The Spurs are on an eight game losing streak and have only won one of their last 14 games. Does your free fall after the big start surprise you at all?
Marilyn Dubinski: While I didn’t necessarily have them going 1-13 at any point, I was more surprised by the 5-2 start than the subsequent free fall. That strong start triggered some false hopes that Spurs would be better than bottom of the league, but a series of injuries and a tough, dense schedule have exposed their weaknesses. As the schedule loosens up with more rest days, it’s likely they’ll go back to something more in between the two very different versions we’ve seen this season, but at this point I think the good start was more of a mirage than the fall. free.
Mark Barrington: If all of this had happened after the 129-102 thrashing of Game 1 against the Hornets, I would have taken it all in stride, but the 5-2 start made me believe that the Spurs were capable of performing well above what was expected. I expected from a group of young players trying to find a way to win. I think that start said more about the Timberwolves’ dysfunction than it did about the talent level of the young Spurs. I think the Josh Primo situation has affected the team, if not emotionally, then simply by devastating the guard rotation, made even worse by the injury to Blake Wesley.
Bruno Steps: Not completely. You expect even bad teams to steal a win in any 8-game period, but you also expect bad teams to have 8-loss spells in a sample size of 82 games, so I guess this feels a little more jarring in the moment. . The way they’re losing is probably the most surprising detail, with a net rating of minus 18.2, easily the worst in the league over that span. They have not only lost games, but have been crushed for the most part.
Jesus Gomez: The good start probably confused us all a bit, but what’s happening now is more in line with the expectations most had at the start of the season than the positive record Spurs had earlier. It seems that, without injuries, the team could have avoided such a steep fall, but it is also understandable that the coaching staff is very careful even with minor illnesses, since the idea this year was not to compete for the playoffs, but to compete for the playoffs. developing young players for the future, and keeping them healthy plays a big part in that. As others have mentioned, what’s a bit worrying is just how bad the losses have been, but the record doesn’t really matter this season.
The Spurs rank last in defensive rating in the league. Are there any realistic changes they can make to improve in the short term?
Dubinski: I don’t think there are many, if any, lineup changes that could cause them to change the defense right now. All of the starters have the tools to be good defenders individually, and overall they still have a relatively respectable net rating of -1.7. More than anything, team execution has been the big problem during freefall. Rotations have been slow (or non-existent) at times, and since rotations don’t happen when double-teaming in the post, shooters stay wide open and have been hitting their shots. Perhaps a change in scheme combined with more rest will help, but these are all classic traits of a young team that needs to learn and grow.
Barrington: I think having Tre Jones as the only point guard on the roster is probably not optimal, since he’s not a good defender against taller players (which is everyone else on the floor) and when he’s out, his replacements are even worse. Jeremy Sochan is going to be a good defender, but right now, he’s working too much freelance to fill the gaps being left by other players missing his assignments. He will improve as he learns to play and the defense in general gains more discipline. I think the Spurs change too much, and it’s too easy for teams to isolate Jones, leading to Jakob or another big man having to help, resulting in a collapse of the defensive concept. Romeo Langford is probably the second-best defender among guards (after Devin), and he probably should get more court time until Wesley returns. Branham isn’t much of a defender right now, but he’ll likely have plenty of court time this year to learn on the job in a rebuilding season.
Steps: Bolstering the transition defense would feel like the lowest fruit out there at this point, as that can be more of an effort/focus thing, and because that’s where opponents have hit them extremely efficiently and with a large volume. The midcourt rotations have also been lacking, typically being sold on pick and rolls to stop the ball handler and opening up for cutters, rim runners, and setbacks. They are also being beaten by jumpers at a high and potentially unsustainable rate, but I think being on the same page in transition might be your best bet for trending right as the year progresses.
Gomez: There are so many things going wrong and so many of them are intertwined that it’s hard to focus on just one thing. The defense at the point of attack is bad, but partly because there are some unnecessary changes, which also hurt on the boards, for example. Health and continuity is probably the only thing that can help improve defense right now. There are too many players moving in and out of rotation for units to develop any cohesion. Hopefully that will change soon, at least long enough for the guys to get the most minutes to at least understand how to play each other.
The Spurs rank 27th in offensive rating in the league. Are there any realistic changes they can make to improve in the short term?
Dubinski: The bad offense is more expected. The Spurs went into the season without a scorer and outside shooters, and the results speak for themselves. Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson have tried admirably to play the part (and have at times), but Johnson isn’t much of a creator and has been on a rough patch. Outside of those two, the offense has to flow smoothly for everyone else to contribute, and while it did for the first seven games, all the injuries and lineup changes since then have sapped the team of what little chemistry they had. built.
The only change I can think of that would improve the offense in the short term is starting Doug McDermott to create more movement off the ball and provide more outside shooting for that unit, but Spurs are too interested in developing Jeremy Sochan to bother. making a move that probably won’t change the win/loss results much (if at all). Not to mention, that move would further hurt the defense and take away the bench unit’s only constant source of points, so it won’t happen.
Barrington: The problem is, other than Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, who is collapsing, no one on the Spurs offense can open up the floor and open up the offense. Jakob has a great offensive game inside six feet of the basket, but the paint can clog up if the opponent doesn’t have to protect shooters. Collins has looked good during times when he was healthy, but he’s still inconsistent. Jeremy Sochan in the starting lineup is obviously problematic for offense, because his shooting hasn’t developed yet and he’s still figuring out how to pass and distribute the ball. He’s learning on the job, and the Spurs are willing to see him take his lumps as long as it doesn’t break his confidence, which seems pretty indomitable to me. The trials he’s enduring this season will make him a much more valuable player in the future, and the losses that stem from his struggles are just part of the plan for a franchise that isn’t overly committed to winning this year.
The question was about short term improvement, but I am convinced that the front office does not care about the short term. If they did, they would bring in more players, because there are some available who could help this team, but doing so would take young players off the court where they are gaining useful experience.
Steps: I agree with Marilyn that this ranking isn’t all that surprising with what we knew prior to the year, plus Sochan’s additional experimental role. That said, the Spurs were shooting 27% from deep before their most recent loss to LA (in which they went 18-for-37), which definitely hasn’t helped and could pick up a bit. They’ve also been terrible on defense, and as Doug McDermott recalled in a recent postgame press conference, the offense really struggles when you’re constantly getting the ball out of your own net. I think between the regression to the mean from beyond the arc, a bit of injury “luck” and marginal improvements in D transition, there is realistic room for improvement.
Gomez: The easiest way to improve offense would be to run more but to do that the team needs to get stops, steals and rebounds, and that’s not something he can do consistently. That leaves the return of Blake Wesley as the only other realistic option for a serious upgrade. It’s a lot of responsibility to put in a rookie, but this team desperately needs another ball handler so the big boys don’t have to spread the ball around as much, especially now that opponents know the Spurs want to cut and take delivery after delivery. and they are prepared to stop them. If Wesley can go downhill for the second unit and attract defensive attention, others could get easier shots, which should help increase shooting percentage from outside.