2018-19 Spurs 10-Game Evaluation: Volume 2

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Through 20 games, the San Antonio Spurs sit at .500 with a 10-10 record. Offensively, the team continues to maintain a Top-10 offense, while defensively, the Spurs are still having their issues and rank in the bottom 10 in the league. The team has added a player from injury in Derrick White to help on the perimeter, but, in the frontcourt, Pau Gasol will have missed the last 12 games due to left foot soreness.

Though it’s not clear what type of role or how much playing time he’ll receive, the Spurs will also be adding Lonnie Walker IV back to the squad soon since he’s progressing toward playing in the G-League as part of his rehab.

If you’re new to the 10-game evaluation series, here’s Volume 1. Most of the stats used in this evaluation are from CleaningTheGlass.com and on CTG, a ranking is provided for the stats. I created the following rating system based on the rankings:

Elite – Rank near Top 5

Good – Rank near Top 10

Average – Rank near 15th

Improvement – Rank near 20th

Ugh – Rank near 25th

Ouch – Rank near 30th

Now, with 20 games logged, let’s see how the Spurs are playing on both ends of the floor in a bit more detail.

Section I. Scoring

Category Volume 1RankRatingVolume 2RankRating
Points Per 100 Possessions111 PP/10010thGood110.8 PP/1009thGood
Halfcourt Points Per Play94.8 PP/1009thGood94.2 PP/10012thGood
eFG %50.7%21stImprovement51.1%22ndImprovement
Rim Accuracy59.6%23rdUgh…61.9%17thAverage
All Mid-Range Accuracy41.1%11thGood40.4%12thGood
Corner 3PT Accuracy43.8%6thElite40.7%8thGood
Non-Corner 3PT Accuracy39%3rdElite39.7%1stElite
Bench Points Per Game39.7 points10thGood37.8 points14thAverage

 

As mentioned above, the Spurs have continued to maintain a Top-10 offense based around their mid-three of DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay. Most of the data from the first 10 games to the 20-game mark has remained consistent. The team saw a slight bump in accuracy at the rim, though, there’s still some room for improvement. While they’re not a high volume 3-point shooting team, the Spurs are the most accurate in the league through 20 games from distance.

Going back to the rim accuracy where the Spurs are ranked 17th, I was eager to see how the individual core players are shooting at the rim. The data below is presented by each core player from most frequent shooter at the rim, to least. Then, the accuracy and a rating (based off the CTG percentiles and my own words) are provided.

Rim Accuracy

Player and Frequency at rimAccuracy at rimRating
Jakob Poeltl (70%)69%Good
LaMarcus Aldridge (40%)62%Improvement Needed
Pau Gasol (40%)56%Improvement Needed
Dante Cunningham (36%)57%Improvement Needed
Derrick White (31%)50%Improvement Needed
DeMar DeRozan (28%)67%Good
Rudy Gay (28%)55%Improvement Needed
Patty Mills (18%)73%Elite
Marco Belinelli (17%)48%Improvement Needed
Bryn Forbes (16%)61%Good
Davis Bertans (16%)67%Average

 

While most of the core players are shooting in the ‘Improvement Needed’ area, many of them don’t attack the rim that frequently. The two players I wanted to highlight though are Aldridge and Derrick White. Being one of the Spurs’ key bigs who either posts up, drives, or crashes the boards for putbacks, Aldridge’s accuracy at the rim has an impact on the team as a whole because of the number of shot attempts he takes as a go-to option. With Aldridge only making 62% of his shots at the rim, it would be the lowest accuracy for a season in his career. The lowest Aldridge has ever shot at the rim was 64% in the 2013-14 season with Portland. His career average is 67.5%.

In playing more 5 this season, Aldridge isn’t as effective against more traditional centers and certain matchups. As has been seen when he has smaller matchups, he has better production. Another reason for Aldridge’s early struggles this season are the number of double teams he’s seeing. With more double teams, he must make the 1-on-1 shot attempts he gets count that much more, and early on, he’s struggling in accuracy from all three levels of the court.

Another player to watch in rim accuracy is Derrick White. White played very well in an early injury-return game against Houston with 14 points and eight assists. After that though, his production and minutes have been like a roller coaster. He went from starting for a few games to finding himself coming off the bench and playing less than 10 minutes in certain games. He showed some strides again in the Spurs’ Monday win in Chicago with 8 points and an assist. White has the ability to run the pick-and-roll and get into the paint to either finish at the rim or find his teammates for shots.

Where do the Spurs frequently take shots from?

AreaVolume 1RankRatingVolume 2RankRating
Frequency at Rim27.5%30thOuch28.2%29thOuch
Frequency All Mid-Range48%1stElite46.8%1stElite
Frequency All Threes24.5%30thOuch25%30thOuch
Free Throw Rate20.3 P/100 FGA17thAverage20.3 P/100 FGA15thAverage

 

The Spurs continue to be a team that take advantage of the mid-range and their halfcourt slower play in getting to the free throw line at a league average rate. The opposite can be said for getting shots from the rim and free throw line.

