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The Double-Edged Sword of Blaming Players for Losses

The Spurs currently sit at 39-25. Last year we finished with 54 wins. Well that pace would have us at 42-22 through our 62 games. So 3 games going the other way....that's not a lot, but I had so many more excuses for last season's record. I mean if Manu and Tony and TD had been healthy, we could have won 65 (more or less random number) games last year.

Clearly we are underachieving yet most statistical analysis shows the team as solid. Hollinger has us as 5th right now yet we are 11th in the league standings. All of this bothered me so come see the results of me searching for who is at fault for our record after the jump....

It's not me.

Before I get started I want to explain something, my title. Unlike some people who are readily searching for solutions to the roster next season, I still believe that we can win and win big this year. So I am eager to see how RJ or Bonner has impacted our record, but I am also eager to see how that may play into our playoff success. So as much as I am pointing the finger and calling out these players. I am in no way saying we trade, cut or move on from any of them. I love our team and I love our players. So my question is not all Winston-48MoH-like in terms of "who do we need to play?" but rather "what can this player do in the rotation Pop has set to win more games for us?". Who is shooting us out of games? Who won't take their shots in losses? Who isn't distributing the ball in losses? Who isn't rebounding? Who is taking too many threes? Who gets the point?

So I present the following table:


Now I'm going to pull a half Varner. I'll point to some conclusions from the table, but hopefully you, the intelligent reader, can use the table and draw more in the comments. I changed it to a half Varner because I wrote more than I thought I was.

Talking Points and Conclusions

Injuries: Those records without Bonner or Parker. They aren't far from the season percentages, but 13 losses without either of them accounts for over half our losses. It's also worth noting Bonner played some very crappy minutes and some very crappy basketball coming back from his hand injury. His numbers are way up now.

Hill and Manu: I'm going to group them together here, but why are Hill and Manu taking 3.1 more shotsminutes but scoring 4.4 less points per 48 minutes in our losses. Hill is taking too many threes in our losses and Manu is shooting 10% lower from the field.

But on the positive note, both are playing out of this world recently. Maintaining their momentum could be the key to getting a good seed and succeeding in the playoffs. I, along with others, suggested Parker take his turn as "Manu "and be the 6th man. It works better with the acquisition of RJ. It puts Parker logging more minutes with Duncan (one of the last of the starters off the court usually), Mason, Bonner, and Bogans. In other words, the shooters and line up type Parker is used to playing with and dominating for. It just makes simple sense to me.

Duncan, Parker and Blair are pretty consistent scorers in wins and losses. Duncan loses some rebounds and Parker loses some assists, but they shoot about the same though. Duncan amazingly gets more free throws in our losses. Please no Hack-a-Duncan!

In terms of going forward, I was disappointed to see Duncan and Parker playing more minutes in losses, but it makes sense. It's easier to pull them for near outlier type minutes in games like the Clippers one than it is to throw in the towel. To quote one of my favorite songs ever, "for all the wars I've come to know, it's punches pulled not towels thrown in." The Spurs are more likely to hold back in a blowout than give up on a fight. Even with that said, you see Duncan and Manu under tight rotation control. In the playoffs, Pop [in his play calling and rotations] and Duncan, Parker and Manu [in their minutes and efforts] won't be pulling punches.

Blair is the only player in the rotation that shoots better and scores more per 48 minutes in games we lost. Without researching it, I know our win loss record points more wins to sub-.500 and more losses to +.500 teams. This could mean Blair is equally efficient against good and bad opponents. His rebounding drop is about equal to Duncan's but less forgivable.

Live or Die by the Three: First, ignore Parker's 3 point percentage differential as his attempts are super low. He attempts more of them when we are losing, but he shoots them so infrequently that missing clutch ones he has to take really hurts him.

Mason, Manu, and Hill all shoot worse from three in our losses, but its in the 8-10% range. They are also all taking more threes in our losses. A lot more threes. By volume, their shots might be keeping their percentage higher than it should be, or defenses are forcing them into bad shots.

Bonner, Bogans, and Jefferson are far worse. They shoot between 17.3-23.5% worse from three in our losses. Jefferson takes about the same number of attempts. His percentage bothers me, but I don't like him taking 3's to begin with. Bogans and Bonner, on the other hand, are taking 3.6 less 3 points attempts per 48 minutes in our losses. Those are the shots we need these guys to take. Those are the shots we need these guys to make. Bogans and Bonner lead the team in scoring differential between wins and losses. Both are at around 7.0 more points per 48 minutes in games we've won. That is disgusting. You can debate if this is symptomatic or the cause of a problem. I like to think it works both ways.

Dice: Dice takes long 2's for the most part. In games we win, he is shooting 10% better. More than that though, he scores 2.6 more points per 48 minutes on the same number of shots. Dice is massively less effective scoring in our losses. I've heard rumors that he is Horry-esque in terms of holding back for the stretch-run/playoffs. If that is true, that will be a HUGE plus.

Jefferson: In wins, he averages 5.8 more points, 1.1 more rebounds, and 1.1 more assists per 48 minutes. He plays the third most minutes on the team behind Duncan and Parker so his 8.0 PTS+REB+AST is far more impactful than Bogan's 8.7. People are quick to blame RJ for our record but the fact is that he is far better in our victories creating such large differentials. This is the silver lining. It means he can be so much more than those terrible loss performances, or to put it another word, he do what RC and Pop traded for him to do.

Remember, he has a good amount of playoff experience and isn't in the athletic decline (sorry) Dice is. He knows he needs to step it up now and then go even further in the playoffs. I am with everyone else in being disappointed with Jefferson thus far, but he may also be our playoff savior. So as much as you are prone to blame him, know that he will be getting heavy minutes in the playoffs and his success will be our success.

I plan to do another Standings Perspective (with a twist of projection) soon, but I'll probably wait until at least after the Orlando game. If we win @ Miami and @ Orlando back to back, we will reach 9-1 in our L10 for the first time this season. Have faith and believe the Spurs are pulling a Spurs by finishing far stronger than they started.

Thanks for reading and GO SPURS GO!