We’ve all heard the saying, “number never lie.” While that may not always be the case, there are a few stats that could tell the story of the 2021-22 San Antonio Spurs. Based on the roster moves the Spurs have made this offseason, what has been been talked about in training camp, and what they’ve shown in the preseason so far, I believe there are five stats that stand out among the rest which will help sort out how good, or bad, this Spurs team ends up being: three-point attempts and percentage, free throw attempts, passes per game, turnovers, and defensive rating.
Over the next few days, we’ll go over the importance of each of those stats to the Spurs success this season, beginning with:
Three-point attempts and percentage
It’s well known that this is the age of the three-point shot. Wherever you look, you see players jacking up threes left and right — at least that’s the case for most players (Jakob Poeltl better not hoist a three unless it’s at the end of the shot/game clock). The game has become all about spacing, so having more players beyond the three-point line creates better driving lanes. However, shooting a higher number of threes doesn’t make a good team unless that team can actually make them at a reasonable clip.
Looking at the teams that shot the most threes last season, 10 of the top 16 in attempts made the playoffs (11 if you count the Warriors, who lost in the second round of the play-in). Then, when looking at the leaders of three-point percentage last season, 11 of the top-12 teams made the postseason, with the Warriors being that twelfth team. The Spurs aren’t known for the number of threes they take, but they’ve always been able to make the ones they do efficiently.
In fact, this last season was only the second season since 2010-11 the Spurs weren’t top-five in percentage. That may be why there was such a push to sign better shooters to the roster such as Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes, who would’ve been the top-2 shooters on the team last year, and this is why the Spurs’ three-point attempts and percentage is something to follow this year.
There has been an emphasis on pace, space, and ball movement — think Beautiful Game Spurs, just without the litany of shooters that team had. If the preseason has been any indication, the team will at least be shooting more than 28.4 on average, and if Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie Walker are able to find their shot in the regular season, they should see a drastic increase in their percentage as well. If they don’t, they still have the ability to rely on the likes of McDermott, Forbes, and Devin Vassell to shoulder the load there. Either way, this stat will be an indicator into how the season goes.
This is just part one of a five-part miniseries, so be sure to check back for the next entry.