Spurs 10-Game Evaluation: Volume 3

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After Volume 2 of the Spurs’ 10-game Evaluation, the Spurs sat at 13-7 by record. In their following 10 games, the Spurs went 7-3 during that stretch to push their record to 20-10 overall, still sitting third in the Western Conference. As has been done since the 10th game of the season, here’s an updated assessment of how the Spurs are faring on both sides of the ball through 30 games.

Section I. Scoring

Category Volume 1RankVolume 2RankVolume 3Rank
Offensive Rating (PP/100)100.6 PP/10025th104.6 PP/10013th105.1 PP/10014th
Points Per Possession104.5 PP/10022nd106.8 PP/10015th107.5 PP/10012th
Halfcourt Points Per Play87.6 PP/10026th91.1 PP/10016th90.7 PP/10020th
eFG %47.9%29th50.6%21st50.8%19th
Above the Break 3-Point %31.8%27th34.2%24th33.7%25th
Corner 3-Point %45.7%6th43.0%7th43.4%8th
Bench Points Per Game38.7 points9th38.5 points9th40.5 points5th

 

Putting the ball in the basket has continued to be an area of difficulty for the Spurs through 30 games, and presently, with the team inputting Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker back into the lineup but then also having them under injury management, it has the whole team in flux lately as San Antonio recently lost to the Dallas Mavericks, got blown out by the Houston Rockets, and then they narrowly escaped in a comeback win against Dallas Saturday.

For the Spurs, it’ll be a matter of patience. The team is reinserting two high usage players (see Usage chart below) while Danny Green has also been in and out of the lineup due to a groin injury and all signs point to Kyle Anderson rejoining the team soon on the court, after he suffered an MCL sprain. Until Leonard and Parker are back into their normal minutes routine and game basis, San Antonio may continue to see some inconsistent performances on both ends of the floor.

“We don’t know who is going to play in which situation, we don’t have our rotation,” said Manu Ginobili of the Spurs following the win over Dallas. “Of course, Kawhi, we have him, but we don’t. We have Tony, but we don’t. Danny, the same. Kyle was playing great and now he’s out for a couple of weeks. We can’t find the identity we need and combined with the poor defensive positions and miscommunications, we are in a tough spot.”

In terms of scoring the ball, the numbers above are mostly league average in those categories, but one area for the future where the Spurs are starting to grow in is with the bench. The Spurs now rank 5th in scoring off the bench and even when their core players aren’t playing, San Antonio has young players like Dejounte Murray, Brandon Paul, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes who are still quite competitive in fourth quarters when games might have thought to have been decided.

Where do the Spurs’ points come from?

AreaVolume 1RankVolume 2RankVolume 3Rank
Points in the Paint44.6%5th41.2%16th41.3%16th
3-Pointers22.8%29th26.1%25th26.4%23rd
Free Throws16.3%15th15.6%16th15.6%16th
Mid-Range16.2%4th17.0%3rd16.7%4th

 

Once Leonard eventually gets into a consistent minute’s game plan, it’ll be interesting to see if the Spurs can push themselves near the top-10 level of one of the other categories above outside of the mid-range. The two areas where Leonard’s addition can really make an impact over the course of multiple games could be in the paint and free throw areas. With his ability to attack off the dribble, Leonard could draw fouls or finish at the rim like he’s already demonstrated in the two games he’s played in.

Using the NBA’s Usage Percentages for players, I created the chart below to show the Spurs’ 11 core players and how much of the team’s possessions they’ve been using when on the floor.

As you can see, once the team is fully healthy, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich will have to find some unique substitution patterns or select role players who have been playing a lot, may see their minutes severely slashed on nights when the team is healthy. As mentioned in the latest Spurscast, one has to wonder if Popovich may stagger the minutes of Leonard and Aldridge more often this season so the team usually has one of each player on the floor through the course of the game, while that method also allows both players to keep their high usage levels up.

Where do the Spurs rank in Offense thus far?

8.9 points per 100 possessions are what separate the 14th ranked offense of the Spurs and the best offense in the NBA of the Golden State Warriors (114 PP/100).

Section II. Ball Movement

Category Volume 1RankVolume 2RankVolume 3Rank
Assists21.7 assists18th23.4 assists7th22.4 assists14th
Turnovers14.6 turnovers6th14.4 turnovers4th14 turnovers6th
Turnover %15.0%10th15.0%9th14.6%10th
Assisted Made Baskets58.3%10th60.7%4th58.6%10th
Passes Per Game314.1 Passes8th311.7 Passes9th303.2 Passes12th
Secondary Assists Per Game3.8 assists3rd4.4 assists2nd4 assists2nd
Bench Assists Per Game8.9 assists5th8.4 assists5th8.9 assists5th

 

After posting back-to-back 30-assist games against the Pistons and Heat, the Spurs haven’t topped 22 assists in their last five games. During that time frame the Spurs faced two top-10 defenses in the Celtics and Rockets, while the Mavericks are currently playing Top-10 level defense as well in their last 15 games.

