2017-18 Kia Season Preview
One Team, One Stat -- For San Antonio Spurs, bench production is a reliable strength
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 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 have consistently had the best bench in basketball.
The San Antonio Spurs have had the league’s best bench in three of the last four seasons.
The league’s best bench is not necessarily the one that scores the most points. It’s the one that is the best at improving its team’s point differential. And over these last four years, no bench has been better at outscoring the opponent than that of the Spurs.
The quality of their bench was the biggest reason the Spurs (17-14) were one of two teams – Golden State (15-11) was the other – that had a winning record after trailing by double-digits last season. They were at their best in the last six minutes of the third quarter, when they outscored their opponents by 17.9 points per 100 possessions.
They ranked first in aggregate bench DefRtg and fifth in aggregate bench OffRtg. But they were the only team that shot 40 percent or better from 3-point range off the bench and the only team that recorded at least 10 assists per game off the bench.
Last season’s bench was different than the No. 1-ranked Spurs bench from 2013-14, though. And the ’13-14 bench was different than the No. 1-ranked Spurs bench in ’06-07. The Spurs have ranked in the top eight in aggregate bench NetRtg in each of the last 19 seasons, leading the league in six times in that stretch.
Every time the Spurs remake their roster, they get the most of their new set of reserves. When they won the title in 2007, there was Brent Barry, Robert Horry and Jacque Vaughn. When they won the title in 2014, there was Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. Last season, it was Mills, David Lee and Jonathon Simmons.
Of course, the constant has been Manu Ginobili. Over the course of his career, the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Ginobili on the floor. That’s the best mark among players who have played at least 15,000 minutes in the 21 seasons for which we have plus-minus data.
Note: Draymond Green should be at the top of this last by the end of this season. He has an on-court NetRtg of plus-13.4 in 13,332 career minutes thus far.
Even last season, at the age of 39, Ginobili had the league’s 12th best NetRtg (plus-10.4 per 100 possessions) among 294 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games. Mills and Lee were in the top 10.
The Spurs had to remake their bench again with the departures of Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon this summer. New addition Rudy Gay doesn’t seem like a great fit in their system.
But Ginobili and Mills are back and it’s a safe bet that the Spurs will continue to have one of the league’s most effective benches.
SPURS NOTES – GENERAL
- Have made the playoffs in each of the last 20 seasons. That is tied for the third longest playoff streak in NBA history with the Utah Jazz (1984-2003), behind those of the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (22 years, from 1950-1971) and the Portland Trail Blazers (21 years, from 1983-2003). Over those 20 years, the Spurs have won 166 playoff games, 33 more than any other team and at least twice as many as 25 of the other 29 franchises, with the Lakers (133), Heat (113), Cavs (86) and Pacers (86) being the exceptions.
- Had the league’s best record (29-14) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, allowing a league-low 94.4 points per 100 possessions in the clutch.
- Two seasons ago, they went 40-1 at home. But last season, they were only 1.9 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-8.8) than they were on the road (plus-6.9). Only Atlanta had a smaller home-road NetRtg differential.
- Had the league’s best record (9-3) with a rest disadvantage, where they were playing the second game of a back-to-back against an opponent that didn’t play the day before.
SPURS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Only team that has ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency in each of the last eight seasons. They’ve also ranked in the top 10 in 20 of the last 25 seasons.
- Led the league in 3-point percentage (39.1 percent) (for the fourth time in the last seven seasons) and catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (40.9 percent).
- Took 29.5 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the highest rate in the league. They had the league’s best field goal percentage from outside the paint (40.5 percent), but just the sixth best effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, because they were one of seven teams that took more mid-range shots (2,025) than 3-point shots (1,927). LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard ranked sixth and 12th in mid-range field goal attempts.
- Had the league’s biggest drop in OffRtg (3.8 points per 100 possessions) after the All-Star break. They ranked fifth offensively (110.0 points scored per 100 possessions) before the break and 16th (106.2) after the break, finishing seventh overall.
- Were 15-1 when they scored at least 48 points in the paint in the regular season, but 4-4 when they did so in the playoffs.
