Nothing is more satisfying than watching the 2014 San Antonio Spurs offense in motion. Imagine Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter’s perfect timing with the pick-and-roll. Ginobili passes to Splitter in the paint, Splitter makes the extra pass to an open Danny Green in the corner. Splash! Regardless of how Gregg Popovich feels about the three-point shot, it played a pivotal role in the Spurs 2014 title run and was a large part of what made their game so beautiful.
Fast forward five years, The Beautiful Game has become the land of misfit toys. Today’s Spurs team is full of scorers who aren’t great defenders, great defenders who aren’t shooters and shooters that well … can’t really make shots (Marco Belinelli, looking at you.) After boasting the best turnover percentage in the league last year, the Spurs are middle of the pack to begin the 2019-2020 season. Due to more turnovers and a lack of spacing, the offense can be a bit ugly at times. But there is good news.
Not All Hope is Lost
My sentiment on the Spurs offense may seem negative. Yet San Antonio is still capable of winning games and putting up a lot of points on any given night. This is because the Spurs don’t lack talent. Although I compared the Spurs to misfit toys, everyone in the rotation excels at something. Dejounte Murray is a defensive stopper. DeMar DeRozan abuses smaller defenders in the post. LaMarcus Aldridge is a force in the paint and when his jumper is falling, good luck defending him.
There is a strong chance this offense will be a lot more easy on the eyes later in the season. The Spurs are likely just a move or two away from looking like a well-oiled machine again. Historically, the Spurs don’t make many big trades during the season. But when players like DeMarre Carroll can’t even crack the rotation, adjustments need to be made.
Simple indeed. Many fans reading this article aren’t familiar with Paul Heyman and that’s okay. All you need to know is that Heyman successfully ran a wrestling promotion using the mantra, “Accentuate the positives, hide the negatives.” I could talk all day about how this applied to the wrestling business, but that’s not what you’re here for. How can this apply to the Spurs?
While Patty Mills is leading the team shooting an unsustainable 50.0% from deep, Bryn Forbes has taken Belinelli’s role as the premier shooter on this team. Running plays to get Forbes open threes is a recipe for success. The offense runs best when DeRozan is handling the ball, Murray is doing a little bit of everything and Forbes is running around screens firing open threes. Moral of the story: more Forbes, less Belinelli.
The growing consensus is the Spurs will be a better team when Belinelli is out of the rotation altogether. Belinelli’s trade value is likely at an all-time low so sitting him as insurance on the bench is probably San Antonio’s best option. It is a matter of time before Belinelli escapes his shooting slump or Carroll takes his place in the rotation. As poor as Belinelli is shooting the ball right now, it is almost a guarantee Carroll is an in-house option for better shooting and defense. With Carroll, Forbes and hopefully Trey Lyles taking more threes in place of Belinelli, the offense should perform better.
One more in-house adjustment Spurs fans are constantly suggesting is to play Derrick White and Murray together. Having two defensive stoppers on the floor at the same time would obviously make a tremendous difference defensively. I have a strong feeling the offense would take a step up as well. My best guess is that Pop is saving this lineup for later in the season. Games start to matter more and Murray will play more minutes as the season progresses. But at some point White and Murray are going to have to learn to play together and it will lead to some awesome basketball when it happens.
Fear not Spurs fans, there is a lot of young talent on this team. Many of whom won’t reach their potential for at least a few years. If the Spurs make a few in-house changes here and there, Spurs fans are close to enjoying a fun and exciting brand of basketball again. The question remaining is how will this year’s team mesh and gel as they adjust throughout the season compared to teams of yesteryear. Remember, the most successful Spurs teams in the Coach Pop era excelled later in the season, around when the Rodeo Road Trip begins.