.
Tim Duncan vs. Anthony Davis 7-2
This one is not very close mainly because Duncan might be the single greatest power forward in NBA history. He has accomplished more than any power forward ever, and it is unfair to compare anyone to him at this point. Duncan was the undisputed leader and franchise player for the Spurs Dynasty that lasted as long as it did. Anthony Davis captured his first NBA title and is a special player, but only time will tell if he can equal or eclipse what Duncan has accomplished in the game.