The notion of two-pointers galore for the San Antonio Spurs? Expect it to hold true.
The San Antonio Spurs were once a three-point marksman team. Kawhi Leonard led them to the No. 1 spot in this category in the 2016-17 season, as a squad that had their way from the outside and seemed to be a legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors.
Then came Leonard’s injury, and San Antonio’s three-point shooting descended into the bottom five of the NBA; a remarkable turn of events, sure, but when the best healthy player was a mid-range shooting LaMarcus Aldridge who had a 29.1 Usage Percentage and 660 two-point field goals (tied for fourth overall, it will not help the cause.
Just how often did the Spurs take those two-pointers in 2017-18, though? They averaged 61.2 per game, the fifth highest in the league. Their 24.1 three-pointers per game were the fourth lowest.
The addition of Marco Belinelli should sway this, if just marginally. He took more three-pointers per game (4.9) than two-pointers (4.6) last season for the first time in his career.
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However, enter DeMar DeRozan, the face of mid-range shooting guards. In 2016-17, before Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey remade the offense, he averaged 19.2 two-point field goals per game and finished third with 688 two-point field goals made.
This fell off in 2017-18, but, in a Gregg Popovich system that favors player’s strengths over what they can’t do on the court, there could be a rise from 14.1 to somewhere in the ballpark of the previous year, when DeRozan scored 27.3 points per game.
Two-point heavy basketball feels prehistoric, when the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets capitalize on their outside shooting to win postseason games (or flounder in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals) and run scoring barrages down their throats. It’s not the way to win, with the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings were all top-10 in three-point percentage. Of the 16 playoff teams, though, only five of them finished in the bottom half of the league in outside shooting; just one of them — the Raptors — made it out of the first round.
So, can the Spurs move out of the high-end two-point zone and find middle ground between the past two seasons? Three-point pieces are there with Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans and Patty Mills around, but none of them will act as offensive catalysts again; they are side pieces to play off Aldridge, DeRozan and even Rudy Gay, who shot just 31 percent from behind the arc.
The Spurs have players capable of three-point shots, but none of them are dynamic from this range. Aldridge and DeRozan, 1A and 1B, won’t be the players unless they take jumps from respective career-highs in three-point attempts. Both are veterans, and it’s unlikely they remake themselves in their prime, so where do the Silver and Black find the outside-shooting leader to take over games?
— John Elizondo (@johndelizondo) July 26, 2018
Any time the Spurs are questioned, however, they tend to cure anyone’s concerns. They worked through not just Leonard’s injury, but a flurry of ailments to the rest of the roster, became a mid-range team and still won 47 games. Expectations should still be high, and two-pointers can work. It’s just the how for 2018-19.