Everyone who’s a NBA nerd like me has certainly been passing the last month or so over analyzing teams while waiting for pre-season and real games to come. I have been looking at the new San Antonio Spurs and realizing what Demar DeRozan alongside LaMarcus Aldridge actually means: midrange shots festival every single night.
Last season LaMarcus led the league in midrange shots with 553 field goal attempts. Also last season, DeRozan led the Eastern Conference with 504 field goal attempts from midrange. Both finished the regular season in the top 5 of field goal attempts, averaging almost 6 per game.
The San Antonio Spurs finished the season with 47 wins and ranking fourth-fewest in three points per game and third-most in midrange attempts.
We all know the Spurs have been always a step ahead for past decade or two, so the departure of three of the their best three point shooters of last year’s roster this season can’t be a coincidence. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili.
I know what you’re thinking. They didn’t have much choice by letting those guys leave? Well, partly true. Kawhi wanted to leave but still, the Spurs could have asked for some three pointers in return. It was just a matter of trying to make a three team trade work. It was doable. Instead they added the guy who hit 7 of 9 from three in a NBA Finals game back in 2013 to the Kawhi package. And about the departure of Ginobili? Well, ok. I give you that one. He was going to retire either way. However(!), Pop could still have pursued a three and D guy is not to the opening slot but I guess he saw something in the rookie Lonnie Walker IV.
Toronto took 1,015 shots from midrange last season. Aldridge and DeMar took 1,057 combined. More than five teams in the association. All while shooting 42.5 percent from that area of the court. Again: the percentage is still higher than five NBA teams last of the past season.
DeRozan is a pick and roll guru. He thrives in that format. Expectations are high to watch DeRozan and Lamarcus playing the two on two game. LaMarcus will actually benefit from playng the pick and pop or roll with the guy from Compton, because of the attention DeRozan brings when he passes the screen. Defenses know they have to keep close to DeeMar as he’s passing the screen otherwise that’s nothing but net. LaMarcus will be the side-kick most of the times instead of the main actor he’s been use to be his whole career while playing pick and rolls.
Back in 2015, I’ve signed a column in the portuguese press called “While the Spurs zig, others zag” stating exactly the idea the Spurs try to be always ahead of the curve. It was true than, still true today as Rob Mahoney, from Sports Ilustrated, wrote it this last July.
“San Antonio clearly thinks the game differently. After running one of the more crowded offenses in the league a season ago, the Spurs have doubled down on congestion by trading Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for a package built around DeMar DeRozan. Gone are two of San Antonio’s best perimeter shooters. In their place, DeRozan— a bastion of the mid-range game—will vie for the same arcs and spaces used most by LaMarcus Aldridge.”
Too many mid-range shooters on the floor staying stagnant in midrange areas it’s actually the antithesis of what Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs head coach style of play use to look like. Moreover if there’s no three point threats on the floor, defenses easily can contain the two against two pick and roll game by having more possibilities to stay close to middle and being able to help. So I’m really curious about what Chef Pop is going to present us this year for dinner. But mark my words: he’s cooking something special and the dishes name is Midrange fest.