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

Category Volume 1 Rank Rating
Points Per 100 Possessions 111 PP/100 10th Good
Halfcourt Points Per Play 94.8 PP/100 9th Good
eFG % 50.7% 21st Bad
Rim Accuracy 59.6% 23rd Ugh…
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?

Area Volume 1 Rank Rating
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
Forbes 53.3% 58th Decent 47% 72nd Good
DeRozan 62% 55th Decent 48% 68th Good
Cunningham 62% 46th Average 14% 9th Improvement
Aldridge 65% 45th Average 31% 44th Improvement
Bertans 60% 28th Improvement 50% 70th Good
Belinelli 52% 20th Improvement 35% 41st Improvement
Gasol 56% 19th Improvement 56% 82nd Awesome
Mills 50% 17th Improvement 33% 35th Improvement
Gay 48% 6th Improvement 43% 50th Average

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

Category Volume 1 Rank Rating
Assists 24.3 assists 14th Average
Turnover % 11.8% 1st Elite
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

Category Volume 1 Rank Rating
Points Per 100 Possessions 110.5 PP/100 19th Bad
Opp Halfcourt Points Per Play 93.8 PP/100 18th Bad
Opp eFG% 53.5% 19th 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
Above .500 0-3
Below .500 6-1

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