Determining When To Worry

I’m sure you know after the first 10 games of the Spurs new season, it was their worst start since 1996-1997 going 4-6. Though at the time of this post, the Spurs have beaten the Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks to improved to a 6-6 record.  But the poor start after a stellar offseason, it has been a little scary reading the comments here at Project Spurs and talking to fans. I sincerely hope nobody did anything stupid.

But should Spurs fans be worried yet?

That’s the question I always try to ask myself when I feel one of those “Pop is the worst coach ever! Tim Duncan is washed up! Tony Parker can’t run this team! Trade Ginobili!” rants coming on. I just take a step back and wonder, should I be worried? If not now, when can I be worried?

Looking at the Spurs right now and assessing their problems, a couple things emerge. Despite the early struggles the offense has been great with an efficiency of 109.5 points per 100 possessions, which is fifth in the NBA. Many people predicted that the offense would be the best yet and it’s easy to see why. Instead, the Spurs have struggled in two areas they are generally among the league’s best – defensive rebounding and overall defense.

The Spurs are usually among the top few teams in defensive rebounding, but this year they find themselves 10th in defensive rebound rate. While this might not seem like a big deal, it greatly effects the Spurs efficiency. Their defense rests not on gambling for steals and forcing turnovers but on forcing opponents into inefficient shots (long 2′s) and allowing only one shot per possession. However, this year they are allowing too many offensive rebounds and thus second chance points.

The other main weakness has been overall defense. Opponents are scoring 106.9 points per 100 possessions, which is 17th in the NBA, a far cry from the Spurs usual position among the top five. It’s no secret that the Spurs have looked out of sync on the defensive end all season.

However, I think both of these issues will improve with time. When watching the Spurs it is evident that the team is not fully comfortable with itself. New players are still getting a feel for the system and the regulars like Parker and Duncan are adjusting their games to the additions. There has simply been no consistency in the lineup. Through 11 games the Spurs have used eight different starting lineups. The five-man lineup that many consider the Spurs best (Parker-Ginobili-Jefferson-McDyess-Duncan) does not crack the Spurs top 10 five-man units, meaning they have played less than 9.8 minutes together according to 82games.com. Once the Spurs can settle on a starting, and finishing, lineup they should see improved rebounding and defensive numbers.

There is one caveat – injuries.

One of the biggest culprits for the inconsistency is injuries. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili,the Spurs three best players, have all missed games already. While Spurs fans shouldn’t worry too much about the defense and other issues, the injuries should be a concern. A big one! Duncan’s knees already worry me but he also cannot shoulder too much of the scoring load right now. He needs to have Parker and Ginobili healthy because we saw what can happen to him in the second half of the season if he has to play too many minutes. With Ginobili I’m worried he is just an injury prone player doomed to always have something nagging him. His current injury, a hurt groin, is one that can linger for months. Finally, Parker has a habit of tweaking his ankle a couple times a season just because of how often he attacks the basket.

Right now the Spurs are saying the right things, pointing out that it is a long season and they would be worried if the playoffs started tomorrow. I agree.

Still, I want to watch the next 10 games closely to see if the Pop can settle on a consistent rotation and if the “Big Three” can finally all stay healthy. If those two things start to happen, these early season worries should go away.

What are your thoughts Spurs fans? Are you worried? You pushing the panic button?  Leave us your comments.

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