Last season's San Antonio Spurs were underwhelming in most major categories, which resulted in a predictably underwhelming end to their campaign. Ending up well out of the top 10 in both offensive (21st) and defensive (17th) rating, the Spurs sputtered to a 33-39 finish and failed to advance past the first game of the play-in tournament.
With a refreshed head coach and fresh new faces heading into the 2022 season, there's a chance these Spurs can exceed their expectations. To do so, they'll need to let go of some past bad habits and develop new, effective ways to be successful in the ever-changing NBA landscape.
I've been shouting it from the rooftops for a couple of years now, and I'm about to do so again -- the Spurs simply cannot fight off the three-ball any longer. They've consistently been at or near the bottom of the league in 3-point attempts for years, and without stars to make up for that fact, it's led to disappointing finishes.
By acquiring a couple of the best shooters in the league in Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes, the Spurs showed they were ready to buck their annual trend this summer. Drafting Joshua Primo and Joe Wieskamp while obtaining Jock Landale from the NBL also hinted that shooting was a priority going forward.
Fortunately, the preseason was an indication that the Silver and Black are finally ready to fire away from deep more than ever before. In the 2020-21 season, 31.4% of the shots San Antonio took were from downtown, which was dead last in the league.
Through five preseason games, the Spurs shot 38.2% of their shots from beyond the arc, an increase of 6.8%. While it still had them in the bottom third of preseason teams at 22nd, that much of an increase is a big step to what they should be working toward.
After finishing 24th in 3-point percentage last season at 35%, their slight increase to 35.2% in the preseason had them at 12th, but that's factoring in Derrick White's extremely forgettable 6-of-27 stretch. I expect that number to increase quite a bit as time goes on.
On paper, it looked clear the Spurs have better 3-point shooters this season, and that was confirmed in the preseason. The season leaders in 3-point percentage last season were Rudy Gay at 38.1% and Patty Mills at 37.5%.
Of every Spur that had at least 10 3-point attempts in the preseason, four shot 40% or better:
Joshua Primo, 5/10 - 50%
Bryn Forbes, 24/52 - 48.1%
Doug McDermott, 9/21 - 42.9%
Dejounte Murray, 6/15 - 40%
Not only were the Spurs slightly more accurate overall, but their increase in threes taken allowed for a more efficient and less predictable offense. Taking more threes will be essential for this team to succeed, as hot-shooting nights can bail them out when the inevitable periods of offensive stagnation rear their ugly heads.
With this roster, there's no reason the Spurs should finish in the bottom third in the league in threes taken this season, and that can only help their cause.