The Masters of the Mid-Range, The San Antonio Spurs

The Masters of the Mid-Range, The San Antonio Spurs
Wed 17th April 2019

The NBA has changed quite a lot since the 2010 NBA Finals,
one of the biggest changes of them all is the popularity of the three-point
shot. Gone are days where the mid-range reigned supreme with signature
fade-away post ups by the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and in comes
the reign of deep three point attempts by the likes of Stephen Curry and James
Harden.

The mid-range shot is all and well truly dead with the
2018-2019 season showing us that by the end of it less than 20% all teams total
attempted field goal shots being considered a mid-range shot and over 35% being
news and that was the 7th seeded San Antonio Spurs. They finished
the season ranking dead last in three point attempts with an average of 25.1, a
difference of 20.3 less attempts than the top ranked Houston Rockets who
average an attempt of 45.4 shots per game (that’s almost half!)

So how exactly does the Spurs stay relevant despite their
lack of three point shooting? It all starts with their two all-stars in DeMar
Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the kings of the mid-range.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors engaged in a
blockbuster trade that sent Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors while
the Spurs attained DeMar Derozan, Jacob Poetl and a first round pick.

The Spurs were built around the talents of Kawhi Leonard,
they had capable three point shooters in Bellineli, Mills and Danny Green.
Kawhi who shoots a career 38% from three point land also attempts his fair few
shots from down-town. LaMarcus Aldridge who usually thrives in the mid-range
was forced to change his game style to accommodate the Spurs fast-paced offense
turning him into a pick and roll passer out the post.

As some of you would know, this lead to some drama between
Spurs coach Greg Popovich and Aldridge, with the latter requesting a trade at
the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Popovich who was determined to keep his key player, told his
player after the request “You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I will
drive you to the airport. I will pack your bags, and I will drive you there”.
They both laughed but Popovich then told him “Short of that, I’m your best
buddy, and you are here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere because
for you talent-wise, we are not going to get what we want so let’s figure this
thing out”.

And figure it out they did.

The Spurs who had a future hall of famer power forward in
Tim Duncan, who was known for his mid-range off the glass shots had mid-range
plays in abundance and Popovich brought these plays back out to make proper use
of his new all-star power forward.


Aldridge thrived and so did the Spurs. He posted a 23.1
point average for the 2017-18 season, he was getting the ball more and was able
to display the reason why every team wanted him after he requested a trade from
excellent three point shooter but his mid-range prowess brought the raptors to
the 1st seed in the East. In losing Kawhi, the Spurs attained
another mid-range player and Popovich had to adapt his team quickly if they
DeRozan that he wouldn’t change the type of player he was but rather try and
build the team around the styles of his key players.

Currently, Aldridge and DeRozan are coming 2nd and 3rd respectively in attempted 2 point field goal attempts in the
league, with the former having 18 mid-range attempts a game and the latter
having 17 mid-range attempts per game.


Most of their three point attempts come from their key bench
players in Patty Mills and Marco Bellineli. This allows the Spurs to play a
very fluid offense dictated by the players on the floor switching from a fast
three point tempo to a grit and grind tempo in posting the ball up.

Their defense is elite with new addition Derrick White and a
defensive center in Poeltl. They rank as the sixth best in defensive rating for
the league.

After making a shock upset in their game against the
Nuggets, Popovich’s trust in his players was paid off. Their efficient use of
the three point attempt and suffocating defense played a big part in their win,
with the Spurs making 7-15 three pointers compared to the Nuggets 6-28.

The Spurs destroyed the Nuggets through their great usage of
their hammer-play, forcing an easy three or an easy lay-up for Aldridge. With
DeRozan and Alridge considered more iso-ball players, it was confusing for many
why the Spurs didn’t run their famous hammer-play sets more often with how much
and it paid off, BIG TIME. 

Statistics taken from teamrankings.com &
nba.com

 

 

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