Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

    Spurs’ defense dominates December

    Like all major team sports, basketball analytics are on the rise, and the 2015-16 Spurs are absolute analytical darlings.

    The traditional method of measuring offensive potency and defensive consistency by points per game is out the window as offensive and defensive ratings have become more common.

    These stats are often called “efficiency ratings” because they measure scoring and prevention rates rather than point totals, and they have become some of the most useful stats for measuring team proficiency on both sides of the ball.

    Using raw points per game to indicate offensive or defensive proficiency can be problematic because every team plays at a different pace.

    Pace is a statistic that represents the number of possessions per game. Teams with lower pace can be expected to score less because they have less opportunity to score, and vice-versa.

    Disparities in scoring opportunities due to differences in pace can skew traditional scoring statistics, so offensive ratings provide for better analysis by making pace a non-factor.

    Offensive efficiency indicates the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions. Defensive efficiency indicates the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions. Net efficiency is the difference between the two.

    In December 2015, the Spurs posted a net efficiency of 20.4, a higher rating than any team has earned in a single month over the past 19 years.

    This stretch of games earned Head Coach Gregg Popovich the commendation of Western Conference Coach of the Month, an honor he claims not to care about even a little bit.

    Kawhi Leonard, last year’s defensive player of the year, was the Spurs’ best player through December. His 90.6 defensive rating led the team in both categories, and now that he’s the league’s most efficient 3-point shooter, he’s a weapon from everywhere in the offensive zone.

    Another player with an interesting stat line is recent addition Boban Marjanovic, a 7-foot-3 center from Serbia.

    Marjanovic’s sample size is small because he has averaged only seven minutes per game over 21 games. But so far, his net efficiency is tenth among all NBA players who have played 15 or more games.

    He has also brought down 25 percent of the total rebounds in his time on the court, a higher percentage than any player in the league.

    Those stats are likely to level out when he starts playing more minutes, but it’s undeniable that Marjanovic is a dominant player every time he’s on the court.

    On the season, the Spurs are leading the league with a 95.79 defensive rating, over 5 points better than the next-best team.

    On a list of NBA players with the best defensive efficiency ratings – omitting any player who has played fewer than 15 games – 12 Spurs appear in the top 20.

    Thanks to some rising stars injecting the team with energy, the guidance of future Hall of Fame veterans and the tact of the best coaching staff in the NBA, the Spurs are once again quietly proving themselves as the best in the West.