"The Spurs have fallen behind the modern NBA."
Even though Coach Popovich has never been a fan of the 3-point shot, there was a time when he was still able to utilize it to the team's advantage. Unfortunately, those days are over now. The NBA has been an outside-in league for a few years now, and the extent to how true that is is only growing with each passing season.
What made the mid-2010s Spurs successful wasn't how they were shooting fewer threes -- it was their efficiency. In their last championship season, they were in the middle of the pick at 16th in outside attempts per game but number one in percentage. The following season, they were 15th and 6th, respectively. Here's how the last six seasons have gone in those statistics -- I'll let the numbers speak for themselves.
2016 Spurs: 26th in 3PA, 2nd in 3P% - Finished 67-15
2017 Spurs: 25th in 3PA, 1st in 3P% - Finished 61-21
2018 Spurs: 27th in 3PA, 26th in 3P% - Finished 47-35
2019 Spurs: 30th in 3PA, 1st in 3P% - Finished 48-34
2020 Spurs: 28th in 3PA, 4th in 3P% - Finished 32-39
2021 Spurs: 30th in 3PA, 24th in 3P% - Finished 33-39
There are some very telling things in this data. Firstly, shooting a high percentage from three doesn't always lead to a great record, just as shooting a low percentage doesn't spell certain doom. But shooting efficiently certainly helps a great deal when consistently shooting fewer than everyone else.
Last season's team was dead last in threes taken even though they attempted 28.4 per game. By the way, the title-winning 2014 squad averaged 16 attempted threes per game.
As the reliance on 3-pointers continues to grow exponentially, it's important for the Spurs to significantly increase their perimeter shooting in both attempts and percentage if they want to succeed.
Luckily, many of the Spurs' offseason moves appear to indicate they know one of their biggest weaknesses, and current Spurs like Derrick White have hinted at shooting more from the outside this season.