SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO

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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#41 » by GREY 1769 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:00 am

Small sample size, but an interesting pattern to look out for. Considering this is a new starting line-up, with three new starters, a positive trend:
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#42 » by GREY 1769 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:45 pm

PRACTICE 11 - July 29, 2020

It's getting to that time when the team closes its doors on practices in preparation for the season. Slim pickings:
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But there is this snippet of a tremendous closeout. At least he had his hand up to contest the shot *better than Bryn* :lol:
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#43 » by GREY 1769 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:51 pm

PRACTICE 11:
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#44 » by GREY 1769 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:56 pm

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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#45 » by GREY 1769 » Wed Sep 9, 2020 10:24 pm

Ok so I've been thinking about doing a bubble play review for a while now. Pandemic time has reduced my ability to focus to about 38 seconds so I'm trying to build it up again.

Anyway, who had us at 5-2 going into the final bubble game with a shot at the playoffs? There were some voting options on Twitter about our bubble results and I chose 6-2 but it was nowhere near the most popular selection. Most were in the 2-6, 3-5 range, and that's before we found out that we'd be without three starters and sixth man Patty.

I loved how we played, I loved the changes we made, I loved how we came together and stayed resilient, and I loved that we looked better, more energized, and enjoying playing together throughout it all.

Because LMA, Trey, Bryn, and Patty (for the most part) were out, we went the 'development' route, but I say that in quotes because I think it was the baseline accomplishment from the bubble experience. That's good of itself, but I do think that that stated goal also took some pressure off a team relying on entirely new line-ups to try to keep the playoff streak alive. And I think we fought for that goal hard.

That we fell just short was greatly mitigated by the spirited way we showed up and played, by the prepared and gutsy alterations to our style of play, and by the inspired raising of the games of so many players.

Before getting into those details, I think the development was also about revving up the experience of our assistant coaches. Before this season began, both Messina and Udoka left for other teams. Messina was sort of expected as he'd interviewed for other HC positions and there was word about a week before it was finalized that he may be going to Europe for a while. But Udoka came out of nowhere and I wonder if we were blindsided by the news.

There was an article making the move smell like roses by snake Jabari Young, so I thought there's more to it. He's taken enough shots at the Spurs organization and its methods for a long enough time that I don't trust his spin on anything. Of course the Spurs would be publicly supportive, but considering Messina had left, this would have made Udoka the lead assistant. He left instead to be Brown's lead assistant and since there were already loud whispers after last season about Brown being on the hot seat, my immediate sense upon hearing the news then was that he left to maneuver into a potential HC position. Nothing wrong with that of itself, but I think it happened suddenly and quickly and we were left trying to fill a position we didn't think we'd need to.

Thankfully Timmy stepped up for Pop, and we moved Will Hardy to the front bench and Mitch Johnson up to an assistant coach position to fill out the assistant roles along with Becky and Chip. The point being we had a far younger bench in terms of assistant coaching experience. Each brings his or her areas of expertise and specialization, but this brings us back to the bubble.

I thought it was a great move by Pop to have each of Becky, Mitch and Will to coach a game, one per scrimmage in that order. These were small sample sizes, but overall I thought that the team responded best to Will. Thinking back, there were several factors that could have contributed to this: he coached the final game, so there was already some continuity with the new line-ups. I also gave Will credit for not playing Bryn but found out later that Bryn was out with a quad tightness or something along those lines. Finally, that was our only scrimmage win, so feel good vibes resonated all around.

Still, I thought Will's line-ups, his timeouts to address things he didn't like, his engagement on the sidelines, and the way the team responded stood out well. That's not a knock on Becky or Mitch, they didn't look at all out of place, but coming into the scrimmages without preconceived expectations, these were just my impressions. Will directed and led the team well and the team responded by executing well. There was probably some better focus as this was the final prep game before the ones that counted, so that likely worked in the favour of better overall focus and cohesion, nevertheless, sometimes things could go the other way under increasing pressure for young guys to perform well, so full credit to the coaches and players for trending the right way at the right time and stepping up when it all counted.

