The San Antonio Spurs have played their first 10 games of the season, which means the first sample size is available to assess how the 6-4 Spurs are playing on both ends of the floor. I’ve been writing the 10-game evaluation series for a few seasons now, and one new feature I wanted to add was a rating system this year.
Most of the stats used in this evaluation are from CleaningTheGlass.com and on CTG, a ranking is provided for the stats. I created the following rating system based on the rankings:
Elite – Rank near Top 5
Good – Rank near Top 10
Average – Rank near 15th
Bad – Rank near 20th
Ugh… – Rank near 25th
Ouch – Rank near 30th
With that, let’s dive into how the Spurs are scoring the ball, moving the ball, and playing defense.
Section I. Scoring
|Points Per 100 Possessions||111 PP/100||10th||Good|
|Halfcourt Points Per Play||94.8 PP/100||9th||Good|
|All Mid-Range Accuracy||41.1%||11th||Good|
|Corner 3PT Accuracy||43.8%||6th||Elite|
|Non Corner 3PT Accuracy||39%||3rd||Elite|
|Bench Points Per Game||39.7 points||10th||Good|
Where do the Spurs frequently take shots from?
|Frequency at Rim||27.5%||30th||Ouch|
|Frequency All Mid-Range||48%||1st||Elite|
|Frequency All Threes||24.5%||30th||Ouch|
|Free Throw Rate||20.3 P/100 FGA||17th||Average|
Overall, the Spurs have a good Top-10 offense despite playing an old school style of basketball in getting most of their points from the mid-range and free throw line. There are two noticeable differences though where the Spurs struggle with scoring, and those areas are highlighted by their effective field goal percentage and accuracy on shots near the rim. On the surface, the Spurs look like they’re a good mid-range shooting team, but, it’s mainly the long mid-range shots that are impacting their eFG% along with the percentage at the rim. On long mid-range 2s (area outside 14 feet), the Spurs are only making 39.2% of those looks, ranking them 19th (Bad) in accuracy from that area of the floor.
When we dig further into the individual player data, we can see who exactly is struggling near the rim and long range two. As shown by the frequency of where the Spurs shoot from, the team doesn’t have many players who shoot near the rim. Only DeMar DeRozan and Dante Cunningham rank above league average in shots near the rim for their respective positions. When it comes to shots from the long mid-range, the Spurs have nine rotation players who rank above the 64th percentile for frequency of those shots at their position.
Let’s use another rating system to see where each Spurs rotation player is shooting in accuracy from the rim and long-range two.
Elite – Near 90th percentile or above
Awesome – Near 80th percentile
Good – Near 70th percentile
Decent – Near 60th percentile
Average – Near 50th percentile
Improvement Needed – 44th percentile and below
|Player||Rim Accuracy||Percentile||Rating||Long Mid-Range Accuracy||Percentile||Rating|
In terms of the long range two, the two high volume shooters to watch from that space on the floor who could really help the Spurs are LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills. Both players rank above the 90th percentile for frequency of their shots from the long mid-range. For Mills, only making 33% of his mid-range shots is his lowest accuracy from that area since his rookie season. For Aldridge, the 31% of long mid-range shots he’s making would be the lowest of his career. As history has shown, Mills typically shoots above 37% from the long two while Aldridge traditionally shoots above 40% from that area. A large sample size is still needed to see if both of them can get back to their typical accuracy from that area of the floor.
Section II. Ball Movement
|Assisted Made Baskets||58.8%||14th||Average|
|Passes Per Game||302.6 Passes||10th||Good|
|Secondary Assists Per Game||4 assists||1st||Elite|
|Bench Assists Per Game||8.9 assists||9th||Good|
While they may have the assist numbers of an average team, the more detailed stats show the Spurs do move the ball well across the floor and they take care of their possessions at an elite level. One specific player who needs a shout out for taking care of the ball is Forbes. With the preseason injuries to Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV, Forbes was thrown into the fire as the Spurs’ starting point guard. While playing a position that’s not natural for him, he has taken care of the ball at a solid level. He’s only turning the ball over on 9.9% of the Spurs’ possessions, placing him in the 80th percentile (awesome) among combo guards.