The Spurs’ passing numbers should get an increase over the next 10 games, as they will only face two top-10 defenses in the Blazers and Jazz during the upcoming timeframe. Something San Antonio has carefully continued to do is take care of the ball despite not having Leonard and Parker for the majority of the season. Even though San Antonio is taking care of the ball overall, turnovers on certain nights can still be their biggest Achilles heel, as 9 of the Spurs’ 10 losses this season have come when the Spurs turn the ball over 16 or more times in a ball game.

Section III. Defense

Category Volume 1RankVolume 2RankVolume 3Rank
Defensive Rating (PP/100)101.9 PP/10012th101.1 PP/1005th101.9 PP/1005th
Opponent Points Per Possession104.9 PP/10014th104.1 PP/1008th104.7 PP/1007th
Opp Halfcourt Points Per Play93.4 PP/10024th91.1 PP/10015th92.3 PP/10014th
Opp eFG%53.6%22nd51.6%12th51.5%9th
Blocks Per Game6.7 BPG2nd6.1 BPG2nd5.9 BPG2nd
Opp Offensive Rebound %15.5%2nd22.5%6th24.0%7th
Opp Free Throw Rate18.7 FTM12th16.0 FTM2nd16.2 FTM2nd
Opp Frequency Off Live Rebounds30.1%13th28.1%11th27%7th
Opp Points Added off Live Rebounds+0.2 PP/1006th-0.2 PP/1003rd0.3 PP/1007th
Opp Points in the Paint43.2 PPG17th43.8 PPG17th42 PPG9th
Opp Restricted Area Shots26.6 FGA14th27.0 FGA16th26.1 FGA11th
Opp Restricted Area FG%60.9%12th61.2%9th60.8%7th
Contested 3PT Shots26.1 FGA6th25.9 FGA3rd26.7 FGA8th
Opp Corner 3 Shots6.0 FGA16th6.1 FGA14th6.1 FGA13th
Opp Corner 3 FG%45.0%28th42.1%23rd39.7%15th
Opp Above the Break 3 shots20.1 FGA6th19.8 FGA2nd20.5 FGA5th
Opp Above the Break 3 FG%34.8%15th32.6%3rd34.1%7th

 

While the Spurs’ defense didn’t look like a top-5 level defense against the Rockets, part of that was due to San Antonio’s offense. With Houston making the Spurs’ scoring possessions very difficult in the first three quarters, the Spurs’ misses continued to fuel Houston’s up-tempo offense and get the Rockets looks at the rim, free throw line, and 3-point line that they wanted. Overall though, the Spurs’ defense has been solid despite not having Leonard for most of the season. As Ginobili mentioned above in the quote, with players in and out of the lineup, there’s been more miscommunication on the defensive side of the floor, which is usually the Spurs’ go-to area for stability when the offense is having its issues.

Where do the Spurs rank in Defense thus far?

At the end of one night during their last 10 games, the Spurs climbed all the way up to second defensively behind Boston. However, the Spurs recently allowed 4 of their last 6 opponents to score over 100 points on them. Still, even with the slip defensively, San Antonio is just 1.2 PP/100 away from taking the title of being the best defense in the league.

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

CategoryCurrently
Winning Percentage40%
Record2-3

 

The Spurs are currently 2-3 against teams with records of .600 or above.

Houston Rockets: 0-1

Golden State Warriors: 0-1

Boston Celtics: 1-1

Toronto Raptors: 1-0

Total: 2-3

As was mentioned in Volume 2, most of the league continues to either be bad or mediocre. Currently, 13 NBA teams are below .500, which is 43% of the league. 11 teams are average in the over .500 to below .600 range, and just six teams are dominant with records of .600 or above. Those six elite teams are the Rockets, Warriors, Celtics, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Spurs.

Section V. The Next 10

Up next, the Spurs will play a slate of 10 games in 19 days, with two back-to-back sets during that timeframe. San Antonio will face Portland, Utah, Sacramento, Brooklyn, New York (twice), and Philadelphia for the first time this season. The Spurs will also see teams they’ve previously played in the Clippers, Pistons, and Suns.

Data gathered from NBA.com/stats as of 12/17/2017 at 6:30 PM CST. Bench stats collected from HoopsStats.com after 30 games for San Antonio. Player Tracking stats collected after 30 games. Other stats collected from CleaningtheGlass.com as of 7:00 PM CST.

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