This season, 26.3% of the San Antonio Spurs’ shot attempts come from 3-point range, which is ranked 26th according to CleaningTheGlass.com. Despite missing Kawhi Leonard for most of this season, the Spurs are shooting more 3s, but in terms of volume compared to their peers, they’re still a bottom five 3-point shooting team in attempts.
One metric that has drastically changed for this season’s Spurs team compared to last season’s is the accuracy. Last season, the Spurs made 40.6% of their catch-and-shoot 3s, per NBA.com, making them the most lethal team in the league when it came to precision. The Spurs went from 1st last season to 25th on catch-and-shoot 3s, as the Spurs are making 36.4% of those 3s today.
Speaking of Leonard, he did play a role in helping the Spurs’ 3-point accuracy, as Leonard was able to make 42% of his wide open 3s (an above league average mark), while he was also able to shoot 3s off the dribble too. With all but eight games left in this regular season, let’s see what the data says about the Spurs’ 3-point accuracy on wide open and open 3s. Using the numbers from NBA.com/stats, the site classifies a wide open three as a 3-point attempt where the defender is 6+ feet away from the shooter.
Aside from missing Leonard, the Spurs have most of their players back this season who took at minimum 1.0 wide open 3s per game last season. Rudy Gay has been an addition to the group and in a way, he’s helped provide part of the 1.6 wide open 3s Leonard took per game, but he doesn’t take or make them near the level of Leonard. Other than Davis Bertans, Pau Gasol, Bryn Forbes and Gay, all the other Spurs in the chart above have seen decreases in wide open attempts. That makes some sense when you think about how defenses strategize a plan for how to defend Aldridge with Leonard out. With Aldridge mainly operating from the left low block or elbow, the defense can shrink the floor and stay relatively close to shooters, limiting the amount of wide open 3s they’ll give up.
If we use the 15th ranked team in accuracy on wide open 3s as a baseline for league average (38.9%), here are the Spurs players listed above who are currently shooting above league average on wide open 3s: Green, Mills, Bertans, Gasol, Forbes
Now, let’s move on to the open 3s. According to NBA.com/stats, an open three is a three-point attempt where the defender is within 4-6 feet of the shooter. Here are the Spurs’ shooters this season who take at minimum one open three per game.
Excluding Leonard, one other player not featured in the graphic above is Manu Ginobili. Last season, Ginobili was getting 1.1 open 3s per game, but this season, that shot hasn’t been there for him on a consistent basis.
With the league average being 35.2% accuracy on open threes, here are the Spurs from the chart above who are shooting above league average on those shots: Mills, Green, Forbes
After looking at the current data this season and how it compares to some of the data from last season, there were two players who stood out – Green and Mills. While Bertans and Forbes are also high volume 3-point shooters for the Spurs, they don’t play the minutes or have the role that Mills and Green are given on a night to night basis. This means that in most games, the Spurs’ success or failure from three is likely going to be shouldered on whether outside shots go in or out for Mills and Green each night.
This becomes most clear when looked at through the lens of wins and losses. In games where Green makes 40% or more of his threes, the Spurs are 21-10. When Green shoots below 40% from three this season, the team is 15-16. When Mills makes 40% or more of his 3s, the Spurs are 25-9. When Mills shoots below 40% from distance, San Antonio is 18-22.
Mills and Green are currently on a roster where they must bear the burden of the Spurs’ outside shooting frequency without Leonard available. If Leonard can make it back for the regular season or the playoffs (if the team qualifies), he’ll help ease the load on Mills and Green with help from the outside.