Remember the up and down season that just was? Recall how critics questioned San Antonio’s resolve to win this year? Remember how this was the year of passing the torch to Golden State, and Cleveland. Moving away from the old-guard of San Antonio and making way for the new, like the LA Clippers. Like in seasons-past, the Spurs get no respect. And like in seasons-past, the Spurs have a statistical showing unlike any other in NBA history.
That up and down season went right up to the final game of the year. The loss in game 82 to the New Orleans Pelicans moved them from the third-best record in the NBA, to a tie for the fifth, and more
Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs centerTiago Splitter
(22), forwardTim Duncan
(21), guardTony Parker
(9), and forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) sit on the bench during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks won 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
importantly, from a 21st Southwest Division title, to a third-place finish.
The Spurs are going to be rated as one of the best teams in NBA history. That much is clear. But what about this team? The 2014-2015 San Antonio Spurs. What kind of year are they having? Cut deeper than the headlines, and you will find one of the most complete seasons the Spurs have in recent history, and one of the most balanced in all of the NBA.
The pairing of old-and-new is pretty incredible. Thematic perhaps. This year the best Spurs have clearly been 38-year old Tim Duncan, and four year pro Kawhi Leonard.
- This is now 16 straight seasons that the Spurs have won 50 games or more, which is an NBA record. The streak began in 1999, following their NBA title in 1998-1999, and a 37-13 record in a shortened season due to the lock-out. Even in that year they were winning 74% of their games. Extrapolate that percentage to a full 82 game season, and that could have been a 60-win year.
- San Antonio posted a 67% winning percentage this year. That is the worst in a five-year stretch. In last year’s championship season, they won 76% of their games.
- There isn’t a single Spurs’ player in the top 20 for minutes played this season. Houston’s James Harden leads all NBA players with 2981 minutes-played this year. Coach Gregg Popovich has done it again. Resting players, especially older players, was a proven success strategy last year. If past success is predictive of the future, Spurs fans should have a lot to look forward to this post season. The Spur that has logged the most court-time in 2014-2015 is Danny Green with 2312.
- The Spurs offense has been more than serviceable. They are sinking 103.2 points per contest which is good for 7th in the NBA.
- Kawhi Leonard has been a steals-machine. He is leading the Spurs with 148 steals, which averages 2.3 per game. He leads the NBA.
- These old Spurs are ranked fourth in the NBA in defense. They hold a 101.9 defensive rating. San Antonio is limiting opponents to 97 points per game- good for fourth place.
- Tim Duncan’s defense continues to be all-time. He is leading San Antonio, and much of the league, with 150 blocks. Of course, that is still 50 behind NBA leader Anthony Davis.
- San Antonio has been an inside-out squad for much of its run. The pick-and-roll with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker may go down as the best of all time. Just the post-up of Duncan is enough to put him in the Hall. However, with better guard play we’ve seen a move to a jump shooting team in recent years. Frankly, it’s a surprise that at 38 years of age, Duncan leads this team- still- with 51% shooting.
- Duncan was named Western Conference Player of the Week (week of April 12) for the 23rd time. That ties him for fourth place all-time with Karl Malone and Allen Iverson. During the week his line was: 17.3 PPG, and 9.8 RPG.
- Possibly more important than any on-court statistic, is the Swag-Stat. This year, it swung in favor of Tim Duncan who finished seventh on the jersey-sales list. Of course, LeBron won the coveted title. I’m not sure if this proves that Duncan is gaining in national popularity, or if everyone in San Antonio picked up the jersey in reverence of what is possibly Duncan’s final season.
- Duncan is having a great year scoring. But that’s not uncommon. This is the 17th season he has: Scored 1,000 points, grabbed 500 rebounds, and swiped 100 steals.
- Danny Green set an all-time Spurs’ franchise record for three-pointers in a season with 191.
- Duncan ranks sixth in the NBA with 2 blocks per game. NBA fans are under constant marketing barrage for the defensive prowess of Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, and even Marc Gasol. As is typical with the San Antonio Spurs, Duncan is a silent leader on defense and is still the most effective post defender the Spurs have.
- Tim Duncan passed current (and former) Minnesota forward, Kevin Garnett, for 14th place in the NBA’s all time scoring list. This is coming in a season where he is knocking down huge names as he moves up the charts in: Blocks (sixth place all-time with 2,941), and rebounds (14,644, which is good for eighth place). He is the active NBA leader in both blocks and rebounds.
- Let’s talk about those rebounds. Mr. Duncan has a 26.6 defensive rebound percentage, and a combined rebound percentage of 17.9. Incredible. When Duncan is on the defensive glass, he grabs the rebound a quarter of the time. There are nine other players on the court. None of them are 38 years old.
- This is a sign of priority. There are three Spurs in the top 15 for defensive rating in the NBA. Danny Green posts a 100.3 rating- good for 13th, Tim Duncan ranks third with a 96.8, and Kawhi Leonard leads the NBA with a 96.1.Do what you want with this statistic. The Spurs have three players in the top 15 in Value Over Replacement. Tim Duncan is 15th in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard is 14th, and Danny Green ranks 11th. I’ve never been a fan of the VORP. The fictitious “replacement player” devalues the team’s bench and chemistry as an entire team. The story it does tell is that Green, Duncan, and Leonard are efficient, deliberate, and are leaders in their respective positions across the NBA.
While the regular season didn’t end with another Southwest Division title in hand, the narrative shouldn’t be one of regular season disappointment. Statistically, the Spurs are solid. More than solid. Scary is a better term. To be this good for this long is a result of a ecosystem that few others have been able to figure out in professional sports. Certainly not the Los Angeles Clippers, which is why I have San Antonio getting out of the first round quickly.