Quotables from media day and the first day of Spurs training camp

0

Media day for the San Antonio Spurs officially kicked off Monday and then the first day of training camp began Tuesday. Generally, there’s not a lot of direct basketball details that emerge from questions and answers during media day or the first day of camp because the team is about to start officially practicing together. However, after listening to each interview made available on Spurs.com through the first two days, there were some interesting answers provided by the players. Let’s begin with LaMarcus Aldridge and his shot selection.

Aldridge was asked about possibly taking more threes this coming season and this was his response.

“I mean everyone wants to know that, that’s like the biggest question. I shot them last year, just not as much, but we’ll see.”

Last year Aldridge saw a decline in his three-point attempts, where just 3% of his shot attempts came from distance, according to CleaningTheGlass.com. In his first year as a Spur, Aldridge attempted 5% of his shots from three and in his second year, 6% of his attempts came from distance. His best season in three-point attempts was the 2014-15 season when he was still with Portland, where 7% of his shot attempts came from three.

Why is that question routinely asked in each training camp from Aldridge, because of where the NBA is headed with an increase in three-point attempts and because of what the mathematical values are when comparing three-point attempts to two-point attempts. Last season Aldridge attempted 27% of his shots from the long mid-range, which is 14 feet to within the three-point line. On those attempts, Aldridge made 44% of them. While 44% placed Aldridge in the 78th percentile among big men who took that shot, the value of the shot was still coming out to 0.88 points per shot on average. Less than a point for each long two.

Aldridge shot 26% from three last season and while that was a tough year for him from there, he has shown two seasons before of shooting 37% to 41% from three. If he could even get his three-point percentage up to 33% from three, that shot would be worth 0.99 points per shot, which is .11 points more than the long twos he’s already taking. Because of how Aldridge gets his long mid-range shots mostly through the use of the pick-and-pop, popping out just a few feet further to the three-point line more often this season could be a realistic addition to his shot profile. As Aldridge said Monday, “we’ll see.”

Next, let’s look at a quote that was made about Dejounte Murray’s improvement offensively.

“He’s added a lot,” said Bryn Forbes. “His jump shot from 15 feet, 18 feet is money now. He looks good, honestly, he looks real good now.”

After suffering a season ending injury last year in the preseason, Murray is ready to get back on the court with the Spurs with no limitations after earning all-defensive second team honors in his sophomore year. Just before Murray was injured last year, his jump shot form was looking much smoother in the preseason action he was observed in, as well as on the social media videos posted with him attempting jump shots.

Now, here is Forbes, who has seen Murray already this summer in open gym, commenting on one of the additions Murray has added to his game. In his second season, Murray made just 35% of his long mid-range jumpers, placing him in the 32nd percentile (low) among point guards that season. In two of his last five seasons from long mid-range, Chris Paul has shot 44%, which still places him over the 60th percentile among point guards. Now while it wouldn’t be realistic to expect Murray to jump straight to 44% on long twos, a number in the low 40% range could be something to look toward if Murray has indeed become a better mid-range jump shooter.

Adding the mid-range jumper will be key for Murray on halfcourt sets when the defense goes under against him after a pick is set. If he’s able to nail those open long 2s, the defense would eventually have to respect his jumper, which would then allow Murray to drive in the lane to try to get to the rim or kick out to an open teammate.

Next, let’s move toward Lonne Walker IV, who has some high expectations after his summer league performances.

“Lonnie is taking strides,” said Rudy Gay on Monday at media day. “Lonnie, he’s more comfortable. He has a year under his belt, played very well in summer league. He’s just more confident and I think he can help us this year.”

After the command and comfortability Walker IV displayed in Utah and Vegas in Summer League, he could possibly be added to the rotation this season. The only problem with Walker IV getting a guaranteed role and minutes is the loaded roster the Spurs already have in the 2 and 3 positions. The Spurs have Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Keldon Johnson, and DeMarre Carroll along with Walker IV as players who could potentially play at the 2 and 3. Since Johnson is a rookie, he’s likely last in that rotation of players to get a role, but Walker IV is likely going to have to battle with Forbes and Belinelli to try to take their role or minutes if he wants to see  a lot of game action in year two. That’ll be the rotation to watch in training camp and the preseason – who does Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich bring in off the bench after White and DeRozan?

If there was one word echoed by almost every player and Popovich who addressed the media over the first two days at camp, it was one of the Spurs’ weaknesses last season – defense. Over the years, the Spurs have made defense their backbone to guide them toward success. However, last season, with Murray injured and new faces on the roster, the team could never get back to the traditional Spurs defense, and they finished with the 20th ranked defense, allowing opponents to score 111.5 points per 100 possessions in the regular season. That defense followed the Spurs into their first-round exit to the Denver Nuggets, where they allowed Denver to score 113.3 points per 100 possessions.

With Murray back and flanked alongside White in different lineups, the Spurs are already expected to make a leap defensively just with their backcourt alone. Then they added a player known for his defense over the offseason in Carroll, and with a roster returning most of the same players, continuity and experience should also help the team improve defensively. On paper, the Spurs should make a jump defensively, but they still need to go out and show that improvement. Already two days into training camp, defense will be one of their main focuses.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

3 × two =