Chip is our longest-tenured assistant in his fifteenth season, then Becky who has been in the position for six years, and Mitch and Timmy in their first seasons. Although Will has been an assistant for four years, he has been with the Spurs for ten years. Chip is invaluable. And not that I don't think the other assistants aren't, but Will stood out in a good way and impressed me. I hope we keep him.

So these were good experiences for all three, and I can only imagine the valuable feedback and growth they've gotten from it. Trying circumstances for the team, but I like that the development was carried through from the coaches - including Pop who now was pushing an up-tempo, transition, D-oriented, faster paced passing team - down to all the players.

And then there was Patty, sitting healthy on the bench with the coaching clipboard on his lap making notes. Seeing as how he's already the spiritual leader of our team and a great unifier, energizer, and extension of Pop on the court in terms of running plays and regrouping the team, he'd make an awesome coach down the line. If this is the beginning of an eventual transition towards it, we have another gem, and I'm all for it. It was an eye opening experience in the best ways.
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#46 » by GREY 1769 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:39 am

Ok on to the team in the bubble. Like I said previously, our bubble play was a revelation. I don't think that DeMar at the small ball 4 is a long-term permanent solution, but knowing now that we can use these line-ups, and do so with a very capable facilitator at the 4 adds new dimensions.

Being without three starters and our sixth man necessitated the line-up changes. I thought for sure without LMA, then Trey - our starting front court - we'd look far more lost at least initially, because so much of our O these past several seasons has revolved around getting LMA touches in the half-court working from the left block. Certain habits take hold and take time to uproot, but wow did we ever move on from them fast!

Throughout the season it felt that half-court and transition styles of play were at odds for primacy. In the previous two seasons, we used both and they flowed well, but with DJ back in the starting group learning the tendencies of teammates and how to facilitate in the half-court sets kept us with one foot on the gas, one on the brake. The bench unit, having the familiarity of playing together longer, was ever the energy group. The subs in the regular season were for O but there was a slimmer margin for misses so when Beli and Bryn were not hitting their shots at a high enough rate - and this season their efficiency dove - both O and D suffered.

But with Bryn also sidelined, and Beli getting fewer minutes, our starting five - DJ, Derrick, Lonnie, DeMar, Jakob - switched a front court that court shoot 3s for a line-up that moved better with and without the ball, defended better, and found the open man quickly. Even with DJ not facilitating as capably, we now had three other players in Derrick, Lonnie and DeMar to share the load (even Jakob helped with passes out from the elbow at times) we used the collective strengths of speed, movement, and defense to push and pressure the ball.

Loved the rotations, too. Rudy, DeMar, and to a lesser extent Beli were the three vets that played regular minutes. Around them were the young guys hungry to prove themselves. Keldon and Drew got regular rotation minutes and thrived, while Mezie, Luka and Q filled out the remaining minutes. The latter three were probably frustrated at not getting more chances, but we needed to see how guys further along in the program could contribute.

There was a post-game interview in which Pop basically said that guys were playing for their spots on the roster (maybe not that drastic, but words to the effect of players needing to show something. I'll find the quote, but it struck me at the time as a direct statement about the seriousness of the evaluation process).

So there were multiple objectives coming into the bubble games: Getting the assistant coaches more game management; coming together quickly and embracing big changes to line-ups and style of play to make a push for the playoffs; developing and analyzing the players.

There was some pressure playing from behind the frontrunners for the final post-season positions and doing so without four key rotation players. But from all accounts, the guys showed up in shape, the practices were spirited, and everyone rallied to take on the challenge. You could see both the serious intent in their cohesive play and how they were buoyed by both coming together at last but also in playing well. So much so that this was the best, most cohesive and successful stretch of games we played all season.

I've posted this elsewhere, but do so again here to reiterate that we hadn't been in the positive on both D and O all season - until our resurgent bubble play:
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We were 5-2 going into the final game, and wholesale improvements were emerging:
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Plus, we had the 9th best D in the bubble!

