Spurs: Stats show White and Murray are defensive terror
By Josh Paredes
We're finally getting to see more of Derrick White and Dejounte Murray sharing the court for the San Antonio Spurs, and the early returns are positive. Due to multiple injuries and COVID-19 protocols last season, the duo only shared the court for 695 of a possible 3,544 minutes last season for a 19.6% rate. So far this season, they've shared the court for 42.6% of the time.
Already standout individual defenders, having them sharing the court for more time is leading to some pesky defense and frustrated opponents. Before Tuesday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs ranked second in the league in opponent turnover rate at 17.1%. The lineup of White and Murray, meanwhile, boasted a 24.1% opponent turnover rate, which was the best for a backcourt in the NBA.
After Tuesday, that number has since dipped to 20% but is still the best two-man lineup on the Spurs among pairs getting regular minutes together. A deeper look into the individual numbers shows us why.
As of Thursday morning, Dejounte Murray is tied for second in the league in deflections with 19 per game. He's also tied for ninth in steals with nine while Derrick White is right behind him with eight.
Beyond getting steals himself, White is also causing turnovers by sacrificing his body -- leading the league in charges drawn at four as of Thursday. He's also contested 34 shots, with 25 of those being inside the 3-point line, using his picture perfect principle of verticality.
After forcing just 13.2 turnovers per game last season (19th in the NBA), it's not a fluke that the Spurs are forcing nearly five more per game this year (18.0 for 5th in the NBA). San Antonio being able to capitalize with points off turnovers to the tune of 20.5 per game (5th) is keeping them in every contest even when their shooting has been off.
While the backcourt has been as advertised defensively, I'd love to see what the Spurs can do with yet another defensive menace on the floor joining them in Devin Vassell. Heading into their game against the Dallas Mavericks, the three have only shared the court for nine total minutes.
While the Doug McDermott injury should increase that number in the coming days, there's no reason those three shouldn't share the court more going forward. Imagine facing a halfcourt trap with Murray, White, and Vassell all involved -- that's trouble waiting to happen.
As Gregg Popovich continues to experiment with minutes and different lineups, one thing is perfectly clear -- White and Murray sharing the court leads to great things more often than not.