Statistics back the San Antonio Spurs’ hot start to the 2019-20 season
The San Antonio Spurs are one of three undefeated teams to start the 2019-20 regular season and their stats back up their play.
Continuity is a major key to success in the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs have it in boatloads. The majority of this group is carrying over from last season with the exception of DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles, who fit into the team’s culture seamlessly for their selfless and team-based attitudes.
Although the margins of victory have been tight, the Spurs have been one of the best scoring teams in the NBA because of their methodical shot selection. With the tandem of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge as the foundation, San Antonio is one of the most effective teams in the league when it comes to 2-point scoring.
The Spurs lead the league in percentage of 2-point field goal attempts at 74.3% while ranking fifth in percentage of points in the paint at 47.6%. As a result, the team ranks second in average field goal percentage, making 48.2% of their 92 shots per game.
Similarly to last season, the Spurs have used the 3-point line sparingly to begin the season. They take the second-fewest triples of any team on average but haven’t been making them nearly as efficiently at a 33.8% clip in the early going. However, head coach Gregg Popovich has given the green light to his shooters to launch when their looks are available.
Guards Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills are combining to make 43.1% of 12.3 triples per game, accounting for 52.1% of San Antonio’s threes. The absence of forward Davis Bertans is clearly showing as the team’s 3-point shooting has declined, but they’re making up for his absence by launching their triples within team sets.
The Spurs have shot a whopping 95.8% of their threes off of assists, ranking No. 2 in the league behind another undefeated team in the Philadelphia 76ers. In contrast, they rank No. 16 in 2-point shots off of assists. This is an alternate version of the team’s “Beautiful Basketball” style that brought the franchise to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.
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Defensively, this team leaves a lot to be desired. Sloppy offense has translated to lackluster defense as the Spurs are allowing 19.7 fastbreak points and 21 points off of turnovers on average through three games. Even with the athletic spark provided by the return of Dejounte Murray, Popovich’s group is still having trouble keeping up with speedy and athletic opponents.
They’ve made up for this by working to control the paint by attacking the boards and defending shots near the rim. Six players are averaging five or more rebounds including three guards in Forbes, Murray and DeRozan. This extra effort has been pivotal in creating transition looks and limiting offensive rebounds.
San Antonio is locked into a three-way tie with Philly and Milwaukee for the second-highest block average per game. Knocking away seven shots each game has been huge for a Spurs team posting a defensive rating of 107.5 for the 19th rank in the NBA.
The Spurs aren’t perfect and there’s still plenty of work to be done in order to compete for a championship this year, but this group has been widely beneficial in multiple areas on both ends of the floor this year and have a lot to build off of moving into the future.