The San Antonio Spurs are off to a 5-3 start very early in their NBA season. 47% of the 15-man roster is composed of new players to the team, and to date, the Spurs haven’t even thrown out their expected starting five due to early injuries to Danny Green and Tony Parker.
In looking at the seven new players on the team, five of those players are being asked to play some core minutes and be apart of the rotation on a nightly basis. Those five players are Pau Gasol, David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon, Davis Bertans, and most recently, due to Parker’s injury, Nicolas Laprovittola. Two of those names are rookies playing their first month of NBA basketball.
In their three losses, the Spurs have hit walls offensively where they can’t seem to find good quality looks and on the other side of the floor, their defense has a very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ element, as they can look like a lock down top-ranked defense for some quarters, and then look like one of the worst defenses in the league in other quarters (most notably the first quarters at home in their recent losses).
But, for the all bad San Antonio is facing in losing three straight home games, there’s still been some positive signs that chemistry is developing between the new players and old players.
Such an example came about Wednesday in the fourth quarter, when Patty Mills and Lee connected on a give-and-go layup attempt after the Spurs’ initial action on offense was prevented by Houston.
As you see, Mills waits for Lee to arrive at the elbow, throws the pass to him, and then Mills uses the screen from Kyle Anderson to get his defender trailing him. Lee, being the savvy veteran that he is, notices Mills with a slither of room and feeds the pass to him.
While it was just one possession, throwing back door give-and-go passes is something that takes time to learn with new teammates, and the more minutes and comfortable the Spurs’ players continue to play together, the more the Spurs’ errors on offense and defense should start to tighten up.
It’s a small sample size so early in the season, but it should be noted that according to NBA.com’s data, the two-man lineup of Mills and Lee on the floor are already portraying effective results, as the offense is scoring 118.6 points per 100 possessions, while the defense is holding teams to 95.2 points per 100 possessions. Lee and Mills have also played in all 8 games together, and they’re averaging 7.7 minutes on the floor.
The pace of the team is also faster with those two on the floor, as they’re playing with a pace of 101.38 possessions per 48 minutes when they’re on the floor together.
So, while the expectation is a bit shaken for this Spurs team to be 5-3 so early in the season, and especially with three losses at home, a real assessment shouldn’t be conducted until the team has its starting lineup playing a collection of 15-20 games and rotations with the bench have been established a bit more.