During their full-season long tank, the San Antonio Spurs have clearly established two things for their fans: they have a lot of promise and young talent, but in their current form, they are just a bad team. The Spurs give up the most points in the NBA and only score the 19th most, so it’s no wonder that they are 14th in the conference and hold the fourth worse record in the NBA.
There are plenty of silver (and black) linings. Jeremy Sochan is producing, Keldon Johnson remains a solid second option, and Tre Jones is breaking out.
Veterans Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott, and Josh Richardson are commanding some serious interest in the trade market, but the asking price remains high. The two wings could provide some serious support for a contender off the bench, but the Spurs are holding out for an unbeatable offer.
That’s not to say that McDermott and Richardson don’t have a role on the Spurs. In fact, from an outsider’s perspective, the second unit might be the only thing keeping the Spurs relevant.
Even casual fans know that winning games is not the goal of this season. Developing the young players, creating chemistry, and adding talent this summer are all the main goals. But while the Spurs are largely floundering, their bench unit has had some massive success.
The Spurs’ bench is among the best in the league
While the Spurs score the 19th most points in the NBA, their starting rotation posts 69.2 points per game, good for the second-worst mark in the league. That means their bench unit scores 43.6 on any given night, which is the best in the Association. In five games off the bench this season, Devin Vassell has posted 19.2 points per game, making him the NBA’s leading bench scorer.
The bench doesn’t just score; they do so very efficiently. The Spurs’ starting unit takes 16.7 threes per night and makes only 33% of those. Both of those numbers are the single worst in the league. Conversely, the bench unit takes 14.6 threes per game–good for fourth in the league. That’s thanks largely to Richardson and McDermott, who combine for 9.3 attempts per game and make 39% of them. As a unit, the Spurs’ bench has the tenth-best three-point percentage in the entire league.
When your starting five–when healthy–is an average of only 24 years old, of course, they won’t produce at a high level. The bench unit has been picking up as much slack as it can, but it can only do so much.
The best-case scenario is that the Spurs use their bench “stars” well and increase their trade value to pull the trigger before the deadline, making the team even younger and future-focused. With a star heading to SA via the draft, the Spurs will soon be one of the more well-rounded teams in the league. For now, fans don’t have much to cling to.