Section III. Defense
|Points Per 100 Possessions||110.5 PP/100||19th||Bad|
|Opp Halfcourt Points Per Play||93.8 PP/100||18th||Bad|
|Opp Offensive Rebound %||24.8%||10th||Good|
|Opp Free Throw Rate||16.5 P/100 FGA||2nd||Elite|
|Opp Frequency Off Live Rebounds||34.6%||30th||Ouch|
|Opp Points Added off Live Rebounds||-0.2 PP/100||6th||Elite|
Where do opponents shoot from and how accurate are they against the Spurs’ defense?
|Shot Locations||Volume 1||Rank||Rating|
|Opp Frequency at Rim||35.8%||13th||Average|
|Opp Accuracy at Rim||61.7%||15th||Average|
|Opp Frequency All Mid-Range||33.4%||23rd||Ugh…|
|Opp Accuracy All Mid-Range||43%||27th||Ugh…|
|Opp Frequency Corner 3PT||6.1%||8th||Good|
|Opp Accuracy Corner 3PT||42.1%||26th||Ugh…|
|Opp Frequency Non Corner 3PT||24.7%||17th||Average|
|Opp Accuracy Non Corner 3PT||36.4%||21st||Ugh…|
With the season ending injury to Murray and the departures of Danny Green and Kyle Anderson over the summer, the Spurs haven’t been able to rely on an area of the floor that has traditionally been their backbone in years past – the defense. As you can see from the ratings above, the Spurs’ defense has more areas where they’re average or bad compared to good and elite.
Let’s dive though into some of the ‘Ugh…’ and ‘Ouch’ areas specifically.
The transition defense seems to be one of the areas where teams are really putting the Spurs’ defense on their heels. When the Spurs miss a shot on offense, the opponent is running off the live rebound accounting for 34.6% of their transition plays. Earlier in the scoring section, it was noted how the Spurs were bad in effective field goal percentage, meaning since San Antonio misses shots at a not so good level, the opponent is getting more chances to run against them. The Spurs’ defense should get some credit though for getting back, since the opponents are adding -0.3 points per 100 possessions off live rebounds.
While the Spurs are elite in taking care of the ball on offense, when they do occasionally turn the ball over, it’s almost an automatic basket for the opposing team. Opponents are adding 3.4 points per 100 possessions off steals, placing the Spurs’ defense 28th (ouch) in stopping opponents from scoring off steals.
When looking at why opponents are shooting so well from the mid-range, the main issue is that opponents are getting and shooting a healthy percentage from the short mid-range, or area from 4-14 feet away from the rim. On short mid-range shots, opponents are taking 18% of their shots from there (18th – bad for Spurs) and making 49.1% of those looks, placing the Spurs dead last. From the long two outside of 14 feet, the Spurs are holding teams to 36.2% from that range, ranking them 4th best in the league.
To try to figure out why opponents are shooting so well from the 3-point line in terms of accuracy, I used the Opponent Shooting Closest Defender statistics from NBA.com/stats. As you’ll see from the data below, it appears the Spurs are allowing opponents to shoot far too many wide-open threes.
|Type of 3-pointer||Attempts and Ranking||Accuracy and Ranking|
|Wide Open (6+ feet of space)||16.1 (18th)||39.8% (21st)|
|Open (4-6 feet)||10.1 (4th)||29.7% (3rd)|
|Tight (2-4 feet)||3.4 (17th)||41.2% (29th)|
|Very Tight (0-2 feet)||0.2 (18th)||50% (26th)|
The players and Head Coach Gregg Popovich have mentioned one of the key ways to improve a defense with multiple new players is through communication. Allowing a large amount of open 3s comes down to players either not rotating, missing a rotating assignment, or leaving a shooter open at the wrong time.
Section IV. The Competition
|Opponent is…||Spurs Record|
It’s early in the season, so it’s hard to evaluate just how good teams like the Timberwolves, Lakers, and Pelicans will be further into the season, but for now, based on record, the Spurs have mostly taken care of the teams presently below .500. They haven’t quite played any elite teams yet, but they have had trouble with any team above .500.
Section V. The Next 10
In their next 10 games, for the first time this season, the Spurs will face the Rockets, Kings, Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Bucks and Bulls. San Antonio will also see Phoenix, New Orleans, and Indiana once more in the next 10 games.
Data gathered from CleaningTheGlass.com, NBA.com/stats, and HoopsStats.com as of 11/09/2018 at 6:00 PM CST.
View the original article on Project Spurs: 2018-19 Spurs 10-Game Evaluation: Volume 1