10 games ago in Volume 4 of the Spurs 10-Game Evaluation, the Spurs had been dominating their opponents, where they had won 12 games in a 15-game span. On offense, the Spurs were consistently building double digit leads, while on defense, they’d put a string of games together where they’d hold the opponent below 100 points.
In the last 10 games however, the Spurs have been playing like an average team, going 5-5. The injury bug has visited the Spurs in the month of January, as key rotation players in DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli, and Davis Bertans have all missed at least one game this month. When one of those players is out, it can throw off the continuity in either the starting or bench units. Players who aren’t part of the rotation anymore, such as Pau Gasol, Dante Cunningham, or Quincy Pondexter, will now get put into different lineups to try to keep the Spurs efficient on both ends.
While the offense has seen some challenging nights, for the most part, it has still maintained its position as a Top-10 offense. The defense however is where the Spurs have seen a small regression, after they were finally trending in the right direction.
Let’s examine what the data says about the Spurs through 50 games.
If you’re new to the 10-game evaluation series, here are Volume’s 1, 2, 3, and 4. 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
Section I. Scoring
Where do the Spurs frequently take shots from?
As mentioned above, despite having some challenges offensively in certain games this month and with one of their best players struggling in DeRozan, the Spurs have still maintained an elite offense using their mid-range heavy, rim and 3-point frequency light style.
While the Spurs are last in 3-point frequency, they’re first in accuracy from both the corner and above-the-break threes. They know exactly who their lethal 3-point shooters are, and they run an offense that gets those 3-point shooters the looks they need. Check out how much better the Spurs are shooting from the corner 3 compared to the next team behind them.
Spurs 48.5% from corner three (1st)
Warriors 43.1% (2nd)
When it comes to shooting from the shot most teams don’t want to take in 2019, the non-paint two, check out the gap between the Spurs and the next team in second in frequency from the mid-range.
Spurs 47.2% of shots from mid-range (1st)
Cavaliers 38.5% of shots from mid-range (2nd)
Section II. Ball Movement
With three high usage players in DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Gay, this is basically who the Spurs are. They’re a team who slows down the ball in the starting unit that tries to get one of those three players a preferred shot and then when the bench unit checks in, the tempo increases, the ball starts moving more, and the scoring starts going up quickly. As a few opposing coaches have said this season, it’s almost like the Spurs have two different teams because of how differently their starters and bench play on offense.
Section III. Defense
Where do opponents shoot from and how accurate are they against the Spurs’ defense?
Despite the defense slipping over the last 10 games, the Spurs are still maintaining five crucial parts of their defense – limiting opponent attempts at the rim, making teams shoot from the mid-range, keeping opponents off the free throw line, limiting opponent offensive boards, and limiting corner threes.
Opponents are still shooting 25.2% of their shots from the non-corner three, which is percentage the Spurs would hope to bring down. Part of this though is because of the Spurs’ strategy on defense to have their 5 (Aldridge, Poeltl, Gasol) drop back on pick-and-rolls to be a deterrent in the paint. This leaves some room for non-corner threes, but also, communication on defense is a key part of bringing this stat down too.
While the Spurs are probably glad to be forcing opponents into long mid-range shots, there has to be a bit of worry that opponents are knocking down 42.2% of those looks, which is making it tough for San Antonio to get consistent stops on multiple possessions.
In their last 10 games, the Spurs have only held one of their opponents below 100 points in a game. The first start to repairing the defense is getting everyone healthy, from there it’s about communication and making defense part of their backbone like they did when they were rolling teams from December to early January.
Now, to provide a visual glimpse of which specific Spurs players are excelling or not playing well on each end of the floor, you can study the two charts below. Each chart shows the 1st, 15th, and 30th ranked offenses and defenses, where the Spurs are ranked, and where each specific player would rank.
These types of on-court stats show just how much the bench unit excels on offense when they check into the game, and that is matched by the eye test, when the second unit can sometimes push a lead from 5 to 12 quickly. The only three players now who have a better on-court offensive and defensive rating than the team are Gay, Bertans, and Poeltl.
Section IV. The Competition
|Opponent is…||Spurs Record|
|.500 and Above||15-13|
As of 01/27/2019 at 2:25 pm CST, of the Top-16 teams by record, 10 teams come from the West, and 6 from the East. The Spurs have logged wins this season against each of those teams except the Bucks (lost), Nets (haven’t played yet), and Kings (lost).
Section V. The Next 10
In their next 10 games, the Spurs will begin with a four game homestand against the Wizards, Suns, Nets, and Pelicans, then the annual Rodeo Road Trip begins. The first six of eight road games for the Spurs are at Sacramento, at Golden State, at Portland (also the day of the NBA trade deadline), at Utah, at Memphis, and at Toronto.
Data gathered from CleaningTheGlass.com, NBA.com/stats, and HoopsStats.com as of 01/27/2019 at 1:00 PM CST.