There is a common rule in studies of research and statistics – correlation does not equal causation. This can be important to remember in basketball as well when attempting to make a connection between certain statistics and a team’s chance of success. In the first nine weeks of the regular season, however, there have been some interesting statistical trends for the San Antonio Spurs. These may not hold true the whole season, but they may give a picture in how the Spurs can perform well.
In the 19 games that the Spurs have attempted less than 26% of their shots from three, they are 12-7. When they attempt more threes than that percentage, they are 2-7. In some of those games, they made a high percentage of threes and still lost, but in many of those games they shot poorly from three point range. The Spurs are ranked first in the league in field goal percentage from three at 40.3% overall, so there may be a connection with how many shots the Spurs take from three point range and their percentage of making threes.
The Spurs don’t shoot a modern shot selection. They take almost half of their shots from mid range, 8 percent higher than the team taking the second most mid range shots, and shoot the least percentage of shots at the rim or from 3 point range. The reason for this is personnel. The players who can create shots for themselves on the Spurs (DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay) often shoot from mid range. The only Spur who is assisted on less than 75% of their made 3’s is Derrick White, who is assisted on 57.1% of his three pointers, according to NBA.com/stats. This may indicate that the Spurs are only shooting threes after a breakdown defensively from their opponents, but it isn’t what they are necessarily looking for.
The next interesting statistical trend is that the Spurs can win even while being pretty mediocre on defense. The Spurs are 12-3 in games where they have a defensive rating of less than 116. If they were to have a 115.9 defensive rating for the entire season, they would rank 30th in defensive efficiency, but when the Spurs defend at least that well, they win 80% of their games. Most of these games are coming at home, where the offense has played better, with their record being 3-2 in games where they have a 115.9 defensive rating or lower on the road. In both of the games they lost they had low offensive ratings (92.6 and 102.1). In the two games they won with a defensive rating worse than 116, their offensive rating was in the 90th percentile or better.
The last interesting statistical trend is that when the Spurs make their opponents shoot mid range shots, the Spurs often win. When Spurs opponents’s shoot 32% or more of their shots from mid range, the Spurs are 11-5 (when the Spurs shoot 32% or more of their attempts from mid range they are 14-14, their current record, because they have done that in every single game this season). If the Spurs’ defense can force opponents into taking mid range shots, they are at an advantage. The Spurs have a shot of winning any game that becomes a mid range battle.
All stats from CleaningTheGlass.com unless noted otherwise.