Yesterday, I explained that there were five stats that we should be keeping track of throughout the year that will tell the story of how the Spurs season plays out. We’ve already covered the importance three-point shooting and attempts will play in this squad’s success (be sure to check it out if you haven’t), and today’s stat is:
Passes per game
For a team to increase both its three-point attempts and percentage, nothing helps more than passing. As noted before, the Spurs are talking a lot about their pace of play, and it’s a known fact that the ball travels faster than a defender. Continually whipping the ball across the court (let’s hear it, everybody) helps lead from good shots to great ones. Also, players statistically tend to shoot better on the catch-and-shoot compared to pulling up off the dribble. Last season, only 18 players that shot at least one three per game and made 40% or more on pull-ups. Compare that to the 118 players who made that kind of percentage on catch-and-shoot threes, and the importance of passing ball to an open shooter is magnified.
Breaking this down into players on the Spurs roster, the graphic below shows how the team fared on catch-and-shoot attempts and pull-ups. (You can also click the links.) The new Spurs, Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes, shot 42% on 1.1 and 39.6% on 0.8 pull-up attempts, respectively, as well as 37.8% on 3.3 and 46.3% on 4.1 catch-and-shoot attempts. While McDermott did shoot better percentage-wise on pull-ups, he’s still no slouch off the catch.
Opening up better shots on the catch only happens if the team passes the ball more. The Spurs passed the ball the third-least in the NBA last season, and the only two teams that passed the ball less have Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo on their team, which gives them good reason to not pass as much. The Spurs have no such go-to scorer this season, so if they can stay true to the pace they want to play with and get away from the iso-driven offense they’ve used the last two seasons, they should consistently create better offensive opportunities. So go ahead and bookmark this page to keep tabs on this number all year.