Question #1: The dominating philosophy within the NBA over the last few years has been to shoot as many threes as you can, get to the rim as much as possible, and limit your mid-range attempts. But with two stars who frequent the mid-range jumper in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs are forgoing all of those concepts- and thriving. How is it that despite going against what is thought to be the mathematically sound way of selecting shots, the Spurs still find a way to succeed?
I think the key words are shot selection. The Spurs are finding the shots each of their player are most comfortable with, and they’ve built a system where each player is getting the shots he prefers. For DeRozan, Aldridge, and Rudy Gay, that’s the mid-range. For the outside shooters like Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, and Davis Bertans, it’s the threes. The Spurs have been able to build a top-10 offense this season around a team that on paper looks like you described – takes the most mid-range shots, but the least amount of shots at the rim and from three. This team almost has two identities on offense. There’s the starting group made of up Derrick White, Forbes, DeRozan, Gay, and Aldridge, who play at a slower pace and prefer to seek certain matchups to attack the defense. Then the bench unit checks in and the tempo increases, along with the volume of 3s.
Question #2: After over a decade of consistently being championship contenders, the Spurs have become a team that is good enough to win some games and make the playoffs, but not one good enough to be a serious threat once the playoffs come around. And while many fanbases would love to simply be able to root for a consistently good team, this is somewhat of a fall from grace for a Spurs franchise that was once in the title hunt every year. How have fans responded to what is essentially the new norm in San Antonio?
I think the fans are honest and know the reality that this current construction of this team isn’t close to competing with a fully healthy Golden State Warriors team. But, when it comes to the other 29 teams in the league, there isn’t one team who stands out from the Spurs. The Spurs have demonstrated this and brought the confidence level of the fans up by getting wins against all 10 of the teams with the best records so far except the Bucks. The amount of winning the Spurs put together in December up until early January, where they won 14 of 18 games in dominating fashion, makes the fans think while this team might not be Finals bound, they can win a few playoff rounds as long as they avoid the Warriors.
Question #3: Now, shifting to tonight’s game specifically- what is one matchup within Sixers vs. Spurs that you’re excited to see?
I’m excited to see the rematch between LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Embiid. Both bigs play retro by getting physical and trying to score in the post, then both can stretch the floor with the spot-up and pick-and-pop jumper, though Embiid can shoot from the three more comfortably than Aldridge. Since December, Aldridge has picked up his play, while Embiid has been dominating all season. Aldridge (20 points, 10 rebounds) had the better game when the two teams met in December, so I’m eager to see how Embiid (13 points, 11 rebounds last time) responds in this matchup while Aldridge himself is still playing well.
Big thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer our questions!