There's been a lot of discussion lately, and a lot of finger-pointing from fans, centered around finding someone to blame for the Spurs' problems in this young season. While this would be a constructive excercise in some years, we can't seem to come to a consensus. However, I think the problem might have to do with more than just one player, and that it has gone beyond integrating new guys into the system. The problem is that the old tried-and-true Spurs are suffering. Or, at least, those not named Tim Duncan - which leads to a thought that is pretty troubling, but also seems like something that can be corrected easily.
Put simply, the Spurs[again, other than Tim Duncan] are lacking in fundamentals so far this season. Some of this could be because of new players learning the system, but when the Spurs' vets are doing it, that signals a lack of focus. These guys all know how to play smart, and make good plays, but they just aren't focused on it. And the new guys aren't really helping in that regard, either. I've seen signs of this changing lately, but some of it resurfaced again in the Warriors game last night.
The Fundamental Problem
Here are the 3 most glaring problems that the Spurs have faced so far this season:
These are 3 of the 4 fundamentals that champioship teams must be good at. The 4th is FT differential, which has never been a strength for the Spurs. The rebounding issue seems to be fixed now, through a concerted effort. The turnovers are really getting on our nerves, but these guys are lifelong professionals, and they should be able to fix that. The defense, however, is what really upsets me.
The Spurs have more strength, length and athleticism on the floor than I can remember them ever having, and their minutes are kept low, so everyone should be relatively fresh. But they're missing rotations and failing to close out on shooters every single game. To say that this is troubling is the understatement of the year. Last season, the defense improved dramatically after Pop called the team out publicly. I can only hope he does the same at some point this season. There is no reason for this Spurs team to be average on the defensive end. With all the talent on the roster, it's top 5 or bust. Last year, we started Roger Mason, Michael Finley and Matt Bonner, who are all terrible defensively, gave hem all a lot of minutes, and still ended up with the #9 defense in the league - this year's Spurs team is giving a lot more minutes to guys who are more than capable of good defense, but they just aren't executing. There is no excuse for that.
Another little note about turnovers: the turnover numbers are higher for the point guards(both of them) this year than in years past. A few weeks ago, I read that Pop is no longer calling plays, and he's just letting Parker and Hill call them instead. Does anyone else think that maybe Tony and George are too predictable with their play-calling, and that this could be one reason for our turnover woes?
These are all things that can be fixed through better concentration - let's hope the Spurs can at least do a better job of that.
Why There's Hope
Some of you may remember my citing basketball-reference.com and Hollinger's offense and defense ratings in a recent post. Well, I'm going to do it again.
Hollinger's formula currently has the Spurs at #6 among NBA teams in his power rankings.
The Simple Rating System(SRS) used on B-R also has us at #6 in the NBA, and third in the West. Our offense is #7 in the league, while our defense is at #11.
The Spurs are much better than their record. Now it's time they showed it. That means not being their own worst enemy anymore.