Looking back, tying the NBA playoff streak was a huge achievement and it took a tremendous effort in two very challenging seasons to reach it. Coming into this season, I wondered whether losing a couple of seasoned assistants and the off-season going sideways from what we intended, forcing us to have two new starters and losing a key scorer, took some steam away that you need from the outset and were harbingers of things to come. We struggled through much of the season and it was too much to overcome to reach the post-season again. But looking forward I am so encouraged by how we played in the bubble. The energy and focus everyone brought, the surprising ways in which various players stepped up, and the joy of being together and rising to the various challenges resonated in such as way as to carry through into next season. We likely wouldn't have had these unique bonding and evaluating opportunities otherwise, so knowing that we have sharpened our tools individually and as a team is a clearer, stronger foundation from which to progress.
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#47 » by GREY 1769 » Wed Oct 7, 2020 7:31 pm

Several Spurs stood out with their raised level of play, so I wanted to focus on how they progressed in their development individually.

Reinserted into the starting role, Derrick stood out with his stellar play on both ends. Here are his bubble stats on D:
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Note that it was Derrick not DJ given that assignment most of the time. That's not to pit one against the other, but it does show how highly we think of him and how much we trust him. DJ has great instincts, but gambles at times. Derrick is the better overall defender with great instincts, footwork, and fundamentals. Add his physical strength and we have a formidable tandem that can stop opponents at the point of attack. This is a huge positive shift for us.
And by his penultimate game, Derrick led the bubble with 11 charges taken.

To put it in perspective, only 21 of the 525 players in the league have taken more than 10 charges all season."

https://www.expressnews.com/sports/spurs/article/Spurs-Derrick-White-drawing-charge-after-15465443.php#:~:text=White's%2010%20charges%20drawn%20over,any%20player%20since%20the%20restart.

This places Derrick third overall in charges takes this season.

As for his O, assertive Derrick returned with blazing results. In the bubble, he averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in the seven he played on 44.4FG%, 39.8% from 3, and 87FT% in 31. 4 minutes per game.

Compare these to pre-bubble play from October to March: 11.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 47.9FG%, 40.1% from 3, and 84.7FT% in 24.1 minutes per game.

Of course, given the extra minutes you'd expect an increase in attempts, but just how many show the impact Derrick has when focused on attacking and looking for him shot. In the bubble, he averaged 13.6FGAs, 8.4 attempts from 3, and 5.5 from the FT line.

Pre-bubble: 7.8FGAs, 2.6 attempts from 3, and 3.2 from the FT line and we see that Derrick's overall game has taken the next step.

Small sample size, sure, and the numbers are skewed a bit because I didn't further isolate the eight games he started pre-bubble. You can also argue that there was extra incentive to go all out in a short time so all out effort was given without the rigors and starting opponents throughout the season. But going back to the Denver playoff series, Derrick has shown he's capable of handling pressure situations and stepping up. Even as his consistency on O still needs more stabilizing, he is always impactful because of his defensive contributions.

I think despite some overlap, there are enough differences in DJ's and Derrick's games that they can start together, and getting that familiarity will be central to our being better balanced next season. With Derrick capable of hitting the 3 - and willing to take it more - we don't have to rely on Bryn in the starting group. With his facilitating, running P&Rs, driving, and hitting mid-range shots, Derrick's the better all around player.

Although handles and consistency need some work, Derrick has blossomed and shown he is more than capable of handling a bigger role next season. He's becoming someone we rely on on and off the court with his steady, personable demeanour, and competitive drive. He's a keeper both on the team and on the starting unit.

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Oh and the young man is tough:
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#48 » by GREY 1769 » Thu Oct 8, 2020 10:54 pm

DJ. Well what can I say? We all saw it. His numbers across the board were better this season, but bubble play was missing a certain gear and his overall play was lacklustre which is surprising given that our new transition oriented style of play was supposed to suit his game a lot more. He struggled in the half-court P&R sets at times this season so much so that Derrick was inserted into the starting line-up for eight games. That did not go over well with Dejounte even as he did not say as much publicly, to his credit.

By February he reached double digits in FGAs and kept it up through the bubble. His bubble numbers weren't drastically off from his pre-bubble season: 12.6PPG (about a point more than up to March), 6 boards (same), 4.3 assists (down from 6.1 but Derrick was doing a lot of facilitating as well so that's understandable) on 30 minutes per game (25.1 until March).

