Examining the Spurs’ emphasis on transition defense

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In many previous seasons, a major San Antonio Spurs’ defensive strategy was to forgo offensive rebounds and emphasize transition defense instead. The Spurs have had the 23rd or worse offensive rebounding percentage in 11 of the past 16 seasons. Last season, they were top 10 in offensive rebounding.

Many of the Spurs’ strong rebounders from last season are not currently playing for the team, with Dejounte Murray and Pau Gasol being injured and Joffrey Lauvergne, Kyle Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green either being traded or joining another team in free agency. The Spurs needed to shift away from offensive rebounding again.

The Spurs were not a great offensive rebounding team before December 7th (the start of their recent homestand), ranking 24th, rebounding 24% of their own misses. But since December 7th, they’ve ranked 29th in offensive rebounding, rebounding 20.7% of their own misses, and their transition defense has improved.

Before December 7th, 31.5% of all Spurs’ opponent’s live defensive rebounds turned into transition opportunities, ranking 23rd in the league. Since then, 26.8% of defensive rebounds that Spurs’ opponent’s grab turned into transition opportunities for them, ranking 11th in the league.

The Spurs have also been better at defending transition opportunities from opponent’s grabbing defensive rebounds as well. Before the homestand, Spurs’ opponent’s were scoring 110.6 points per 100 transition plays after live defensive rebounds, ranking 13th. Since the start of the homestand, the Spurs have allowed their opponents to score only 94.4 points per 100 transition possessions following a live defensive rebound.

The Spurs defense has been 5th in the league in points allowed and 1st in the league in opponent’s effective field goal percentage since December 7th. They may not be able to continue to play defense at that level for the rest of the season, but with the change in emphasis from offensive rebounding to transition defense, the Spurs’ defense of transition plays off of opponent’s live defensive rebounds can continue to help steady that half of the court.

All stats from CleaningTheGlass.com

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