Section II. Ball Movement

Category Volume 1RankRatingVolume 2RankRating
Turnover %11.8%1stElite12%1stElite
Assisted Made Baskets58.8%14thAverage57.6%16thAverage
Passes Per Game302.6 Passes10thGood292.9 Passes13thAverage
Secondary Assists Per Game4 assists1stElite3.3 assists3rdElite

 

The Spurs make the most of their possessions by not turning the ball over, but, as Grizzlies Head Coach JB Bickerstaff recently said, San Antonio has been playing a bit more isolation basketball in letting DeRozan, Aldridge, and Gay operate. This is showing in the data as the Spurs’ assisted made baskets and passes per game have each seen a decrease. The Spurs do still try to go from a good to great shot, and that is evidenced by their 3rd ranking in secondary or ‘hockey assists.’

Section III. Defense

Category Volume 1RankRatingVolume 2RankRating
Points Per 100 Possessions110.5 PP/10019thImprovement111.8 PP/10022ndImprovement
Opp Halfcourt Points Per Play93.8 PP/10018thImprovement95.5 PP/10025thUgh
Opp eFG%53.5%19thImprovement54%25thUgh
Opp Offensive Rebound %24.8%10thGood24.3%5thElite
Opp Free Throw Rate16.5 P/100 FGA2ndElite16.5 P/100 FGA1stElite
Opp Frequency Off Live Rebounds34.6%30thOuch31.9%27thUgh
Opp Points Added off Live Rebounds-0.2 PP/1006thElite+0.5 PP/1008thGood

 

Where do opponents shoot from and how accurate are they against the Spurs’ defense?

Shot LocationsVolume 1RankRatingVolume 2RankRating
Opp Frequency at Rim35.8%13thAverage36.5%18thImprovement
Opp Accuracy at Rim61.7%15thAverage63.6%19thImprovement
Opp Frequency All Mid-Range33.4%23rdUgh…32.9%21stImprovement
Opp Accuracy All Mid-Range43%27thUgh…44.3%29thOuch
Opp Frequency Corner 3PT6.1%8thGood5.8%5thElite
Opp Accuracy Corner 3PT42.1%26thUgh…37%14thAverage
Opp Frequency Non-Corner 3PT24.7%17thAverage24.8%14thAverage
Opp Accuracy Non-Corner 3PT36.4%21stUgh…35.9%18thImprovement

 

Let’s break all this data down on the Spurs’ defense into the good and the bad.

The good: The Spurs moved from good to elite in opponent offensive rebounding percentage, and seven specific players are ranked above league average in defensive rebounding percentage (Gay, Gasol, DeRozan, White, Mills, Aldridge, Cunningham). The Spurs are doing what they can to make sure second chance points don’t haunt them on the defensive end. The Spurs also continue to make sure not to put opponents on the free throw line.

The Spurs have seen growth in their 3-point defense. They showed progress in getting opponent frequency of attempts from three to come down slightly, as well as the opponent accuracy from corner threes.

The bad: The Spurs got a little worse in both points allowed per 100 possessions and in opponent effective field goal percentage. The Spurs’ transition defense is still a problem when San Antonio misses shots on offense. Teams are getting 31.9% of their transition plays off the Spurs’ misses, ranking San Antonio 27th and putting the Spurs on their heels frequently. Teams are mainly getting out in transition against the Spurs’ starters according to the data. All five of Forbes, DeRozan, Cunningham, Gay, and Aldridge see more transition plays off live rebounds compared to anyone on the bench.

This might be due to Gasol missing the last 11 games, but opponents have attacked the Spurs more at the rim and shot better at the rim, as the data shows going from game 10 to game 20. The Spurs’ rim defense went from average to improvement. While most defenses would prefer to allow opponents to shoot mid-range shots, teams are knocking down 44.3% of their mid-range looks against San Antonio, placing the Spurs’ defense 29th (ouch) in mid-range accuracy.

Next, I was eager to see where each Spurs player’s on court defensive rating would place them if they were side by side with the best defense in the league (Oklahoma City Thunder), the league average defense (Dallas Mavericks), and the worst defense in the league (Cleveland Cavaliers). Here’s what the data shows.

One sign of hope for the Spurs’ defense is that they’re just 2.5 points per 100 possessions shy of being a league average defense. At home in the AT&T Center, the Spurs are holding teams to 106.7 pp/100, ranking them 11th in home defense. On the road, they’re allowing 116 pp/100, placing them 25th in road defense. San Antonio must continue to bring that focus and communication they use at home to their road defense.

As far as the individual players, White and Gay both standout defensively. The Spurs are playing like the 8th ranked defense with White on the court and this is why White’s development and progress could be one of the keys to unlocking how much better the Spurs can get on both ends of the floor. With Gay, the Spurs are playing like a 55-win team when he’s on the court. Gay’s biggest hurdle will be health so San Antonio has to try to keep him on the court as much as possible.

Section IV. The Competition

Opponent is…Spurs Record
.500 or Above5-6
Below .5005-4

 

As written earlier this week, it’s not just the .500 and above teams the Spurs are struggling with, but the above .400 teams too. Though November will be the Spurs’ toughest month of the season due to the most road games and back-to-back sets, there’s no specific month where the Spurs have an easy path.

Section V. The Next 10

In their next 10 games, the Spurs will face the Timberwolves, Rockets, Blazers, Jazz (twice), Lakers (twice), Suns, Clippers, and Bulls.

Data gathered from CleaningTheGlass.com, NBA.com/stats, and HoopsStats.com as of 11/27/2018 at 5:00 PM CST.

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