5 Reasons the San Antonio Spurs Are So Good Again
Entering the season, the San Antonio Spurs attracted the usual collection of naysayers—those who simply could not see the veteran team recovering from last season's heartbreak.
Few are speaking critically of the league's best team anymore.
Even for the Spurs, this is quite impressive. Currently sporting a 13-1 record, San Antonio is off to its best start in franchise history.
The Spurs are the epitome of a well-oiled machine, and every gear is running smoothly.
As usual, the Spurs have found themselves on top early on, and they can thank a number of factors for their ongoing success.
Despite having numerous capable stars on the roster, the Spurs have never relied on isolation to score.
The team's collective distributing ability makes that strategy nonsensical.
With strong perimeter passers in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli along with talented post distributors in Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter, ball movement is stressed heavily. The perimeter shooters put the ball in the basket, but the play rarely starts in that player's hands.
With the second highest assist ratio in the league, per NBA.com, the Spurs are clearly adept at moving the ball around—a prime contributor to the team's ability to find open shooters and score easy baskets.
It's easy to label the Spurs as "old," but the word has a negative connotation.
Given their continued success, "experienced" suits the team more, since it can be associated with a number of positive qualities—one of which is intelligence.
The team's veterans, as well as the younger talents, all exhibit a high basketball IQ.
From top to bottom, the roster rarely makes boneheaded mistakes—and if they do, you can bet that Gregg Popovich won't let them forget it.
Playing smart is important and its consequences are visible.
The team commits a league-best 17.7 fouls per game, rarely giving opponents the opportunity to snatch up free points.
Also eye-catching is their top ranked assist-to-turnover ratio. They pass a lot, as mentioned earlier, but that doesn't lead to more turnovers. The players are smart and their high-intelligence play robs opponents of easy scores that other teams may let up.
Commanding the Paint
Having the best three-point attack never hurts, but many a contest is decided in the paint, and San Antonio certainly doesn't lack inside production.
Going back to their high-IQ playing style, the Spurs will always elect to take a high percentage shot over a low one. Their penchant for shooting three-pointers is simply reflective of the vast number of wide-open opportunities that result from top-tier ball movement.
Inside is where the majority of the team's points are scored.
Duncan, despite struggling immensely, is known for his soft touch inside. His lack of production has been offset by the resurgence of Diaw and high-level play from Splitter.
Even the guards seemingly find their way into the key more often than not. Parker constantly boasts a position-best field-goal percentage, and the number of inside opportunities is the primary reason as to why.
They have the fourth best points in the paint total in the league, even with Duncan in a slump. Once he—their leading post performer—regains his mojo, an already unstoppable inside attack will become that much stronger.
Between a three-point shooting onslaught and an elite post presence, the Spurs' offense cannot be ignored.
That said, the team's biggest success thus far has been its play on the other side of the court.
With the second best defense statistically speaking, the Spurs are not only scoring in loads, but also preventing the other team from doing so.
The team has maintained a strong percentage down low, making it difficult for even the most adept power players to dominate. When San Antonio played the Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Randolph was reduced to a deplorable 33 percent shooting.
This narrative has been constant throughout the season, as a post tandem of Duncan and Splitter has spelled trouble for opponents.
Similarly, the peskiness of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green has helped spark a perimeter defense that can stifle even the most talented shooters.
Not to mention, the Spurs' defensive rebounding percentage leads the league.
The team is rolling on all cylinders, but it has been the hampering defense that is responsible for such prosperity.
Tony Parker isn't the sole reason for the Spurs' success, but he's certainly the primary catalyst.
With Duncan in a slump, Parker—though already the top dog—has been forced into an even bigger role. He's averaging over 18 points per game, but more impressive is his 54 percent shooting.
How many guards can do that? Not very many.
He's simply too versatile; the veteran floor leader is as skilled a distributor as the franchise has ever seen, and his ability to score from virtually anywhere makes him a relentless threat.
Whether he's orchestrating or scoring, Parker has established himself beside Chris Paul in the upper echelon of point guards today, and his great play has been a leading cause for the team's success.