FanPost

Why so many losses? ….

….And can it be fixed?

I was expecting the Spurs to win around 33 games this year. They have played the 9th easiest schedule so far and are on pace for 21W. They have the 10th hardest remaining schedule according to tankathon.com. With 16 games already played and a difficult stretch of opponents in the next 10 games it is difficult to imagine them playing much better.
So i decided to take a quick look at where the Spurs are loosing games this season and if there is any reason for hope (spoiler: there isn’t many).

NB: all stats from basketballreference.com unless specified otherwise.

The Spurs are mainly loosing game in 3 key areas:

3pt deficit: opponents make 3.125 more trey/game than the Spurs. That’s -9.4pt game.

FT deficit: opponents make 1.75 FT/game than the Spurs despite the Spurs fooling much less than their opponents!

Rebounds deficit: 3.625 less rebounds/game for the Spurs, including 1 less OR/game.

Clearly 3pt is the main problem here: on the season the Spurs have been outscore by 42 points total, but by 150pts from 3! Clearly fixing that would help.
FT also since they loose game by 2.6pt and 1.75 of that is because of FT. Poor FT shooting again cost them a game against Phoenix last night.

The playing style is not the problem imho since they play in transition a lot and create a lot of TO. They also take more shots/game than their opponents to compensate their shot selection profile and talent deficit.

I will try to show how the lack of rim attempts is an underratted reason why the Spurs don't get FT and open 3s.

Fortunately, there is some reason for hope for the rest of this season.


Getting back to normal career averages from the line would certainly help.

FT Woes

2021/22

Career

Poeltl

28 %

52 %

Murray

67 %

75 %

Keldon

67 %

73.5 %

Vassell

73 %

81 %

White

80 %

82.4 %

Young

36 %

66 %

The Spurs most prolific FT getters on the team seemingly all forgot how to make FT during the summer. Maybe some regression to the mean is coming.

Same problem for some Spurs shooters.

3 shooting woes

2021/22

Career

White

29.2 %

35 %

Walker

28.1 %

35 %

Murray

29.5 %

33 %

KBD

12.5 %

29.4 %

The disparity is especially important for Lonnie and Derrick because they are taking 35% of all Spurs 3PA. Regression to the mean is probably on the way for Lonnie because according to nab.com/stats he is shooting 25.6% on wide open 3. That number was 38.6 and 40.6% the last two seasons.
There is a few unproven option on the bench: Jock Landale and Zach Collins. The former shot 32% in Portland, the other 37% from the FIBA line in Australia and Europe.

However, it is maybe because Derrick and Lonnie face tougher defender now that Demar is gone. With increased responsibilities they are also forced to take more difficult shots.

Those two bigs could also help the Spurs on the boards. Poeltl current back up are Eubanks and Young, both undersize at center and total non shooter. The interest of going small in theory is to compensate what you loose on the board by adding shooting and PG-like skills. Young does facilitate the offense but none spare the floor. However it is not sure if Collins will be healthy or good enough to play on his return in December and the same (without the health concern) goes for Landale. Furthermore, none of them fix the structural problem of the Spurs roster.

Finally, playing better D would also help: they are currently 16th. Since they have so much offensive problem they have to be top 10 or top 5 to win more games. I was expecting them to be much better there but having a lot of young players and roster turnover didn’t help. I still remain hopeful that a healthy Poeltl and building chemistry game after game will help improve the defense as the season advances.

Roster limitations.

TL;DR: they are bad from 3 because they don’t have many shooters, they are bad on the boards because they are too small and they don’t get many FT because they don’t have any drivers.

Lack of size
As written earlier, the Spurs are really small after Poeltl, which makes it harder to get rebound. That was obvious against the Ayton or McGee last night: a few Spurs wing were on position but they ere just too small to grad the rebounds, leading to somewhat easy shot at the rim. Poeltl isn’t also the best rebounding center: 8.8 rebounds when the first 10 centers are at 11 or higher. The Spurs wing are also smaller than their opponents, only Keita Bates-Diop and McDermott being 6’7 or taller (Young plays center so he can’t count as a wing too). Despite having one of the best rebounding PG in the league, they are still out-rebounded, lack of size is probably a reason since the other wing players (who are really guard in my opinion) have had good to great rebounding number in their career (except Lonnie Walker IV).

