The Secret to the Spurs’ Hot Offensive Start

Gregg Popovich has an established reputation for having a defensive-minded approach to the game of basketball. Over his 23 years (and counting) coaching the San Antonio Spurs, it has been team-defense anchored by the likes of David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Kawhi Leonard and now Dejounte Murray that has been the true key to the team’s sustained success.

While he has fought against the trend of the game morphing into a glorified three-point shooting contest, the fact is the league is leaving defense as a secondary objective more and more. Lucky for the Spurs, Popovich has demonstrated remarkable adaptability to the changing style of league play over the years and is doing so once again.

Although the season is still very young, San Antonio’s offense has been among the best in the league and not for reasons you’d think. With a 116.7 offensive rating, the Spurs are second only to the Los Angeles Clippers after Saturday’s victory over the Washington Wizards.

Usually, when the Silver and Black are doing well on offense, it’s due to being hot from the outside as a team. Although they shoot three-pointers less often than just about everyone else, they have a history of shooting smart threes and hitting a high percentage of them.

This season so far, San Antonio’s 34.7% three-point shooting has them at 15th in the league while they’ve also attempted the least at 24.5 per game. So what’s the secret to San Antonio being third in the league in points per game (122.0) going into Monday’s matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers?

The Impact of the Spurs’ Bigs on Offense

While there isn’t one big man dominating everyone on the boards, it’s the effort of everyone on the team that has given the Spurs a rebounding edge. Perhaps sparked by the energy of the dynamic Dejounte Murray, crashing the glass has been contagious for the team so far.

The Spurs lead the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 34%, and one factor seems to be Trey Lyles’ insertion into the starting lineup. Lyles has averaged three offensive rebounds per game as the Spurs’ starting power forward, which has given the team extra opportunities on offense.

Jakob Poeltl has also pitched in three offensive rebounds of his own per game in just 15.5 minutes. Even 6-foot-3 Bryn Forbes has grabbed three offensive boards in the first couple of games while, as expected, LaMarcus Aldridge has led the way with seven.

At 15.5 offensive rebounds per game, the Spurs are atop the league and, on related note, they are sitting at fourth in the league in second-chance points at 16.5 points per contest.

With Popovich at the helm, the Spurs have never finished a season as a top-five offensive rebounding team, as he has always preferred strong transition defense over offensive boards. While it’s obviously too early to crown this San Antonio squad as elite offensive rebounders, the trend will be something to watch as quality of opponents increase this week.