clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is the Spurs' elite three-point defense sustainable?

The PtR staff discusses the Spurs' three-point defense, rebuilding projects, the most valuable sub, Jonathon Simmons and the upcoming games.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

1 - The Spurs' opponents are shooting just 30 percent from beyond the arc. Will the other shoe drop at some point? Will the defense stop being elite if it does?

Erler: Yes, eventually they'll regress to the mean and allow a higher percentage, especially against the better shooting teams. But as long as they protect the rim well, limit fouls and get back in transition, then they'll be an elite defense. They can afford to play close on shooters and run guys off the line knowing who they've got back there behind them.

Passos: There are still four games on the slate against Golden State, so those defensive numbers are going to take a hit. But will they still be tops in the league? I think so. The three-point defense is legitimately good, and it sets the tone for how the Spurs are able to funnel opponents into low-percentage situations.

Gomez: The Spurs are dodging bullets because opponents are missing on wide open shots. Of course it is true that they often leave open shooters they know struggle with consistency. I expect some regression to the mean in opponent three-point shooting and for their defensive rating to be severely affected by it. But the defense has been so good that it will continue to be elite after that hit.

Itz: It's just 28.4% over the past month, with a soft schedule and a couple of teams just unable to connect on good looks. They still haven't played the Warriors, Pacers, Cavs or Rockets, who with the Spurs make up the five most accurate 3-point shooting teams in the league, so the number isn't going to stay at 30% for the whole season. That said, the Spurs defense is the best in the league by a wide margin and I don't think that is going to change even if opponents start to shoot 35% from outside against them. As in, not only is the defense elite, it's the best by far and I would bet that that will still be true in April barring injury.

Wilco: More important than three point field goal percentage, is number of three pointers allowed. More important than shots surrendered is who is taking the shots. You can allow wide open three point attempts to bad shooters. I think the Spurs are choosing who to chase off the arc, and who to leave alone. Because of their personnel I expect the Spurs' overall 3-point defense to be excellent all year.

2 - True or false: The games against the Clippers and Pacers will tell us how good the Spurs really are.

Erler: At the risk of putting them in a lose-lose situation, these games can only reveal much about the Spurs if they lose them. They're supposed to win their home games against anybody, especially when they're rested and neither the Clippers nor the Pacers are elite anyway. The only way the Spurs can truly impress --me, anyway-- is to beat good teams on the road. But hey, a blowout win over the Clippers would make me feel better, considering how much the Warriors struggled against them.

Passos: False, but it's a start. I'm interested in seeing the Spurs tested by more players that can bend defenses and overwhelm using their athleticism and I'd also like the caveat that they haven't played quality teams to start to go away, for better or worse.

Gomez: True. They will not tell us how good the Spurs can be in the future but those two games are a good test of how the Spurs can handle good teams that play big (Clippers) and small (Pacers) right now. We shouldn't panic if they lose but we might be able to see what the team's strengths and weaknesses really are.

Itz: I don't think that one regular season game, on the road or at home against any team, is particularly meaningful.

Wilco: The Spurs are good. They're really good. The real measure is Golden State and until the league's best teams play each other, the rest is just nice appetizers.

3 - Jonathon Simmons has been getting some run and making the most of it. Can he be that second backup wing the Spurs need?

Erler: I was convinced they'd have to trade for a shooting wing at some point but Simmons is growing on me practically by the way. He fills a lot of needs and seems to be improving almost exponentially. He's not tentative, like Anderson, and he gets to the line, which is a real weakness on the team. I like the way he fits in on the bench.

Passos: I think his defense is still a bit erratic, but he ticks most of the other boxes for what we need out of that role. If Simmons is able to continue to knock down threes enough to keep defenses honest, he's a great weapon to have off the bench.

Gomez: I see flashes of a good NBA wing when Simmons is on the court, moments in which he plays lockdown defense or makes a strong move on offense. The problem is consistency and since we are talking about a 26-year-old rookie, expecting him to suddenly figure it all out doesn't seem wise. I love watching him out there now that things are working out for him but I fear he will start struggling at some point and head back to Austin. I'd love to be wrong, though.

Itz: He's rough, makes defensive mistakes and has a field goal percentage of 44.8%, good for 11th on the roster. Of course, it should be noted that three of the four players shooting worse from the floor are Kyle Anderson, Rasual Butler and Danny Green. He also has the second best net rating on the team (playing in 13 games and averaging 14 minutes per), absurd athleticism and is fearless. I'm rooting for him.

Wilco: He can be that guy. But it'll take another season or so for him to get there.

4 - The Spurs' bench has been phenomenal so far. Who is the most valuable sub?

Erler: I feel like you're trying to provoke me or set me up for some practical joke. Am I being punk'd or something? (It's the old bald guy, by a mile.)

Passos: 1) With a towering 26.3 PER, team-best per-36 averages of 23.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and shooting nearly a stratospheric 60% from the field... it's Bobi!


Really, though, it's Manu.

Gomez: Full disclosure: I wrote the question and originally wanted to answer Boris Diaw because of his ability to create offense in the post and because Manu has been a bit turnover-prone and has fouled a lot. But a look at Ginobili's glorious per 36 minute numbers makes that impossible. Yes, it's Manu. Sorry for wasting everyone's time.

Itz: Of course it's Manu, but Boris Diaw and Patty Mills have been great for the team.

Wilco: I love that Boban is getting a chance to show what he can do, and Mills is continuing to excel, but as long as Manu is playing -- and playing so well -- there's no one else I'd be able to pick.

5 - You are taking over a rebuilding project. Would you pick the 76ers, Lakers, Nets, Pelicans or Bucks?

Erler: This is almost as easy as the last question. The Pelicans, obviously. They're the team with a young top-five player. Everybody else is killing themselves to get one of those. Granted Davis has minor injury issues, but the Bucks are the only other team who have anywhere near a potential franchise guy in Antetokounmpo, and I'm not even sold on him.

Passos: I like a real project with flexibility and carte blanche, so give me the Lakers. I get a few young guys to figure out, plenty of cap room, (maybe, probably) a top pick in the draft, and the chance to pick my coach (I feel like there will be an opening there soon). I do also believe there's something to the Lakers brand that can still attract top free agents.

Gomez: The Pelicans are forced to rebuild because of their rough start but they wanted to compete. That means a lot of expectations right off the bat. The Bucks are similar, so I pass on both. The Nets are incredibly depressing. That leaves the Lakers and 76ers. I'm going with Philadelphia. With a little bit of luck we'd get Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray in the offseason and be on our way to relevancy sooner than anyone expected.

Itz: Being a lover of jazz, food, sazeracs and funky stuff, I've always felt completely at home in New Orleans and would take that job even without Anthony Davis. But with Davis, I'd pay them.

Wilco: Give me Anthony Davis and I don't care what else I've got to deal with. Pelicans in a heartbeat.