We’re now onto Day Three of the five stats that we should be keeping track of throughout the year that will tell the story of how the Spurs season plays out. To list them again, they are: three-point attempts and percentage, free throw attempts, passes per game, turnovers, and defensive rating. So far, we’ve hit three-pointers and passes per game. Today’s stat to watch is...
What happens when you take a bunch of young players, throw them on the court together, and tell them to play with pace? Oftentimes, it’s turnovers. That combination of young players and playing with pace is just what this year’s edition of the San Antonio Spurs will be, at least according to Coach Gregg Popovich. During his Media Day press conference, Coach Pop talked about the team being energetic, having a lot of speed, and playing fast — he then added that hopefully, the team plays smart on top of this. As much as fans love to hear the team is going to play a more modernized game, “smart” is the keyword in his statement.
Playing smart consists of making the right cut, the right read, and the right pass or shot at the right time. And doing so also means preventing turnovers from happening. Playoff teams from last season are scattered throughout the leaderboard for turnovers, so there’s not exactly a straight line that shows being less turnover-prone helps you win more games.
However, last season’s Spurs committed the second fewest turnovers per game in no small part thanks to their slow pace and therefore relatively low number of possessions. For this Spurs team that plans on playing faster to compete on a nightly basis and push for a play-in/playoff spot, they’ll need every offensive opportunity they can get, so protecting the ball even more will be vital. Not to mention, live-ball turnovers tend to be backbreakers for the defense.
Over the past few seasons, the Spurs have consistently been in the top-5 of teams less likely to turn it over. If they can stay somewhat close to this ranking this season, with the added pace, speed and shooting, they should be an offense that’s better than 21st in offensive rating, and with the amount of defensive talent on the roster, a defensive rating better than 18th. So go ahead and bookmark this page to keep tabs on this number all year.