NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the San Antonio Spurs, who saw the league's biggest regression in the most important part of the game.
On each side of the floor, there are "four factors" to efficiency: Shooting, free throws, turnovers and rebounds. And by far, shooting is the most important of the four.
So along with the drop in effective field goal percentage, the Spurs saw a big drop in overall efficiency, scoring 3.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did the season prior. That drop resulted in the Spurs' first below-average offensive season in the last 10 years (since the 2007-08 season).
The Spurs had, amazingly, ranked in the top 10 in effective field goal percentage for 13 straight seasons. And last season, they dropped to 26th.
They actually improved their shot profile last season, taking more shots from the most efficient spots on the floor. They took 29 percent of their shots from the restricted area, up from 28 percent in 2016-17. And after two seasons in which they took more mid-range shots than 3-pointers, they cut down on the mid-range attempts (from 30 percent of their shots to 25 percent).
But they shot worse from every area except the restricted area. And it was from beyond the arc where they really fell off. After leading the league in 3-point percentage (39.1 percent) in '16-17, they ranked 26th (35.2 percent) last season. That drop was the biggest in the last four seasons (since the Philadelphia 76ers saw a drop from 36.0 percent to 31.2 percent in the first year of "The Process").
And though the Spurs saw a small increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range, they still ranked 27th in that regard. The New York Knicks (27th, 29th) were the only other team that ranked in the bottom five in both 3-point percentage and the percentage of shots that came from 3-point range.
Pau Gasol shot 36 percent from 3-point range, down from 54 percent last season. Gasol wasn't a high-volume shooter (just 224 attempts total over those two seasons) and the 54 percent was unsustainable, but that was the biggest drop in 3-point percentage among 183 players who attempted at least 100 threes each season. Manu Ginobili (from 39 percent to 33 percent) and Rudy Gay (from 37 percent with Sacramento to 31 percent) saw the 15th and 16th biggest drop, respectively, among that same group.
And of course, the Spurs played most of last season without their MVP candidate from the season before. Kawhi Leonard didn't shoot nearly as well from 3-point range in 2016-17 (38.0 percent) as he did when he ranked third in the league (44.3 percent) in '15-16. But the 38.0 percent was better than the league average (35.8 percent), and Leonard shot at a fairly high volume (5.2 attempts per game).
Leonard ranked just 36th with 124 assists on 3-pointers in '16-17 (LeBron James assisted on almost three times as many), but his teammates did shoot 43 percent from 3-point range off his passes. Without him last season, the Spurs had one fewer shooter and one fewer playmaker.
DeMar DeRozan now arrives with the ability to fill the latter role. Though DeRozan did see huge increase in the percentage of his shots that came from 3-point range last season (to 20.3 percent from 8.0 percent in '16-17), he still shot just 31 percent from beyond the arc.
But DeRozan did rank seventh last season with 201 assists on 3-pointers (up from 132 - 29th - in '16-17), with his teammates shooting 37.1 percent (a little better than the league average) from beyond the arc off his passes.
The Spurs also (essentially) swapped Danny Green (sent to Toronto with Leonard) for Marco Belinelli (brought back in free agency after three years away). Both are thought of as shooters, but at 35.7 percent and 35.1 percent, they rank 96th and 112th in 3-point percentage among 153 players with at least 500 3-point attempts over the last three years.
Belinelli could help the offense with more movement, but Green will be missed on the other end of the floor. If the Spurs finally take a step back defensively, they'll need to find ways to shoot better to keep their 21-year playoff streak alive.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
SPURS NOTES - GENERAL
- Have made the playoffs in each of the last 21 seasons. That is tied for the second longest playoff streak in NBA history with the Portland Trail Blazers (1983-2003) and just one year shy of the record held by the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (1950-1971).
- Failed to win 50 games (in an 82-game season) for the first time since 1996-97.
- Also had a losing road record for the first time since '96-97. Had both the league's biggest home-road win differential (33 wins at home, 14 on the road) and the league's biggest home-road NetRtg differential, outscoring their opponents by 7.5 points per 100 possessions at home and getting outscored by 1.3 on the road.
- Worst rebounding team in the playoffs, grabbing just 44 percent of available boards in their first round loss to Golden State.
SPURS NOTES - OFFENSE
- Saw a drop in assist percentage (AST/FGM) for the third straight season, but ranked second with 4.0 secondary assists per game.
- Were 6.4 points per 100 possessions better offensively at home (scoring 108.8) than they were on the road (102.3). That was the league's biggest home-road OffRtg differential.
- Were 5.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively in the second half of games (scoring 108.5) than they were in the first half (102.8). Only Atlanta saw a bigger jump (7.3) from the first half to the second.
- Averaged 19.4 post-ups per game, most in the league.
