6-3, number eight in the power rankings for both NBA.com and ESPN. Fourth in the Western Conference. While I’m not saying place your bets for the Spurs to win the NBA Finals this year, I am saying, expect good things this year. Throughout the first nine games, we can see the offense begin to blossom under Coach Pop and the new faces that be.
I first wrote an article about a month ago and voiced some complaints about how the offense would look with two mid-range dominant players, and how the offense might get a little stale at times. Throughout the first nine games, the only time that’s really happened is when DeMar goes to the bench. That is something you can work with. It is still very early, but there are tons of takeaways from the first snippet of the year.
Slow and Steady will win their race:
Not surprising to many, The Spurs are one of the slowest teams when it comes to pace of play. As a unit, they rank number 27 in the league according to NBA.com. You expect that with the losses to Murray, Walker, and White. Now when Walker and White come back, they aren’t going to make this team jump into the top 10 in pace of play, especially younger players, you don’t want to overwhelm them, with the flow of the game being so drastic and at an unnecessary pace.
What I will say though, they’ll give the Spurs an edge in transition and help players like Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans and Patty Mills, who really benefit from the transition three. The thing with the slower pace of play means there’s an attention to ball movement and low post play, screens, among other things. When you have a player like LaMarcus Aldridge, you are willing to sacrifice if it means getting a high percentage look. The way the Spurs are playing, I would try to tape cinderblocks to their feet. Slow it down, it’s like that’s when they are at their best. Some have said the Spurs are the broccoli of the NBA *cough Shannon Sharpe* well if you add cheese to it (DeMar DeRozan), this damn broccoli becomes pretty interesting.
Defense, defense, defense:
While at times the Spurs have gotten stops when they need to, there are too many times down the stretch where teams tend to crawl black. Against the Lakers (both games), Mavericks, they had a lead in the fourth quarter and were in jeopardy of losing both times. While they did win, you still want to see improvement down the stretch, I know Coach Pop would definitely agree with that. While after Sunday’s shocking defeat against the Magic, Pop was quoted saying the defense was “Bad”. A man of very few words but always says what’s right, he’s said earlier that this group “isn’t very disciplined” and “it will take time” for them to really become a good defensive unit.
While their rankings among teams are relatively middle of the pack, 110.6 DRTG (17th in NBA), giving up 111.4 PPG (17th in NBA) there’s definitely a room for improvement. Throw the analytics out, the meat and potatoes that I see that needs to improve is paint defense and defending the pick and roll. Every time they get Pau Gasol out there on the high P&R, they just dominate this team. Rebounding has been very suspect so far as well.
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Against the Magic, they dominated the points in the paint, destroying the Spurs in P&R. While Mo Bamba posted up a nice 12-11 in only 16 mins off the bench, Vucevic with 13-8-3. How could I forget Aaron Gordon with 26-8? These three do all their work majority on the low block and in the paint; short mid-range jump shots and put-backs on offensive rebounds etc. While the Spurs did an impressive job against Anthony Davis Saturday night, The P&R was money for Jrue Holiday. There’s definitely room to improve, we will see how they will attack it with two paint heavy big men coming in Whiteside (DTD) and Capela.
The Offense is coming!
Now the fun stuff. This offense is great. Already we see how solid this team can be. This team can score like nobodies business. They are averaging 113 points per game, that is 9th in the NBA. They are shooting 38% from three, which is seventh in the NBA. They are shooting as a team, 46% which is 12th in the NBA. Their ORTG is 112.6 which is 9th in the NBA! For a mid-range heavy team like this, it is impressive to see the three point shooting being so effective. The spacing on this team has been good. The surprise factor in Bryn Forbes has been so nice to see.
The Spurs have been passing the ball very well, getting many clean and open looks. The crazy thing is, as a team they are shooting 38% from three, but routinely on a nightly basis, they are even missing good looks. It is only a matter of time once this team really finds a rhythm, they will be very tough to beat night in and night out. DeRozan and Aldridge play off of each other so well. While at times when DeMar is on the bench this unit does get stale, Bryn Forbes has alleviated all sorts of pressure off the 2nd unit to perform.
DeRozan has really embraced the move LeBron really put on display throughout his later years, in driving down the lane and finding the open man. Rudy Gay from Mid Range has been quite nice and really been passing the ball well. Davis Bertans with that shooters mentality he has, literally all he has is the green light and he goes. Even the minutes from Dante Cunningham, offensively making the smart cuts and taking smart shots. This offensive unit is booming. The mid-range Business in San Antonio is booming. Word to AB.
Predictions for 11/7-11/12 (6-3)
@ Heat: W. 113-101. While the Heat have an impressive two wins against Portland & the once 3-0 Pistons, they’re an average at best team. Literally, every ranking they have is around 14-18. They’re an average team. With Whiteside potentially out, their main option is Josh Richardson who is a solid player, I think the Spurs should take control of this game early. They can hit the three ball at times, I do like Bam Adebayo though.
Vs Rockets: W. 117-112.
This will be the toughest game for the Spurs as Houston comes in. #13 will be ready to play. He has had some trouble playing in San Antonio, as Pop will be sure to try to limit the pump-fake three point foul he has perfected. Recently Melo has played better, they’re still working out some things on their bench unit. I think the Spurs take the edge late, and hang on for a close, hard fought victory.
I expect a good game from DeMar, and anyone who Melo, Harden is defending. Expect a back and fourth game, I think the Rockets will jack up 3’s like no other when at times their offense dies out and that will keep them involved. This will be very tough, I like the matchup of Clint Vs LMA, and the offensive matchup of DeMar-James. CP3 might have himself a good time, as it’ll be very difficult to contain him. He loves to do his thing against the Spurs as we’ve seen in the past.
@ Kings: W. 120-90.
The Kings are an interesting team. They’ve had a much better start than anticipated. D Fox has played phenomenal, showing he can do it all in this league. Willie has had himself a couple games as well, showing he can be a force down low. I think talent-talent, they just don’t match up well against the Spurs. Young teams typically get smacked pretty bad when SA comes to town and I expect no different.