Lack of shooters.
According to NBA.com, the Spurs were one of two teams in the entire NBA to have only 2 players who made 100 3 pointers at better than league average in the last 2 seasons (Forbes and McDermott, Forbes played only 12.1mpg). 28 other teams have more. The best team have 5 or more. So in that regard it is absolutely not surprising to see the Spurs dead last in made 3. They are also one of only two teams taking less than 30/game this season.
That lack of spacing reinforces problems:
No spacing => clogged driving lane => less rim attempts => less FTA
Lack of shooters hurts the Spurs offense not only from beyond the arc but also closest to the basket and at the charity stripe, the two most efficient areas on a basketball court.

Lack of half court rim attempts
One major glaring weakness of the Spurs roster often overlooked immo is the lack of player who can get to the rim at will, ala Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. No one on the Spurs roster can attack a set defense with the ball in his hands and be a threat to get all the way to the basket for a lay up, which compounds the lack of shooting:
No rim pressure => no collapsing D => no open (corner) threes.
No rim pressure => no collapsing D => no rim attempt => no whistles => no FT.
That explains why the Spurs are last in the league in %PTS from FT and from 3 according to nab.com/stats. To understand why the Spurs are leading the league in Points in the paint at 49.8% you need to know that the Spurs are first in shots from the floater area, one of the hardest way to score, one of the most certain way to not get FT.
No Spurs player can breakdown a defense, get all the way to the rim and challenge elite rim protectors:
Lonnie and Keldon are very good at attacking close out.
DJM will mostly settle for midrange
Vassell stops at the floater area
Derrick stops at the floater area
Poeltl can get some in the PnR but also have a little push shots.
Primo in College was used as a 3 point shooter and both in Summer league and G League doesn’t get all the way to the rim all that often.

I think that’s one of the most concerning problems on the roster. Being able to attack the rim is the foundation of a good offense because it creates high quality shots either at the rim, at the 3 point line (corner 3 or open catch shoot threes on the wing) and FT. If you don’t have that kind of player you better have an elite shooter such as Curry or Lilliard or Kevin Durant.

Looking beyond this season

It is possible but not likely than Devin Vassell or Joshua Primo develops the handle to go all the way to the rim in the pick and roll. But very few players who didn’t have it before the NBA develop it after becoming pro. Devin would also need to learn how to pass. He has shown some flashes so there is some hope, but it will take a few years. Primo Already have the passing. Keldon is very far from it, he is one of the player passing the less out of drives. Maybe Dejounte keeps improving and get better at that. None of them have the kind of elite athleticism or speed to help them get there.

The Spurs will most certainly get a high draft pick in 2022 so hopefully they will select a player that solve that problem, whether it’s a big or a perimeter player.
Regarding 3 point shooting, Vassell will play more and hopefully be able to increase his 3 point volume. Keldon could get better albeit I don’t think he will be much better than league average on a fairly low volume (like 35% on 4 3PA/g). Primo looks like he could be a good shooter but it is too soon to know if he will be Lonnie Walker good (as a shooter) or Malcom Brogdon or SGA good (the optimist in me hope Primo develop into a SGA like player) Wiesekamp could be a good 3point shooter but it is stil too early to know if he can defend in the NBA. If Lonnie or Bryn are not re signed next season, the Spurs could be with two less shooters next season if neither Primo or Wiesekamp are ready. Also if a Play off teams offers a first round pick for McDermott at the trade deadline should the Spurs refuse? I think the FO will be pretty prudent and ask for a shooter in return or draft one with the extra pick but that is not certain.

I think in the draft or FA the Spurs should prioritize a player that can attack the rim. That the main skill lacking in their roster right now.

This is fan-created content on PoundingtheRock.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.