SPURS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have led the league in defensive efficiency each of the last two seasons, have ranked in the top five defensively in 18 of the last 23, and have been a better-than-average defensive team in 27 of the last 28, with a better-than-average streak of 20 straight seasons, going back Gregg Popovich’s first full season as head coach and Tim Duncan’s rookie year.
- Allowed 101.6 points per 100 possessions (and went 21-5) in 26 games against the league’s top-10 offenses, 4.0 fewer than any other team allowed against that group.
- Opponents’ ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts was 1.18, the second lowest in the league and just a hair higher than that of Miami opponents (1.17).
- Ranked 11th defensively in the playoffs, allowing 109.5 points per 100 possessions (118.7 in the conference finals).
- According to SportVU, they committed a foul just 12.1 percent of the time on opponent drives. That was the lowest rate in the league.
SPURS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Lineup of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Leonard, Aldridge and Dedmon played at a pace of just 91.0 possessions per 48 minutes, the slowest pace among 46 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. It was the third best defensive lineup among that set, allowing just 97.4 points per 100 possessions.
- Scored 10.0 points per 100 possessions more with Leonard on the floor (112.6) than they did with him off the floor (102.6). That was the 10th biggest on-off-court OffRtg differential among 277 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. But they allowed 8.0 fewer points per 100 possessions with Leonard off the floor (96.0) than they did with him on the floor (104.0). Aldridge was the teammate with which Leonard played the most minutes (by a wide margin).
- In the playoffs, they were much better both offensively and defensively with Leonard on the floor (in part because he played only 24 minutes against Golden State).
- Aldridge played 89 percent of his minutes with Dedmon, Lee or Pau Gasol. In his 249 minutes with no other true bigs on the floor, the Spurs outscored their opponents by 14.3 points per 100 possessions. In Gasol’s 82 minutes with no other true bigs on the floor, they outscored their opponents by 18.0 points per 100 possessions.
- Allowed 99.9 points per 100 possessions with Mills on the floor. That was the second lowest on-court DefRtg among 222 players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games. Green had the eighth lowest (101.1).
SPURS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- LaMarcus Aldridge took 10 times as many mid-range shots (570) as 3-pointers (56). That was the highest ratio among the 38 players who took at least 1,000 total shots from the field.
- Aldridge had 114 post-up possessions in the playoffs, more than twice as many as any other player.
- Pau Gasol shot 54.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the best mark among players who took at least 100.
- Among 51 players who attempted at least 25 catch-and-shoot jumpers in the playoffs, Aldridge (35.6 percent) and Manu Ginobili (30.9 percent) ranked 49th and 51st in effective field goal percentage on those shots. Leonard (82.1 percent) ranked second.
- Danny Green was one of six players to play at least 1,500 total minutes and average less than one free throw attempt per 36.
- Kawhi Leonard‘s usage rate of 31.2 percent was the highest for any Spurs player since Tony Parker had a usage rate of 31.6 percent in the 2008-09 season.
- Among the top 10 players in usage rate, Leonard had the third lowest assist ratio, assisting on just 13.3 percent of their possessions. He also had the second lowest turnover rate (7.8 per 100) among the group.
- According to SportVU, when Leonard was guarding them, opponents scored 5.1 fewer points per 36 minutes than expected. That was the third lowest point-prevention rate in the league among players who played at least 40 games (higher than only those of Trevor Ariza and Gordon Hayward).
- In the playoffs, Leonard was one of four players to shoot 50 percent or better on at least 100 shots from the field and 40 percent or better on at least 25 3-pointers. Of the four, he was the only one to shoot 90 percent or better from the free throw line.
- Patty Mills shot 14-for-22 (64 percent) on clutch 3-pointers, by far the best mark among players who attempted at least 20.
- Tony Parker grabbed just 4.1 percent of available rebounds when he was on the floor. That was the second lowest rebounding percentage among 222 players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games. Mills (4.5 percent) also ranked in the bottom 10.
NBA TV’s Spurs preview premieres at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 28.