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How to understand the evolution of the Spurs offense

A collection of resources to improve our collective knowledge of the best franchise in sports

San Antonio Spurs vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Western Conference Finals - Game 6 Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

This series seeks to round up some of the best information available on how the Spurs do business. It starts from an organizational perspective and will work its way down to the nitty-gritty tactical details. There’s a lot of incredible Spurs-related media available, so if we miss something, or as new stuff becomes available, let us know and we’ll continue to add and update as we go.

From ball stopping to unstoppable

After the Spurs’ most recent championship, Coach Nick from BBallBreakdown took a historical look at the evolution of the team’s offense from their first championship in 1999 through that magical 2014 run. The video is packed with examples of how the Spurs’ offense adapted to both its players and the changing landscape of the league over the course of those 15 seasons.

He starts with the 1999 team that won the franchise’s first title after a strike-shortened 50-game season. With the focus on maximizing the impact of their two dynamic 7-footers, the Spurs played a slow and methodical game, pounding it inside over and over again. There is, perhaps, a little cherry picking in the clip selection, using mistakes to drive home the inefficient nature of offense across the league at that point, but the overall message is completely accurate.

The movement and spacing we’ve all become accustomed to are clearly missing from the first two championships, and Coach Nick does a great job of highlighting many of the ways NBA offense improved over the intervening decade and a half. Rule changes, innovation, and the globalization of the game have done wonders for the beauty of the sport.

For longtime fans, there’s a ton of nostalgia built in, as just seeing the rosters can bring back waves of memories. Better still, there are some incredible moments throughout, especially with the ‘03 team. Seeing the future Big 3 in their first of five Finals together while watching David Robinson play his last games as a Spur is almost magical.

The ‘05 and ‘07 teams mark the beginning of the Spurs’ transition out towards the perimeter, as they entrusted Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili with more and more of the team’s offense. Manu, especially, is clearly coming into the peak of his powers just at the right time. Despite the seven-year gap, the seeds of the pace and space monster the Spurs’ offense would eventually become are visible in that ‘07 squad.

As Coach Nick details the Spurs’ gradual shift towards better spacing and increased/improved player movement, he describes a league-wide transition that happens to serve as a nice little history lesson on how far NBA offense has come. While he doesn’t take the opportunity to discuss the topic, it’s remarkable to consider that a single coach, Gregg Popovich, and the team’s best player, Tim Duncan, managed to remain at the very top of the league for the entirety of such a tumultuous period.

At the end, as at the end of all truly good things, Coach Nick pays homage to the utter unstoppability of the Spurs 2014 Finals team that eviscerated the Heat in 5 games. It’s a worthy watch for a lot of reasons, but if you can’t at least spend a few minutes reliving that particular triumph, what are you even doing here?

Previous entries in this series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4