It's the efficiency that is eye-opening: Pre-bubble his FG% was 47.7% and 3% was 34.8%; in-bubble these dropped about TEN percent to 38.4FG% and 24.1% from 3. Also, his hesitancy to drive through contact and give up chances to drive stood out as well. Again, small sample size, but just as we've used these games to get excited about the new style of play that worked so well and gave a new foundation and energy of what to look forward to, so too we can look at some things to improve.

To that end, it's really the eye test that showed Dejounte wasn't quite himself. He picked his spots to assert himself but overall looked tentative too often to the point it stood out. His bubble TO rate was a touch above that of the regular season, and steals went from 1.4 per game to 0.8 in the bubble - so is that because he was more aware or less aggressive?

He seemed affected by that final missed defensive assignment in the Philly game where he sagged off the inbounder to double Embiid and the inbounder ended up hitting an uncontested shot. I felt bad for him but every play counts and I'm sure he'll learn from that.

I feel it was a missed opportunity for him to really let his game shine. It's almost like he shrank as Derrick and Keldon in particular, and to some extent Lonnie, overshadowed him with their stellar play. Not to make too fine a point of it as everyone has slumps and we never really know what's going on behind the scenes in a person's life that affects them, but Pop did say this was an audition of who we want to keep going forward with. I think Dejounte is one of those players, but I also feel like he's slipped on the list of our top young players until further proof.

Whether fair or not, Dejounte's coming into the first year of his new contract next season and he'll be scrutinized based on it. It a way, that he got through the rigors of the season healthy and had better numbers and efficiency than his first full one pre-injury is a success in itself. He mentioned in a post-bubble interview that this is the most important healthy off-season of his career. Agree.

I don't want to harp too much about it, but I do hope we see more from DJ than we have so far and he proves me wrong. I love that we know he and Derrick work well together, and that we now have a solid bench with Lonnie and Keldon so that DJ and Derrick can start.

A lot of our young players were able to pick up for others and the vulnerabilities were nowhere near as easy to exploit. That the team played so much better despite DJ's struggles is a positive going into next season.
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#49 » by GREY 1769 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:11 am

Lonnie as starter showed the mix of inexperience and growth to continue to tantalize. What has remained impressively steady and engaged is his D. What stood out was his passing ability. It wasn't reflected in higher assist numbers, but he made some impressive drive and kicks out to corners and showed good vision for finding open teammates. He read plays well, adjusted to movement, and executed quality passes.

What Lonnie really needs to work on are his handles to beat his man from a stand still off the dribble. He tends to back out and drive with a full run instead. Also, his finishing at the rim really needs improving:
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Lonnie improved slightly from last season, and improved slightly in the bubble from pre-bubble play. But he still had the lowest FG% from the players listed and also had by far the lowest chance of a FT attempts from the drives. For a player with his bursting athleticism, his finishing is surprisingly low relative to his ability to get to the basket.

And the closer he is to the rim, the lower his percentages! His lowest were from 10-14ft at 6-24 for25.0% and 5-9ft at 14-45 for 31.1%; his lowest scoring area was in the paint (non-restricted) at 18-67 for 26.9%. His highest percentages were from 25-29ft (so from the 3) 26-54 for 48.1% with the best chances coming from the right corner 5-11 for 45.5% and from above the break at 31-70 for 44.3%

This season he was only 54-119 for 45.4% on layups, 12-27 for 44.4% on driving finger roll layups, and 14-38 for 36.8% on driving layups. Isn't that weird for someone with such blazing speed to beat defenders? Why such poor finishing at the rim? Some of it has to do with his penchant for flair rather than fundamentals, but he's better at using the glass now. Even then, he misses a maddening number of bunnies. Some are contested so it alters shots, some are blocked (he tends to telegraph that he's going to dunk because he drives far from the rim, giving defenders a chance to rotate), and some are just from hands that are too stiff or maybe too live. Finally, he's very right-hand dominant, and at times has to contort his body to finish with it. With all due respect, finishing a layup with either hand is a fundamental aspect of basketball taught early. Learning to finish with his left hand will really help him maintain his balance, protect the ball, and be a bigger, more efficient threat.