- The Spurs not only saw the biggest drop in 3-point percentage from '16-17 to '17-18. They also suffered the biggest drop in 3-point percentage from the regular season to the 2018 playoffs (29.8 percent). Their postseason effective field goal percentage of 46.3 percent ranked last and was the franchise's worst postseason mark in the last 18 years.
SPURS NOTES - DEFENSE
- Have ranked in the top four defensively in each of the last six seasons and have been a better-than-average defensive team in each of the last 21 seasons. No other team has a current better-than-average streak of more than six seasons.
- One of three teams - Boston and Utah were the others - that was better than average in all of the four factors on defense.
- Only team that ranked in the top five in both opponent 3-point percentage (34.8 percent - fourth) and the (lowest) percentage of opponent shots that came from 3-point range (31.2 percent - fourth).
- 17.2 personal fouls committed per game were the fewest in the league. They've ranked in the top 10 in opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in 25 of the last 27 seasons.
- Have ranked in the top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage in each of the last 15 seasons.
SPURS NOTES - LINEUPS
- One of five teams (and the only one that made the playoffs) that didn't have a lineup that played at least 200 minutes together in the regular season. Most-used lineup played just 189 total minutes.
- Had an aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-2.2, a mark which ranked eighth in the league and was down from a league-best plus-8.9 last season. That was the biggest bench NetRtg drop-off in the league. Their postseason bench NetRtg of minus-8.8 ranked last.
- Lineup of Mills, Murray, Green, Anderson and Aldridge allowed opponents to shoot just 26.7 percent from 3-point range, the lowest mark for 62 lineups against which opponents attempted at least 100 3-pointers.
- The Spurs allowed 98.1 points per 100 possessions with Dejounte Murray on the floor. That was the fourth lowest on-court DefRtg among players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.
- Averaged just 95.6 possessions per 48 minutes with LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor. That was the third slowest on-court pace mark among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more.
SPURS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL
- LaMarcus Aldridge led the league with 13.9 post-ups per game. He turned the ball over on just 3.2 percent of those post-ups, the lowest rate among 42 players who averaged at least three post-ups per game. Rudy Gay had the third lowest rate (3.4 percent) among the same group.
- Aldridge led the league with 235 mid-range field goals and 728 total points scored between the restricted area and 3-point range. He took more than six times as many mid-range shots as 3-pointers, by far the highest ratio among 207 players with at least 200 total field goal attempts from outside the paint.
- Aldridge was one of six players to shoot 70 percent or better on at least 400 shots in the restricted area.
- Marco Belinelli saw an effective field goal percentage jump from 50.5 percent with Atlanta to 59.7 percent with Philadelphia last season.
- Belinelli averaged 5.10 miles per hour on offense in the playoffs. That was the second fastest average speed among players who played at least 200 postseason minutes.
- 97 percent of Dante Cunningham's jump shots were catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to Second Spectrum. That was the highest rate among 230 players who attempted at least 200 jumpers.
- DeMar DeRozan ranked second (behind Aldridge) with 694 points scored between the restricted area and 3-point range. He took 20 percent of his shots from 3-point range, more than double his rate of last season. He made 25 more 3-pointers than he had in any of his previous eight seasons, though he shot just 25 percent on pull-up threes, the second worst mark among 56 players who attempted at least 100.
- DeRozan registered career-high marks in assist ratio (18.5 per 100 possessions used), assist-turnover ratio (2.38) and true shooting percentage (55.5 percent) last season.
- Bryn Forbes had an effective field goal percentage of 59 percent at home and 45 percent on the road. That was the third biggest home-road difference in effective field goal percentage among 213 players with at least 200 field goal attempts both at home and on the road.
- Opponents shot 50.4 percent at the rim when Pau Gasol was there to protect it. That was the second best rim-protection mark among 41 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 games or more.
- Rudy Gay averaged 32.0 minutes per game in the playoffs, up from 21.6 in the regular season. That was the second biggest jump (behind that of Terry Rozier) among 175 players who played in at four postseason games.
- Patty Mills has shot 39 percent on pull-up 3-pointers over the last two seasons, the second best mark among 33 players who have attempted at least 250 pull-up threes over that time.
- Dejounte Murray's average speed of 4.87 miles per hour ranked second among players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
- Murray had an effective field goal percentage of 40 percent in the first half of games and 50 percent in the second half. That was the third biggest effective field goal percentage jump from half to half among players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each half. His first quarter effective field goal percentage of 36 percent was the worst mark among players with at least 100 first-quarter field goal attempts.
- Jakob Poeltl had an effective field goal percentage 66.0 percent, the best mark among 316 players with at least 200 field goal attempts. His effective field goal percentage of 68.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the best mark among players with at least 100 fourth-quarter field goal attempts.
- Poeltl led the league with 100 blocks off the bench.
NBA TV's Spurs preview premieres at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 29.
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