Spurs 10-Game Evaluation: Volume 2

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Since Volume 1 of the San Antonio Spurs’ 10-game evaluation, the Spurs went 7-3 in their last 10 games. One of the Spurs’ best wins of the season came in a 23-point comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but, San Antonio’s three losses they suffered during the 10-game stretch came to the Bucks, Timberwolves, and Pelicans, who are all above .500.

With 20 games logged in the books for San Antonio, it’s time to check in to see how the team has either improved or fallen further in different statistical categories on offense and defense. Keep in mind that the Spurs have still been without their best player Kawhi Leonard for the entire season, and their starting point guard Tony Parker made his return in game 20 in limited minutes.

Section I. Scoring

Category Volume 1 Rank Volume 2 Rank
Offensive Rating (PP/100) 100.6 PP/100 25th 104.6 PP/100 13th
Points Per Possession 104.5 PP/100 22nd 106.8 PP/100 15th
Halfcourt Points Per Play 87.6 PP/100 26th 91.1 PP/100 16th
True Shooting % 51.6% 28th 54.3% 22nd
Above the Break 3-Point % 31.8% 27th 34.2% 24th
Corner 3-Point % 45.7% 6th 43.0% 7th
Bench Points Per Game 38.7 points 9th 38.5 points 9th

As the data above shows, despite not having Leonard and Parker, the Spurs have started to become an efficient offense that is at least better than league average. San Antonio’s post-up heavy offensive attack for LaMarcus Aldridge is starting to fare a bit better in the halfcourt too, as Aldridge is making quicker decisions when double teams come his way, and when he moves the ball, the rest of his teammates prepare to take the open shot if available, or drive and kick.

Parker will be on a minutes restriction for the first few games, but once he gets his normal 20-plus minutes per game, Patty Mills should start getting more minutes with the second unit, which should help bring more scoring off the bench for San Antonio.

Where do the Spurs’ points come from?

Area Volume 1 Rank Volume 2 Rank
Points in the Paint 44.6% 5th 41.2% 16th
3-Pointers 22.8% 29th 26.1% 25th
Free Throws 16.3% 15th 15.6% 16th
Mid-Range 16.2% 4th 17.0% 3rd

Early in the season, the Spurs got a good chunk of points from the paint, but that number started to dip a bit right around league average. By playing Bryn Forbes more, the Spurs have six players who are attempting over two 3-pointers per game, which shows a slight increase in their points that are coming from three. The Spurs are also continuing to take the shot most teams don’t want in today’s NBA – the mid-range look. Aldridge, Forbes, and Pau Gasol are all getting over 17% of their points from the mid-range this season. Though Aldridge is taking 1.5 threes per game, he’s still settling for the mid-range jumper on his pick-and-pop possessions, where 30.2% of his points are coming from the non-paint two.

Using the NBA’s Usage Percentages for players, I created the chart below to show the Spurs’ 9 core players and how much of the team’s possessions they’ve been using when on the floor.

Monday, before the Spurs faced the Dallas Mavericks, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said Aldridge and Kyle Anderson have been two of the Spurs’ “stalwarts” this season who have guided the team with the absence of Parker and Leonard. While it’s easy to see how Aldridge has increased his productivity with being the Spurs’ go-to option on offense, Anderson’s play looks even more spectacular when you consider he has one of the lowest usage percentages of the Spurs’ nine core players.

In starting 20 games in place of Leonard, Anderson is averaging 9.2 points (50.7% FG), 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 27.9 minutes. Again, he’s having that big of an impact while not having to have the ball in his hands too frequently. In getting more minutes, Anderson is playing the 3 and 4 positions for the most part, where he can run the pick-and-roll, be a go-to option late in possessions, or find open players from different passing angles. Popovich has already said he needs to make sure he can find a stable role for Anderson off the bench once Leonard returns, and these 20 games may help Anderson in the coming summer, when he can become a restricted free agent. Teams are seeing how productive Anderson can be when given a consistent role and minutes, even though he doesn’t have to be the sole focus for the team.

Where do the Spurs rank in Offense thus far?

@PaulGarciaNBA

Outside of the Warriors (114.2 PP/100 – 1st) and Rockets (112.2 PP/100 – 2nd), the Spurs are quite close to the offenses falling in the 6th to 12th range. Parker’s return should help the Spurs’ offense get a bit better, and then once Leonard returns, so long as he and Aldridge can keep a balanced 1-2 attack, the Spurs might be able to get within the top-5 offensive range.

