NBA Season Review: San Antonio Spurs statement season
The San Antonio Spurs entered last season for the first time ever without any of the Big 3—Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Along with the departure of supposedly the franchise’s future cornerstone, most people could not help but believe that the previous year might actually be the time the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs.
Add that to a barrage of injuries that the Spurs players suffered. The most notably one being Dejounte Murray. After suffering a season ending knee injury in the pre-season. From there, the clearest conclusion seemed to be “San Antonio’s two-decade-long dynasty is over.”
Yet, time and again, head coach Gregg Popovich, and his company continued to defy the odds. The San Antonio Spurs managed to sneak into the post-season.
Relying heavily on an old-school perimeter scoring, with the league’s two best mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs finished with a 48-34 win-loss record in the regular season before suffering a heart-breaking first round loss against the young second seeds Denver Nuggets in seven games.
The Spurs, unlike any other teams which heavily banked on three-point shooting, had to look for different ways in getting points last year with DeRozan and Aldridge as their top two scorers.
While the analytics and trends of the modern NBA gearing up towards a more volume-heavy scoring and three-point scoring, San Antonio took the other path and instead settled for high-efficient shots (of course, their league’s second best 47.8 field goal percentage attest to that).
As a matter of fact, the Spurs shot the least number of three-point attempts around the league last year. They only shot 25.3 three-pointers, but still had the highest three-point percentage after 82 games. They were also converting 39% of their shots from the rainbow territory.
Spurs’ shooters Bryn Forbes and Davis Bertans both finished in the Top 10 in terms of three-point field goal percentage last year. They were accountable for the team’s success in the three-point land in the previous season.
However, the midrange is where San Antonio really put damage against other teams. They finished top two in both the two-pointers scored, and two-pointers attempted. They also had 32.4 points per game, and 63 two-point attempts per game according to Basketball Reference.
Aldridge and DeRozan, the Spurs’ top two scorers, were the beneficiaries of Popovich’s love for the perimeter scoring last year. They both shot at least 23 attempts each in the two-point area.
Diamonds in the Rough
San Antonio, with Aldridge and DeRozan, were pretty much solid enough to be as good as a nearly 50-win team. However, the Spurs’ success last season was all about their young guns stepping up big-time.
Forbes and Bertans provided the team’s much needed three-point scoring. Especially following the departure of Danny Green
Then there’s second year point guard Derrick White. Despite his own injury problems early in the season, he started in place of the injured Murray at the point. Consequently, this paired him up with Forbes at the backcourt.
In the Playoffs, White was San Antonio’s third best scorer with 15.1 points. Adding his pesky defense, offensive versatility and Manu-esque confidence to slice into the middle and look for driving lanes really helped as well.
Jakob Pöeltl, who is deemed by many as Popovich’s next Tiago Splitter, also delivered valuable contributions with the Spurs. This was a welcomed addition because the Spurs were lacking in depth at the front court last year.
The Austrian big man had 24 starts for San Antonio last year, and played 16.5 minutes.
Meanwhile, despite spending most of their time in the Austin Spurs at the NBA G-League, Lonnie Walker IV, Chimezie Metu, and Drew Eubanks also showed glimpses of what they could bring in the Spurs’ table next year.
Editor’s Note: All information stated here are updated prior to the 2019 NBA Free Agency and 2019 NBA Draft.
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Follow the writer on Twitter: @KristoffBellen.