1. What's with Manu's shooting slump?
Manu hasn't been shooting the ball well lately. In November he shot 49% FG%, but in December January and the last 10 games it's been 40%, 42%, and 40%.
There's no stand-out trend when you break it down further. In December he started missing threes, in January he missed a bunch of long twos. Recently numbers from that zone have gone back up but he's been unable to hit the runners, leaners and fading jumpshots that make up the <10 feet-but-not-at-rim category and he's having trouble getting to the line.
When you look this closely at shooting percentages they'll bounce up and down for no reason beyond variance and the differences between the 15-game stretches you're looking at. Since his overall offense is still elite I think it's fair to call the slump just a bad streak.
2. What is this team's weakness?
The axiom goes, teams improve the most when they shore up a weakness rather than adding a redundant strength to an area where they're already strong. So what can the Spurs improve based on this year's games?
-Rebounding? The Spurs are the eighth-best defensive rebounding club and are nineteenth-best at offensive rebounding. Nineteen sounds low, but Popovich teams have always failed to get offensive rebounds. Last year's ranking of thirteen was the first time we'd been out of the very bottom of the rankings in a long time, probably thanks to new additions McDyess and Blair.
-3 point defense? Well, we're not good at stopping the threes from going in, but we allow the fewest 3pt attempts per FG attempt of any team. When you combine the two and look at just 3 point makes allowed, the Spurs are right in the middle of the pack. If anything we're on the stingy side of things when it comes to 3pt defense (9th fewest makes per game).
-Turnovers? That's the one to improve, although maybe not in the way you think. The Spurs protect the ball just fine (eighth lowest TO rate). But our early ability to force turnovers from our opponents has faded lately. We've slipped to below average (17th) in forced turnover rate and our distinct advantage in the TO department is mostly gone.
Does Pop work Anderson or Splitter in to the playoff planning or stick with the current core?
James Anderson and Tiago Splitter have both had impressive moments in a season that overall has been more about setbacks than success for these rookies. There's a real need for each on the playoff roster as well, since RJ needs a backup three and a taller frontcourt player would complement the Bonner, Blair and Dice squad. On the other hand, getting consistent rotations and as much practice as possible for the key lineups is probably a high priority too.
No matter what happens, Splitter and Anderson will probably end up as the number ten and eleven guys in terms of minutes played on the playoff roster. The number ten and eleven guys do not have a good history of contributing on the Spurs but this could be the exception. Time spent to get these guys into sync with the rest of the team could be spent on refining the more-used lineups, and so there might be some hard choices to make when we hit the let's-think-about-the-playoffs phase of the year.