Section II. Ball Movement

Category Volume 1 Rank Volume 2 Rank
Assists 21.7 assists 18th 23.4 assists 7th
Turnovers 14.6 turnovers 6th 14.4 turnovers 4th
Turnover % 15.0% 10th 15.0% 9th
Assisted Made Baskets 58.3% 10th 60.7% 4th
Passes Per Game 314.1 Passes 8th 311.7 Passes 9th
Secondary Assists Per Game 3.8 assists 3rd 4.4 assists 2nd
Bench Assists Per Game 8.9 assists 5th 8.4 assists 5th

With more players being depended on since Leonard is out, the Spurs have continued to move the ball around the floor while taking care of possessions for the most part. The turnover number is already very low and it might get even lower now that the Spurs have Parker back to be the quarter back of their team. Still, the Spurs must watch their turnovers each night, especially if they get close to 16 in a game. When the Spurs turn the ball over 16 times in a game this season, they’re just 3-6 in those games.

As mentioned above, the Spurs can read defenses a bit better when they double on Aldridge as San Antonio ranks 4th in the assisted made baskets percentage stat and they’re 2nd in collecting secondary assists, which is a stat that highlights teams that use good to great ball movement.

Section III. Defense

Category Volume 1 Rank Volume 2 Rank
Defensive Rating (PP/100) 101.9 PP/100 12th 101.1 PP/100 5th
Opponent Points Per Possession 104.9 PP/100 14th 104.1 PP/100 8th
Opp Halfcourt Points Per Play 93.4 PP/100 24th 91.1 PP/100 15th
Opp eFG% 53.6% 22nd 51.6% 12th
Blocks Per Game 6.7 BPG 2nd 6.1 BPG 2nd
Opp Offensive Rebound % 15.5% 2nd 22.5% 6th
Opp Free Throw Rate 18.7 FTM 12th 16.0 FTM 2nd
Opp Frequency Off Live Rebounds 30.1% 13th 28.1% 11th
Opp Points Added off Live Rebounds +0.2 PP/100 6th -0.2 PP/100 3rd
Opp Points in the Paint 43.2 PPG 17th 43.8 PPG 17th
Opp Restricted Area Shots 26.6 FGA 14th 27.0 FGA 16th
Opp Restricted Area FG% 60.9% 12th 61.2% 9th
Contested 3PT Shots 26.1 FGA 6th 25.9 FGA 3rd
Opp Corner 3 Shots 6.0 FGA 16th 6.1 FGA 14th
Opp Corner 3 FG% 45.0% 28th 42.1% 23rd
Opp Above the Break 3 shots 20.1 FGA 6th 19.8 FGA 2nd
Opp Above the Break 3 FG% 34.8% 15th 32.6% 3rd

While the defensive numbers across the league are starting to rise, the Spurs have maintained a top-5 level defense. You can even see they’ve moved into the top-10 range in halfcourt defense, even without Leonard. Two reasons why the Spurs’ defense is a top-5 unit even without Leonard is because they have defenders who don’t foul very often, and they’re one of the better teams at contesting shots at the rim and limiting 3-point attempts. The Spurs’ defense still has room for improvement that will most likely take place once Leonard returns.

Where do the Spurs rank in Defense thus far?

@PaulGarciaNBA

2.8 points per 100 possessions are all the separate the Spurs from the best defense in the league of the Boston Celtics. Again, getting to that 98.3 defensive rating may be possible for San Antonio once Leonard returns.

Section IV. Record Vs. Elite teams (.600 Winning Percentage)

Category Currently
Winning Percentage 33%
Record 1-2

The Spurs are currently 1-2 against teams with records of .600 or above.

Golden State Warriors: 0-1

Boston Celtics: 0-1

Toronto Raptors: 1-0

Total: 1-2

Through 20 games without Leonard and 19 without Parker, the Spurs have the third best record in the Western Conference and 6th best record overall. The league as whole hasn’t seen too many dominant teams, as only eight teams currently have records above .600 this season. The Spurs have only faced three of those eight teams so far and they’ve taken care of the teams that are below .500, going 10-1 against those teams.

San Antonio will have to continue to keep trying to stack up wins against those minus .500 teams so they can stay in the race with the Rockets and Warriors, especially while San Antonio waits on the return of Leonard.

Section V. The Next 10

The Spurs’ next 10 games will take place over 18 days, with meetings against teams they’ve already seen in the Thunder, Heat, Celtics, Suns, and Mavericks twice, but, San Antonio will also face the following teams for the first time this season; the Grizzlies (twice), Pistons, and Rockets.

Data gathered from NBA.com/stats as of 11/28/2017 at 9:00 PM CST. Bench stats collected from HoopsStats.com after 20 games for San Antonio. Player Tracking stats collected after 20 games. Other stats collected from CleaningtheGlass.com as of 9:00 PM CST.

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