Since Volume 5 of the San Antonio Spurs’ 11-game evaluation, the Spurs went 4-7. The Spurs saw multiple top-10 offensive teams during this stretch and while their offense did look better, it was their defense that went in the opposite direction.
As has been done throughout the season, here’s a progress update on the Spurs’ play on both ends of the floor through 62 games.
Section I. Scoring
Of the seven statistical categories above, the Spurs saw increases in six of them. Was it a matter of the Spurs getting better offensively, or the opponents they were trying to defend? According to the data, it looks like it was the opponents. Over their last 11 games, the Spurs were playing like a Top-10 offense by scoring 110.7 points per 100 possessions. But, as you’ll see when you scroll down, their defense took a hit.
The Spurs faced seven teams that rank in the top-8 offensively over their last 11 games, which was a major factor for why their scoring numbers increased across the board.
Where do the Spurs’ points come from?
With 76% of their season completed, the Spurs’ premiere area where they get their points from compared to most of their opponents is still in the mid-range. One player who has made a slight uptick in getting his shots from the mid-range since Volume 5 is Dejounte Murray. Kyle Anderson has started to put more pressure on the rim recently, as the Spurs’ updated frequency and accuracy shot display shows. Joffrey Lauvergne has been playing well lately with the minutes he’s been provided, and when he’s on the floor, he gives the Spurs another weapon who will try to attack the rim.
Here is the Spurs’ most recent frequency and accuracy shot chart, which I created based on Dean Oliver’s Threat Balance model.
The player’s name means they are over the 70th percentile at their position in frequency of shots from that area of the floor (rim, mid-range, or three). The percentage next to their name is their field goal percentage from that specific area on the floor. If a player’s name is in bold, then that means the player’s accuracy is over the 70th percentile for their position.
Going back to the scoring data above, you’ll recall that the Spurs are making 42.1% of their corner 3s, which makes them 4th best in the NBA in accuracy. However, as the shot chart above shows, the Spurs don’t have many outside shooters that will constantly keep the defense locked to shooters., as the Spurs rank 17th in corner three attempts with 5.7 shots per game. Two players who are now over the 70th percentile at their position in 3-point accuracy are Patty Mills and Danny Green. If Kawhi Leonard does get back to playing games this season, he’ll be able to add more versatility to all three scoring areas as well.
Using the NBA’s Usage Percentages for players, I created the chart below to show the Spurs’ 12 core players and how much of the team’s possessions they’ve been using when on the floor.
With Leonard out, Pau Gasol dealing with a knee injury, and LaMarcus Aldridge an ankle injury, the Spurs must to have multiple players ready to play if their name is called. Lately, one player who has seen an increase in minutes has been Lauvergne. If the Spurs ever do get healthy this season, the rotation will surely shrink.
Where do the Spurs rank in Offense thus far?
Section II. Ball Movement
With all the players in and out of the lineup this season, the Spurs have done an exceptional job taking care of the ball overall with their low turnover numbers. However, when a game gets close, you can see where San Antonio misses their closer in Leonard as role players are asked to do more under high pressure situations, and sometimes they can’t quite execute. An example, the ending to the Spurs’ latest loss to the Pelicans.
Section III. Defense
Since the Spurs’ offense was able to start scoring more in their last 11 games because of some of the top offensive teams San Antonio was facing, the defense had a tough time limiting opponents. Over their last 11 games, the Spurs’ defense was allowing teams to score 109.2 PP/100, which ranked 20th during that stretch. For most of the season the Spurs had been able to hold the 3rd seed in the Western Conference with some distance from the teams on their tail. But, now that their defense is having trouble getting stops against some of these top offensive teams, the losses have quickly started piling up and the Spurs have dropped to fourth and could realistically miss the playoffs if things don’t start turning around for them.
To end their season, 10 of the Spurs’ last 20 opponents are currently ranked top-10 offensively. The Spurs are 8-12 against top-10 offenses this season. Based on their winning percentage against top-10 offenses, the Spurs are expected to only win four of those 10 matchups. It’ll be interesting to see if they can get more than four wins against those top offensive teams to end the season. It should also be mentioned that the Spurs are 6-13 against top-10 defenses this season.
Where do the Spurs rank in Defense thus far?
Section IV. Record Vs. Elite teams (.600 Winning Percentage)
The Spurs are currently 2-6 against teams with records of .600 or above.
Houston Rockets: 0-2
Golden State Warriors: 0-2
Boston Celtics: 1-1
Toronto Raptors: 1-1
Section V. The Next 10
The Spurs’ next 10 games will be played over a span from March 3 through March 21. The Spurs will see seven teams above .500 in the Warriors (twice), Thunder, Rockets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Wizards, and three teams below .500 in the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Magic.
Data gathered from NBA.com/stats as of 03/01/2018 at 6:30 PM CST. Bench stats collected from HoopsStats.com after 62 games for San Antonio. Player Tracking stats collected after 62 games. Other stats collected from CleaningtheGlass.com as of 6:30 PM CST. Standings data as of 03-01-2018 at 10:00 PM CST.