Corporate Knowledge: January 11, 2013
Following their disappointing win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich lamented the lack of tempo and precision in his team’s offense.
“I thought we were really raggedy on offense to the point where I didn’t know who was out on the court,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “I didn’t recognize that basketball team.”
Pace has been an important factor in the Spurs offense. Their tempo isn’t exactly as warp speed as Mike D’Antoni’s best Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns teams, but the Spurs do follow a similar philosophy. The aim is not necessarily to earn a lot of fast break points, but the quicker the Spurs can get into their offensive sets, the less prepared a defense is to handle them, and the more time the Spurs have to explore their options.
Rob Mahoney of the Point Forward dug into some statistics as they relate to the shot clock and found some interesting information on the Spurs:
“On the other end of the spectrum are the tried-and-true Spurs, who have been the NBA’s most lethally efficient team to date when it comes to working through the body of the shot clock. The initial transition push is crucial for San Antonio, but where the Spurs really excel is in the quick initiation of their half-court offense. There’s no hiccup between rebuffed fast break and slow-down set; Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili merely dribble back out to the perimeter and immediately trigger the progressions of their half-court offense. As a result, they posted truly impressive shooting marks (as measured by effective field goal percentage) from 11-20 seconds into a given possession — just after the secondary break has come and gone but notably before the late-possession panic sets in. They’ve been particularly dominant in the 11-15 second range, in which their advantage over the second-place team (Houston) in eFG% is equivalent to the gap between second and 10th (Golden State).”
Popovich has admitted the Spurs still have problems working from a standstill against more athletic teams, which is why the onus is on Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili to get the Spurs into their sets quickly and get the ball moving around.
Each has pushed the pace at times, but have held onto the ball perhaps a fraction of a second more than the team needs. Another factor in the Spurs’ recent struggles is incorporating Gary Neal back into the rotation as a backup point guard while he remains less than one hundred percent.
In another great piece from Rob Mahoney he notes the Spurs improved defenses and attributes all of it to a resurgent Duncan (the defense has improved even with Kawhi Leonard being absent for a bit).
I would include some of the benefits of continuity (the Spurs stars have been the same but there has been a bit of roster turnover the past five seasons) have helped the Spurs funnel penetration a little better towards Duncan, but Mahoney is absolutely right in stating that a championship level defense is possible for as long as Duncan can maintain his level of play—which was always the case.
Buck Harvey of the Express-News notes that Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a similar injury to one that sidelined Duncan from defending his first NBA championship. It’s interesting to note that writers then were just as quick to call Duncan soft as they are to call the Redskins reckless today.
J. Gomez of Pounding the Rock takes a look at Nando De Colo’s season, providing perspective and possible expectations.
Our own Tim Varner made a return to his keyboard, which in turn inspired me to return to this feature, in a 5-on-5 roundtable on ESPN. Some would say he goes a little overboard with this:
“Duncan is, arguably, the best big to ever play basketball. He’s done more with less individually and collectively — Duncan’s career win percentage and championship rings are far more impressive when one considers the relative lack of talent he’s played alongside — than any player in history.”
But I’ll stand up and give my own take. Tim Duncan is a top ten player in the NBA and though historians would put Kobe Bryant over Duncan, Bryant was not a better player. Given a chance to start a team from any of the NBA’s greats, with a salary cap in place, I’d pick Duncan second to only Michael Jordan.
Most people would call it a homer pick, and it absolutely is, but it’s one that can be defended rationally. An in-his-prime Duncan could anchor an offense and defense in a way that allowed you an infinite number of possibilities from which to build your roster because he could adapt to any style and play with any teammate.