San Antonio Spurs have protected the ball nicely in recent stretch
By Dylan Carter
Mediocrity has become familiar for the San Antonio Spurs this year, so it’s reassuring to see them lead in a specifically telling stat category as of late.
Turnovers can ruin momentum, limit offensive chances and offer opportunities to the opponent, which is why the San Antonio Spurs have always emphasized methodical decision-making with control of the ball. Even though they haven’t been quite up to par this season, old habits die hard and some things remain consistent even in the toughest times.
Though it’s taken them some time to get into the swing of it, this year’s group has been in a good groove lately in terms of protecting the basketball. They’ve facilitated for each other in their last 10 games with five players averaging at least 2.5 assists and only one player averaging more than 1.5 turnovers per contest. That player just so happens to be the one who touches the ball most frequently for the team, wing scorer and facilitator DeMar DeRozan.
Over the course of their last 10 games, San Antonio ranks No. 1 in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio at 2.3. In broader terms, the Spurs are the team whose passes generate the most assists in contrast with turnovers. In that span, the Spurs are averaging 24.1 assists and the least turnovers of any team at 10.5 per game.
On average, San Antonio turns the ball over less than any other team this year with 12.4 errors per contest and has improved upon that as of late. This correlates directly with a boost of production from starting point guard Dejounte Murray, who’s averaging four assists to only one turnover per game in his last 10 as opposed to his 2.1 turnovers per game prior to this shift.
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Not only is Murray playing an efficient all-around game, but he’s getting his teammates involved more often while limiting a lot of the mistakes that stymied his growth earlier in the year.
When the Spurs selected him out of Washington in 2016, Murray was ripe when it came to point-guard-play. Though he’s a leader by nature, his skill as a passer, floor general and decision-maker have come along slowly. With that in mind, Dejounte has 28 assists in his last five games and only one turnover, so he’s really turning a corner in that department.
Stretches like this bode well for the future of the Spurs and tell a very distinct story about the brand of basketball that’s being taught by head coach Gregg Popovich and the team’s large development staff. Basketball fundamentals are and always will be at the root of Spurs basketball, and the balance between assists and turnovers is a huge part of that.
Popovich is teaching his players to play the right way, so even if the elusive playoff streak comes to an end this year, at least the young guys are getting a strong baseline for what comes next.