Saturday evening the San Antonio Spurs fell six games below .500 following a loss in Milwaukee to the Bucks. Here are four mini headlines after that game for the team and individual players.
With Lonnie Starting, New Rotations Will Need Time to Gel
In a surprise move Saturday, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich made a switch in the starting lineup at the shooting guard position. He elected to move Lonnie Walker IV into the starting group and bring Bryn Forbes off the bench.
Walker IV had a tough game offensively in his first start, though he did have a better night on the defensive end of the floor. Walker IV finished with 8 points on 12 shots, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and 2 steals in 26 minutes. Forbes’ new role meant he’d play reduced minutes, where he finished with 8 points on 7 shots, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 2 steals in about 20 minutes.
When watching the game, especially in the halfcourt, you could see it’s going to take time for Walker IV and the starting unit to gel together. On several possessions, you could see starters like DeMar DeRozan pointing to an area on the floor where Walker IV should be.
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), that starting unit of Derrick White-Walker IV-DeRozan-Trey Lyles-LaMarcus Aldridge logged 28 possessions together, and it was the first time that quintet had played on the floor at the same time together all season.
When Dejounte Murray returns to the lineup at the starting point guard position, the new lineup of Murray-Walker IV-DeRozan-Lyles-Aldridge will have logged zero possessions together per CTG. So, it’ll take even more time for that unit to gel together with not only Walker IV starting now, but also with bringing Murray back in as the point guard.
The new presumed second unit will consist of Patty Mills-Forbes-White-Rudy Gay-Jakob Poeltl. Those five players have only played 7 possessions together prior according to CTG. If there’s now a competition for Forbes’ minutes, and it’s between Marco Belinelli and Forbes, Belinelli at least has more familiarity with Mills, White, Gay, and Poeltl, since he’s logged 186 possessions already with them.
Maybe with this new change, DeMarre Carroll could try to compete with Forbes and Belinelli as well for some minutes in the second unit.
Overall, if Walker IV does remain the starting 2, there’s going to need to be a patience period to allow he and the starters time to gel together, while on the second unit, Popovich can also build up a new bench unit with Forbes there as an option.
LaMarcus Aldridge Continues to Take the Three Ball
In their loss to the Bucks Saturday, Aldridge knocked down 4-of-7 three pointers in the game. Half of his shot attempts came from three on the night. For the season, Aldridge is now shooting 32-of-71 (45% = 1.35 Points per shot) from three. His 32 made threes move him to 4th on the team in 3-point makes, behind only Forbes, Mills, and Gay.
On jumpers outside of the paint, Aldridge has attempted 310 total, with 71 of those attempts coming from three. That means roughly 23% of his shots outside of the paint are coming from three. Imagine if he can raise those three-point attempts to account for 40-50% of his outside-the-paint shot diet? Aldridge is making himself more of a threat from distance game by game, where he’s now knocking down 20-of-47 wide open threes. The more he gets the defense to respect his three ball, that will pay off for his driving teammates like DeRozan-Murray-White-Walker IV to have more room to operate near the rim.
A 3-way Tie for First in Ball Security
The Spurs recorded just 8 turnovers in their loss to the Bucks Saturday. That number means their turnover percentage is now at 12.8%, which puts them in a three-way tie for first in having the lowest turnover percentage in the league.
Though their offense is ranked 11th overall, having the best ball security in the league doesn’t hurt to continue to try to make improvement on that end of the floor and get back into the top-10.
It should also be noted that Murray missed Saturday’s game, and he accounts for the second most turnovers per game at 2.2 following DeRozan at 2.4. But even with Murray, the Spurs were 3rd in turnover percentage entering Saturday’s game.
Defensive Improvement Should Start Happening at the Starting 2
When you look at the matchup numbers from Saturday’s game, two numbers stick out: 21.3 and 10.7.
21.3 represents the amount of partial possessions Walker IV was matched up guarding Khris Middelton. On his shot attempts against Walker IV, Middelton shot just 1 of 4. The last time Walker IV had recorded over 20 partial possessions guarding someone was his breakout game against Houston, when he had to defend James Harden as his primary matchup for 22.7 partial possessions.
10.7 represents the amount of partial possessions Forbes was matched up with Pat Connaughton, his primary matchup Saturday. With Forbes as a starter, he averages 16.8 partial possessions guarding his primary matchup, where they’re shooting 46.9% against him. Against Walker IV, his primary matchups are only shooting 27.3% against him. With Forbes now coming off the bench, he won’t be outmatched as much on defense, where he’ll now be primarily matched up with opposing bench players, and flanked by White, who is a good defender, and Mills, whose defensive numbers have been impressive this year.
With Walker IV now starting at the 2, the Spurs have two players out above the arc to guard two of the opposing team’s best offensive threats from the perimeter each night.