No offense to Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and even Greg Popovich, but if you had to choose one person behind the San Antonio Spur's recent legacy, that person would have to be Tim Duncan. Duncan has everything you could ask for in a big: post scoring, a mid range jumper, interior passing, rebounding, rim protection, high IQ, agility; the whole package. Duncan is exactly the type of player that is missing from the Suns, but maybe they have already found a comparable player in Alex Len.
A lot of fans were disappointed in the Len pick, and I'll admit, I was too at first. Ben McLemore was so flashy, and the Suns had a huge hole on the wing. Nerlens Noel, a player many thought would go 1st, was still on the board too. Yet the Suns chose Len, a fairly unproven center prospect, and he didn't do much in his rookie season to convince fans that he was worthy of that top 5 pick. In retrospection, choosing the player with arguably the highest upside from a group with none guaranteed to translate seems wise.
So what gives Len a higher ceiling than guys like Mclemore, Noel, Bennett, Oladipo, and even Carter-Williams? Well it's a combination of things, just like what Tim Duncan offers. All of those guys I listed could be great players, but with the exception of maybe Carter-Williams, they are all fairly replaceable. The combo scoring point guard is becoming more popular too, so even Carter-Williams isn't that irreplaceable. If Len pans out like the front office hopes he does, he would be nearly irreplaceable.
I don't think the average fan realizes how rare of a player Len is. After scanning the 2013-14 roster of every team in the NBA, there are very few players who compare as favorably to Tim Duncan as Len does. Think about it. Who? Jonas Valanciunas? He doesn't have the agility, jump shot, or the length. Nerlens Noel? Needs to gain 30 pounds and he cant shoot. Greg Monroe? Can't shoot, and doesn't have the defensive upside. John Henson? Needs to gain 30 pounds. Gorgui Dieng? Doesn't have the offensive upside or finesse. Okay, so there is Anthony Davis, but even Davis doesn't compare as favorably physically as Len does.
Len has shown flashes of offensive versatility, as he is able to knock down a jump shot and finish at the rim. He was good at passing out of double teams at Maryland. He is a solid rebounder based on his size alone. He has the length, size, and agility to be an elite rim protector. He says all the right things, has a positive attitude, and learned English very quickly, and all of these things lead me to believe he could have a high basketball IQ. He has shown all of these attributes in small doses. He checks all the boxes when comparing him to Tim Duncan on this basic level. He even tries to model his game after Tim Duncan. So what's stopping him?
Well a few things could get in his way. First of all, injuries, which are a real concern. If his foot issues linger, he could never crack an NBA starting lineup and could be out of the league in a few years, but hey, at least he has an awesome medical staff on his side. Then you have intangible things like work ethic, character, and confidence. So far Len has proven to be a high character and hard working guy. I also like that he gets angry and doesn't shy away from defending his teammates or making the hard foul. It shows me that he has toughness and confidence. Also, he looks less pouty than Archie does when he is riding the bench. Finally, there is opportunity. How long will he back up Plumlee? The Suns are ready to compete now, but Len isn't quite ready. If the Suns were basement dwellers, they could accelerate his development, but nobody wants to return to the dark ages again.
In conclusion, Len is only 21 years old right now. If he played 17 years with the Suns, he would be 38, just like Timmy. Who knows, he could even be the franchise anchor down low who just won his 5th championship by then. In reality, he will probably never match Duncan's legacy. But could he play at Duncan's level for a few years? I don't see why not.