The San Antonio Spurs are a team of runs. They have all the weapons on the offensive side of the ball to produce a bucket at any given time, but late in games, they need to turn away from Kawhi Leonard and let others evolve.
No question who the top choice on the offensive end will be, Kawhi Leonard. With that, many teams are keying in on him late in games and that gives all the opportunity for him to find others to make better shots, not forcing.
I take a look at the Spurs offense so far this season. I look at Leonard, Pau Gasol’s emergence and how the Spurs shooters are back.
Our late game offense has to be more than Kawhi iso-ing into a pull up long two
This is a slight exaggeration, but very much so against Boston on Wednesday night, the Spurs late-game offense appeared to take place almost entirely on Kawhi Island. When that reference is made on defense, it’s not a good thing.
After running a highly efficient and distributed offense throughout the game featuring very good play from Patty Mills and Pau Gasol and Tony Parker performance (more on this below), when it came time for the Spurs to seal the game against the Celtics, we flipped into “Kawhisoball” (trademark pending) with a couple of dribbles and a long, pull-up two (and not an open one coming off of the pick and roll either).
Too often with Kawhi at the end of games, he falls into this pattern of dribbling into a long two in isolation without any sort of creation.That’s simply not a sustainable long run strategy for efficient offense in the clutch.
If you’re going to try and get Kawhi a bunch of reps in close, end of game situations, then I endorse that strategy.
But either have him run a pick and roll with one of Gasol/LaMarcus Aldridge, or try to isolate him in the post – Kawhi 1 on 1 at the top of the key isn’t a sustainable strategy.
Pau is settling in nicely on offense
As he’s gotten comfortable in the offense, Pau has started to score more freely, mixing in his traditional post ups with long jumpers off the pick and roll and drive and kick actions.
The play in the post is an extension of Aldridge at times (ball stops there), but Pau is obviously an excellent passer, and that has been probably the biggest addition to the offense year over year.
One reason the Spurs are scoring at a similar efficiency is Pau’s passing, and he’s quickly developed chemistry (of the alley oop variety) with Kawhi and Aldridge.
The Spurs starters have had their share of defensive struggles (Gasol + Parker isn’t a great formula against the pick and roll), but offensively they’re excellent and that’s in large part thanks to Pau’s passing ability.
The Spurs shooters are back in full force
Danny Green and (to an extent) Patty Mills have bounced back nicely from off seasons last year to give the Spurs starting lineup and bench respectively an injection of shooting.
More to the point, across the team basically every rotation player save Jonathan Simmons is above 35 percent, with both Aldridge and and Gasol above 40 percent.
There’s also some upside here, as Kawhi is at 38.9 percent but most of that driven by a horrifying October performance at 26.7 performance.
He’s at 41.4 percent and was 40.2 percent in November so he’s improving as the year goes on, and that just adds more upside.
The replacement of Duncan with Gasol has done wonders for the Spurs spacing and the Spurs look to have just enough shooting to be a playoff contender.