After allowing an average of 121.8 points per night over the first four games of the season, the San Antonio Spurs have transformed their defense.
An abysmal start to the year on the defensive end of the ball has been offset by a fantastic stretch. Over the last four games played, the Spurs lead the NBA in Defensive Rating at 95.2, a shocking turnaround from a slow start.
While he may not have the reputation to back it up, All-NBA power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has elevated his play as he’s aged and matured in San Antonio. Standing at 6-foot-11 and 240 lbs, Aldridge has the ideal size, strength and stature required of an elite rim protector.
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On the perimeter, hybrid forward Dante Cunningham has been an excellent help since his insertion to the starting lineup. The veteran wing has been crucial in establishing a defensive culture with this new-look San Antonio team. With a long wingspan and well-established basketball IQ, Cunningham consistently shifts around the perimeter to cover shooters and help teammates.
Even with a limited number of sound perimeter defenders in San Antonio, it’s still wholly possible for this team to keep the trend going over the course of the season. During the twenty-year run put together by the Spurs organization, an emphasis on team-based defense has remained one of the most important aspects to team success.
It doesn’t matter who retires or who gets traded, the defensive identity of the Spurs will continue to hold through. Whether or not this team can weather the storm of the Western Conference’s elite is to be determined, but it’s evident that they’re prepared to try their hardest to make opponents uncomfortable on offense.
While the backcourt duo of Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan is less than ideal from a defensive standpoint, both players continue to give maximum effort when on the floor. Head coach Gregg Popovich has taught many guards how to play efficient perimeter defense during his long tenure as the Spurs’ leader.
There’s still plenty of time left in the season but this recent improvement is a great sign of things to come.