A statistical look at the relationship between the San Antonio Spurs, fans and referees

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 16: The San Antonio Spurs players argue with referee Tony Brothers #25 after DeMar DeRozan #10 was called for a loose ball foul against the Portland Trail Blazers at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 16: The San Antonio Spurs players argue with referee Tony Brothers #25 after DeMar DeRozan #10 was called for a loose ball foul against the Portland Trail Blazers at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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A recent study showed that San Antonio Spurs fans are the most likely group to turn to Reddit to complain about referees, and rightfully so.

Despite being one of the most successful franchises in professional sports since the turn of the century, the San Antonio Spurs don’t always get the respect they deserve from referees. Especially for the last two seasons, the Spurs have been a team that relies on drives to the basket to generate their offense.

The Spurs are sixth in the league in drives this year with 50.5 per game but rank just 18th in free throw attempts per game (22.8) despite being a group of physical players. Led by wing DeMar DeRozan, who drives to the basket 20 times per game for the second-highest average in the league.

It’s in the nature of DeRozan’s playstyle to manipulate his defenders into fouls, but he doesn’t always get the call. He only shoots 6.6 free throws per game, which ranks 15th in the league. The only player who drives more than him is Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook, who shoots roughly the same amount of free throws each night. This means that 14 players attack the basket less than DeRozan does and still get rewarded with visits to the charity stripe.

To make matters worse, the next Spur up is big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who only shoots 3.6 free throws per game. Aldridge is a physical post player who bumps bodies with defenders constantly, forcing them to shove him around to prevent pull-up mid-range jumpers and post shots near the rim. Even with that being the case, he’s shooting his fewest free throws per game since his rookie year.

Taking all of this into account, it makes sense that Spurs fans are the most likely to complain about referees on Reddit, as suggested by a study conducted by Casino.org. The information gathered from October 16, 2018 through April 10, 2019 and again from October 22 until November 4, 2019 suggests that Spurs fans are the third most likely fanbase to discuss referees.

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The results of the study also showed that Spurs fans are the most likely to discuss referees negatively on social media. Given all of the information I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a surprising result at all. This team fights and scraps every step of the way, but always ends up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to free-throw attempts.

No, there’s no more Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili carving their way to the basket and earning their foul calls on the way, but that doesn’t mean the players in San Antonio don’t deserve respect. The second-leading player on the drives per game list for the silver and black is Dejounte Murray, who has shot a grand total of 94 free throws this year.

Nine players average between 8.5 and nine drives to the basket per game and every single one of them shoots more free throws than Dejounte does with the exception of Memphis Grizzlies swingman Justice Winslow, who played 1095 less minutes than him this season.

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So for as long as the referees are going to keep the Spurs off the charity stripe, fans will be heading over to Reddit and other social media platforms to make their voices heard.

*H/T to Luis Sorto for passing along the information*

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