He played just under 30 minutes per game in the bubble and more than doubled his FGAs from pre-bubble (11.5 from around 5) and more than doubled his PPG from pre-bubble (13 from just over 5). Rebounding numbers were very similar and assists increased from around 1 to just over 3 in the bubble. His efficiency, however, dropped in the bubble. The first bubble game July 31st was terrific with 16 points on 58.3% and 50% from 3 (1-2) but the remaining seven games he averaged 10.6 points on 37.2FG% and 39% from 3.

I don't want to get too bogged down by the numbers but only to point out that while he has consistency issues - and bizarrely more so closer to the basket - he's raised his overall game with defensive focus, terrific passing, and great off-ball movement. His shooting form is balanced and he has a beautiful stroke. He stood out in those areas even as there are elements to add to his game (handles) and fine tune others (touch at the rim and in the paint). Getting to the FT line more to reward all those drives also needs to be better. Overall, he's shown enough improvement in some areas and potential in others to be excited about his future with our other young players.

Although playing the 3 was a good experience to expand his game, it's not a natural position for him on O and he's a bit undersized there. He was able to close the gap some with his athleticism and an expanded O repertoire. I do like that he guarded it well; having a player who can guard multiple positions is valuable, especially in surrounding DeMar, and especially for a team that needs to be better next season at that end. The bubble showed that scoring would not and will not be a problem. Lonnie's shot selection spans from the rim out to the long 3 and he tries a variety of finishes even as the makes aren't there consistently. I think he has the drive and is developing the variety to be a closer, and when he can score more consistently, he'll be a dangerous scoring option for us. That he's so committed on the D end (defend well and get minutes worked!) will only make him that much more impactful going forward.
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Re: SPURS IN THE 2020 BUBBLE INFO 

Post#50 » by GREY 1769 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:59 am

A word on DeMar in the bubble. We know what we have with him - a no-3 shooting but still prolific scorer, our best wing passer (if not the best passer on the team) who can get to the FT line at will and is a great locker room presence. His D has improved somewhat, and when he's committed to it, he hasn't been a liability with an occasional stepping up to take a charge (that Houston game) or a steal or deflected pass. That's not to turn his D into something that it isn't, just that bubble play showed a much improved D with him in the starting group, so it is possible to hide his limitations when surrounded by good defenders - a smart move that, by the way.

He's also willing to change his game to adjust to coach requests and team needs. He played the 4 out of necessity (we couldn't not start him, right?) and was so much a facilitator early in many games that it at first came across as a bit passive aggressive, like he was asked to let other guys score and he sort of refused to shoot. But to his credit not a word of complaint (if he had any) as he settled into the role, and poured in the points when we needed them, particularl in the 4th Qs:
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I did like that he sacrificed his usage and touches in the bubble; he ran in transition and also picked his spots for season-best efficiency. Except for his worst month in March when his usage dropped to a season-low 21.4% and put up 13FGAs on season-low 47.7% (but season-high 8.4 assists), he matched the 13FGAs in the bubble but on season-high 66FG% just under 24PPG and 7.5 assists per game (second only to his March output). Finally, pre-bubble for the season he was about -2 net rating but around +5 in the bubble. Small adjustments paid big dividends for us.

He finished the season overall averaging 22.1PPG, 5.5 boards, 5.6 assists on career-high 53.1FG%, 84.5FT% (second best in his career) on team-best 6.6 attempts.

Bubble play showed that he needn't adjust drastically to still contribute meaningfully and get to play in clutch situations while making room for the younger guys to grow more while they learn from him. It was a better balanced team playing to more of our strengths, not the least of which is the right kind of malleability and good attitude. We played our best basketball because of it. If DeMar chooses to stay for at least this next season, bubble adjustments are a good harbinger for what to expect - better D an O balance, better flow, a broader attack, and everyone enjoying themselves more along the way. It was good to see.
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